God Loves Single Moms

After Edric and I give parenting talks, many single moms come up to us feeling discouraged and anxious because of our emphasis on the role of a father. They tend to fear that their children will not grow up with the support and mentoring they need from a dad. We often encourage them by saying that God is gracious and then give them practical tips on how to parent alone. However, our vantage point is still different and single parenting is best explained from the perspective of someone who is actually in a position to say what the challenges are and how to surmount them.


Last weekend, Edric and I were in Cebu with friends Mel and Cathy Po, where we had the privilege of speaking alongside actress, Jodi Sta. Maria to a large gathering of Ateneo parents. Jodi shared her journey as a single mother and she itemized these life lessons: 

Security – a child longs for security. It’s possible for a single parent to meet this need by being available and creating a home environment where a child knows that unconditional love and forgiveness abound.

Identity – a single mom’s identity has to be rooted in the Lord and she has to transfer this truth to her child/ren as well. God is father to the fatherless and husband to the husband-less. When a single mother understands how much God loves her, she doesn’t have to worry about how others label her or judge her. Her identity is hidden in Christ, therefore her joy and peace also come from her relationship with Him. These are not dependent on circumstances or others. 

Non-negotiable Date Time – Since single moms tend to get busy trying to provide financially for their child/children, it’s important to safeguard date nights with them. These are predictable moments in the week when children can look forward to bonding time with mom. 

God-centered Parenting – Pschologists, the media, and books will have all kinds of opinions about how single parents should teach, train, and raise their children. However, the best source is still God’s word. He is the author of parenting. Principles such as Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is older he will not depart from it, and Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and teach your children to do the same, are still applicable to solo parents and their kids. 

Love as Motivation – Children are inspired to change, to improve, to excel when they know with certainty that they are loved. Unconditional love is a powerful motivator. Not only should our children be assured that we love them no matter what, we also have to make choices for them that are based on unconditional love verses selfishness. Whether single parent or not, this is a real struggle. “Let all that you do be done in love.”‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭16:14‬ ‭

Educate Yourself – Every parent needs a doctorate degree in parenting. But no school exists for this sort of degree! So we have to attend biblical parenting seminars, read books, and surround ourselves with parents who have successfully raised their own children so we can learn from their mistakes and victories. Edric and I continue to grow in our parenting from getting together with other couples who are also committed to teaching and training their children. We exchange “best practices.” Single parents can do the same. 

Memories Last Forever – Invest in memories. Some of my fondest memories are of my childhood years, sitting around the dinner table as a family, exercising together, traveling, and vacations. These are forever imprinted in my heart and mind…as they will also be for kids of single parents who deposit fond memories into the emotional banks of their kids. 

Overcome the Circumstance as a Family – I would like to add that you can have a new “team” of people who will become your child’s family to provide the emotional and spiritual support you both need. No parent should be an island. “It takes a village to raise a child” is such a true statement. So find that village of people. Maybe it’s your parents who can come along side you to help you parent. Or maybe it’s a sibling and his or her family who can be part of your child’s growing up years to fill in the gaps. 

Manage Your Time and Priorities – When I had the chance to ask Jodi (who is super humble and down to earth) how she balances being an actress and parenting her son, she revealed, “I don’t take on multiple projects at a time. I used to, but I don’t anymore.” 

She admitted that she has earned the freedom and respect from the industry to turn projects down, which is a blessing from the Lord. However, I am sure it’s not easy to say no to good sources of income as a single mom. Jodi is a great example of someone who works hard to be a provider but recognizes that God is her ultimate provider. Prioritizing her son, as well as giving time for her weekly discipleship group, speaks volumes about her desire to put what’s most important first. It’s no wonder God is also blessing her career! 

I want to end this entry with a passage that I read a few days ago that I feel is so perfect for single moms. Whether you are a widow or abandoned by the man who should have been committed father to your child, may this minister to you. God loves you, single mom! If you honor Him and obey Him, He will certainly uphold you and provide for you. 

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. ‘For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. ‘For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ says your God. 

‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.

‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you. ‘O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires…All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great.’

‘In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you. No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:4-8, 10-11, 13-14, 17‬ ‭

We Don’t Need More Crazy Moms

I have been spending time with women friends, exchanging notes about their relationships with their mothers and it breaks my heart to hear story after story about their “crazy” moms– moms who are self-absorbed, bitter, broken, unkind, play favorites, and suffer from identity issues. 
There are valid reasons behind the bad parenting choices these moms have made, but they may never fully realize how deeply they have wounded their daughters, women who are my friends, who are moms just like me. It’s miraculous that these women friends are turning out to be such wonderful moms themselves. That’s the grace of God in their lives. However, it’s also sobering to be confronted by the reality that my thoughts, words, and actions matter so much to my own girls. I can become a version of “crazy” if I am not spirit-filled and resort to hurting them, too. 


To be honest, there are times when I do. As a homeschooling mom, wrestling with impatience is an everyday struggle. Even if I don’t yell at my kids, I feel very exasperated when they don’t understand a concept I have repeatedly taught them, or when it’s hard for them to exercise logic and common sense when a lesson seems easy and basic. Sometimes this aggravation manifests itself in deep sighs, rolling eyeballs, or negative comments that make my kids feel inadequate and insecure.

Just the other day, I was teaching Tiana math and she forgot how to count to 100 by 5s. Irked at how quickly the lesson faded from her consciousness, I snapped at her and gesticulated with my hands like I was in pain, “I don’t understand. This isn’t hard. What’s wrong? Why can’t you get it?” 
As I mouthed this out, I gripped the pages of her math book in my hands and motioned like I was going to tear it in half. Even if I wanted to, I really couldn’t have because I mistakenly held onto a portion of the book that was too thick. 

Tiana noticed all of this, of course. She self-consciously bowed her head to a point where I could still see her beautiful eyes, now troubled, looking up at me with concern and fear. She probably wondered what I would do next and the rest of the kids visibly displayed their anxiety as well. 

My heart sank. What was I doing?! An immediate apology was necessary to abate everyone’s tension. I took Tiana in my arms and said, “Please forgive me, Tiana, for getting irritated. I love you. I was wrong.” 

I felt horrid, a big time failure as a mom, as a homeschooler. 

Why was I so worked up about Tiana’s inability to count by 5s? And why did this display of frustration and rejection on my part have to happen again to my sweet girl? (I wrote about a similar entry earlier last year.) 

Well, just like the moms my friends described, I have the same tendency to be controlled by my emotions, to act out of arrogance, fear, and selfishness. The real me is an ugly person whose default mode is to express this ugliness unless I am controlled by the Holy Spirit. 
Over the past weekend, one of the topics of a retreat we attended as a family was the “Exchanged Life.” The speaker, a good friend of Edric and mine, delivered a powerful message that can be summed up in the phrase, NO LONGER I BUT CHRIST. 

I praise God that He didn’t just save us from our sins, He equipped us to overcome what is broken and ugly in all of us. He gave us the power to be victorious over our common follies and common mistakes by sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us when we come into a relationship with Him through Christ. 

Most days I am not a crazy mom and this is because of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life but it doesn’t mean I don’t have “crazy” in me. It lurks and waits for opportune occasions to bear itself, fangs, horns, and all, and the damage is not to be diminished.  

To the moms who can identify with this struggle and to those who grew up in homes where they never felt unconditionally loved or accepted by their mothers, might I encourage you with this: We don’t have to pass on the hurts our mothers wounded us with, and we don’t have to be the kind of moms who give in to the crazy in us. We have a God who loves us and redeems our pasts, and who secures our future. He is committed to helping us be the moms we need to be, no matter how we were mothered ourselves or how challenging it may be to fulfill this role in the present. However, we have to make some hard choices.


First, we may need to ask for forgiveness from our daughters. And we may need to forgive our moms (even if they never say sorry.) If we don’t, bitterness will defile us and those whom we love. 

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:14-15‬ ‭

Next, we have to invest in relationship-building activities and routines that minister to the hearts of our daughters. It can be reading to them, learning to cook together, taking walks, having “tea or coffee” (my mom does this with my sisters, sisters-in-law, and me periodically), going to the grocery or doing errands together, giving random hugs and being generous with words of appreciation for their character, their talents, and abilities. The point is to do with them and for them what matters to them, what makes them feel special and important. 

Two nights ago, my eldest son, Elijah, reminded me to tuck Tiana into bed when he carried his little sister, Catalina, into the girls’ bedroom. Tiana remained awake, unwilling to retire until I prayed and kissed her goodnight. I happened to be caught up in a long conversation with a friend who needed some counseling so I assumed that Tiana fell asleep.
By this time, I had comfortably settled in to sleep but Elijah’s reminder encouraged me to inconvenience myself to be with her. I stepped into her darkened room quietly and caught sight of her sitting up in anticipation, hoping I hadn’t forgotten. She smiled with relief as I came to her side to smother her with a kiss and hug, and pray with her.

“Were you waiting for me?” 

She nodded and then peacefully slipped under the covers and closed her eyes. 

That moment gave me a picture of what daughters are like. All daughters, no matter what season or age, are hoping that we will notice them, accept them, and desire to be with them. Let us break the cycle of pain we inherited or the one we initiated by meeting their need for our affection, attention, and affirmation so that we can create a cycle love that our daughters will pass on to their future families. 

You Cannot Out-Give God

When I wrote the book, When a Good God Allows Rape, my purpose was to use my personal story to reach out to broken and wounded people and to give God the glory for what He has done in my life. By God’s grace, the book became a bestseller last year as reported to me by my publisher, OMF Literature. When the royalties came in a year later, God impressed upon my heart to give the money to Him, as my first fruits. After all, I had written the book for His purposes, so logically whatever I earned from it should go to His work.

However, this prodding came at a time when Edric and I were a little tight financially. Although we were getting by and we were still comfortable by God’s grace, Edric had taken a six-month leave from the show, ANC’s On the Money, in favor of focusing on Homeschool Global and the Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI). As result, he also gave up part of the income that came with him being the lead anchor. So any influx of money was good news!

Yet I praise God for Edric’s response to God’s leading about the royalties (even though he didn’t struggle a little!). When I told Edric that God convicted me to give the money from my book’s earnings back to Him, Edric fully supported me. He said, “Go for it!” 

Even if Edric knew that money could have been useful for us at that period in time, he understood the principle of giving back to the Lord what belongs to Him in the first place.

How true it is that you cannot out-give God! Shortly after, an agency set up an appointment with Edric and me to pitch an idea for a year-long campaign involving our family. It was for the milk brand, Friso, by Frisland Campina, a company based out of the Netherlands.

Previously, I had also been approached to be part of another milk company’s marketing efforts but that fell through. However, God knew that Friso was a better fit for our family because of its philosophy. 

Unlike other formulas, Friso is committed to making its milk easy on the tummy of children. The process it goes through before going into the can is a gentle one. It receives heat treatment only once, which means that it preserves the integrity of its proteins so that kids are less prone to constipation when they drink Friso.

I am also a breastfeeding advocate, so formula is only an option above two or three years old for me. Thankfully, the specific product of Friso they were asking me to represent was for three years old and up which means I didn’t have to compromise my conviction about breastfeeding.

Furthermore, Friso keeps their product as natural as possible, without neglecting nutrition. All the farmers of Frisland Campina are the owners of the company, so they are personally involved and invested in the care of their cattle. Their cows have a very happy life! They have required grazing times outdoors and they aren’t forced into machines to be milked. Farmers also pass on their trade to their children and teach them the science behind raising cows, the quality of the grass that they feed on, and how to create an environment that stimulates the optimum production of milk. 

Watching the videos of the farmers mattered to me a lot. Since I homeschool my kids, I’ve never been one of those moms who gets suckered by the pitch of milk companies who say that their milk increases the IQ of children. Although I believe that nutrition certainly enables brain development, most milk brands provide good nutrition. However, since homeschooling is one-on-one, I know that my kids’ education is customized in such a way as to maximize their giftedness, interests, and strengths, as well as augment their weaknesses. So when Friso told me that their milk brand protects gut-health in kids because of the process that’s involved in getting it from the grass to the glass, then that interested me! And when I was shown fat cows grazing happily outdoors and scenes of fathers mentoring their sons about their trade that resonated with me!

Plus, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between the cows and my own kids. As the farmers of Frisland Campina are concerned about keeping a natural environment to ensure that their cows are as healthy as possible, I would like to think that God has given me, through homeschooling, the most natural setting for my kids to mature and develop holistically. My kids aren’t rushed to and from school, they don’t spend useless hours in traffic, they aren’t robbed of ample time each day to play and explore, and they have good friends whose families I am well acquainted with. They stick to a schedule, but they also get to learn beyond the books we use, and they aren’t taught with cookie-cutter approaches that classrooms have to implore for large groups of kids.  


 
I’m sharing all of this to magnify how good God is, how He opened the door for our family to be a part of Friso’s campaign as endorsers, a company that is aligned with our own values, and one that offered a financial deal that far surpassed what I gave to the Lord from my book’s royalties. This all happened after I obeyed God’s nudging to present my first fruits to Him instead of hording it for myself, which I was tempted to do.
 
May this entry encourage you to trust in God’s goodness, too. I want you to know that God is a magnanimous God who delights for us to experience His blessings. There are occasions in our lives when He intentionally withholds material comforts, but there are other moments when He deems it the best time to release His generous provision.
 
What this experience taught me and continues to teach me is that God often tests the condition of our hearts by way of our pockets. Exodus 23:19 says, “You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God.”

Money affords us this façade of security and it’s very easy to adopt the perspective that the money we earn belongs to us because we worked hard for it. However, provision ultimately comes from God’s hand, therefore our greatest security is not in acquiring more money but in obeying Him and following His leading in our lives. 1 Chronicles 29:12 rightfully declares, “Both riches and honor come from You (God), and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”


 

Teaching Kids To Be Responsible for their Choices 

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid rescuing my kids when they make mistakes. I have to resist the urge to save them because my maternal instinct tells me to protect and cradle my children. However, some of them aren’t tiny tots anymore. They don’t need pampering from me. In fact, to do so might even be a disservice to their character growth in the area of learning responsibility and accountability. 

A few months ago, one of my sons lost his temper while playing on the piano. In his irritation, he banged on the keys with full force. Since it was an older piano, something inside (too technical for me to explain) collapsed, causing all the keys to become unplayable. He confessed his mistake to me which I appreciated, however an appropriate consequence was necessary. His hard-earned garage money went to paying for the repair of the piano. 

Did I feel like showing him mercy? Of course! But I knew this consequence would instill in him the values of stewardship and exercising self-control over one’s emotions. 

As my kids grow up, their consequences have to be modified. For example, after the age of 6 or 7, spanking isn’t as appropriate a form of punishment anymore. Furthermore, they pretty much get obedience and respect. Praise God! It’s the other character areas that begin to need work…things like discipline and responsibility. 

Very recently, I encouraged the kids to get rid of some of our cats by entrusting them to friends or family members who were willing to take them. However, they insisted on keeping all the cats for themselves. We now have seven. Too many! Five Siamese and three black and yellow-eyes ones. (The black ones I don’t particularly fancy because of their naughtiness). It’s impractical for us to feed this many felines and the impact on our monthly groceries is significant. 

My deal with the kids when it comes to their animals is, “I will take care of you, my kids (aka my animals), and you will take care of your animals.” 

So whatever needs the cats have beyond food is their look-out. When their kittens got some sort of skin problem, the kids begged me to bring them to the vet. They kept asking me to but it wasn’t a priority for me because of the busy-ness of the holiday season. However a a week ago when the hustle and bustle died down there was a window to take the cats to the vet. 

At first, I thought of inconveniencing myself to do it for them. But then a lightbulb went on in my head as I realized that this could be a great learning experience for my kids. 

I told my kids, “You guys will be the one to bring the cats and pay for the fees incurred by the visit to the vet.” 

Thankfully, there was minimal resistance. I armed them with my cell phone, but asked them to take along their own cash. I did hand Elijah my ATM just in case they didn’t have enough of their own money. Looking back, this was a bad idea, for safety reasons. Plus, I caught Elijah trying to slip my ATM into his shoe for safekeeping! Thankfully, I saw him before he plowed his foot on top of it. 

The extent of my meddling was preventing him from crushing my ATM with his foot and advising him to carry a man-purse with his iPad in it, my phone, and the ATM. This was the extent of my meddling, but I did ask the driver to keep an eye out for them (without facilitating the discussion with the vet).

My four older kids dressed up, put their cats in cages and spent the morning at the pet clinic. They had to speak with the vet, explain the problem, ask their questions, and pay their fees. It took about three hours for them to wait their turn. They returned home hungry and tired for a late lunch at 1 P.M.

Admittedly, a part of me was concerned about whether they would be able to accomplish the task. Yet, every time I picked up Edric’s phone in order to call the kids, Edric dissuaded me, encouraging me to let them be and give them room to figure out what to do.

The good news was that the cat skin problem turned out to be a very curable lice issue that isn’t contagious to humans. The better news was that our kids matured during this experience, and learned a valuable lesson on responsibility. 

Waiting for three hours at the vet with dogs yapping all around them, and seeing one of their seven cats scratch up the arm of the attendant till it was bloodied, proved to be a new and unpleasant ordeal for my kids. However, they came home feeling a sense of pride for having braved through the experience without Edric or me to hand-hold them. And, they finally embraced what it means to be responsible pet owners. It’s costly to care of pets and they need to understand that it’s not the househelp’s or my role to worry about their animals. 

As for me, I am trying to transition out of the coddling parent stage with my older kids, especially because they are boys. They don’t need a hovering mother who micromanages them and fixes all their problems. It’s not easy for me to watch them fail, suffer the consequences of their choices when they make mistakes, or allow them to be “off on their own.” However, when I take a back seat during situations like these they learn accountability and responsibility effectively. My job is to partner with Edric to mentor them, pray, and entrust them to the Lord.

 

Relax, Mom. It’s All Part of the Grand Plan.

On the flight to Dubai, after five hours of insufficient sleep, I decided to watch the movie, Bad Moms. Contrary to what its title implies, there were some insightful principles in it about motherhood. I don’t necessarily recommend the movie because of its immoral elements but I do think it had something to say about how we try to be so perfect as mothers that we kind of drive ourselves crazy living up to this expectation of ourselves. We stress out!

Sometimes we need to just chill and remember that God is in control. We need to rest in Him. 

This message came at just the right time for me. Recently, I have felt very inadequate as a mom. Elijah is going through puberty and Edan is dealing with doubts about faith and truth. Plus I still have a rambunctious toddler, Catalina, who attaches herself to me like glue. In between, are Titus and Tiana who still need me to be very hands-on as a homeschool parent. So on some days I want to find a rock to crawl under.

Of particular concern to me lately has been Edan. He is swimming in questions about theology and faith, struggling to understand mysteries like the Trinity, predestination, the sovereignty of God, the inerrancy of Scripture and its divine inspiration, and I am not always able to allay his doubts. Who can explain the Trinity?! 


Sometimes Edan ends up crying and confused, wondering how he can believe in truths he cannot fully grasp. It hurts to watch him on this journey because I cannot force him along or hurry him. The battle is inside, beyond where I can see and go as a mother. I have cried to the Lord in prayer for Edan. And there are moments when my heart turns critical, maddened by his inability to connect dots and reason sensibly, or apply faith when necessary.

In Ecclesiastes it says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.”

It goes on to read, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart…” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8, 11a)

Even though I have read these passages numerous times, they ministered to me in a new way by reminding me of the following:

– There is an APPOINTED TIME for everything. 

– There is a TIME FOR EVERY EVENT under heaven.

– He (God) has made everything APPROPRIATE in its time.

– He has also SET ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS. 

An appointed time implies purpose, intentionality. There is nothing accidental or chance-like about what happens in our lives, or in the lives of our children. Even if this juncture in the timeline of my history as a mom may feel out of control and chaotic, it’s a designated season. It is God-ordained. The same is true for Edan’s endless spiritual questioning and struggling. This is part of God’s plan for him.

Secondly, since there is a time for every event under heaven, this tells me that this season is important and necessary. And whew, it also implies that it’s temporal. Edan won’t linger in this state forever. 

Some seasons are easy, some are hard and painful, others are devastating, and still others, hopeful and joyous. This season of motherhood is painful for me…not in a tragic sort of manner but in a sobering sense. My two older sons are moving past the age of childhood. It’s a transition accompanied by emotional and spiritual complexities and I have to quit panicking! I can’t dwell on the changes they are going thorough (especially the changes in Edan), and think, I am losing my sons. 

Ecclesiastes continues by revealing that He (God) has made everything appropriate—a word which sounds so comfortingly like “customized and personalized.” In other words, God’s sovereign hand directs the course of every event in our lives and our children’s. His wisdom decides when the length of a season is enough, and what sort of season we need to walk through in order to build our character. 

My kids are growing in character, and I often think that they need to. But guess what? I need to grow in character, too! 

In the early months of this year, I kind of felt like I hit a good groove as a mom. My homeschooling was going well. The kids seemed behaved and “manageable.” I no longer had an infant, and breastfeeding came to an end. To be honest, I slacked off with my prayer time and switched to cruise control. 

However, when Edan began bombarding me with difficult questions and Elijah’s hormonal changes started to impact his moods and lower his threshold for frustration, I was jolted out of my complacency. Suddenly I felt insecure and lost as a mom.

Yet God used this for my good. Confronted by the reality that all my efforts at teaching, training and modeling cannot force my kids to desire God or His will drove me to pray fervently and tearfully for my children. My ambitions for my kids were whittled down to the most important of all—that they might grow up to know, love, obey, serve, and worship God. 

I know this, right? I have said it over and over again in my posts. But wow, this is when the rubber hits the road. 

Edan’s conversation with me a few weeks ago made me realize that my greatest longing as a mom is that my kids enter into eternity, to be welcomed by their Heavenly Father with the words, “Well done.” Wealth, power, fame, worldly accomplishments and accolades pale against this highest goal, especially when I consider the possibility that my kids’ souls are at risk. 

Mark 8:36 begs me to ponder, “For what does it profit a man (my child) to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” ‭

As Edan and I carried on a lengthy and exhausting dialogue about whether Jesus Christ’s claims were real, I delved into the wonders of faith-filled living, excited to illuminate for him the uncommon peace and joy that mark the lives of those who follow Christ. Beyond historical and prophetical evidence for the existence of Christ, this was another way for me to prove to Edan that Jesus is real. I thought it was a solid pitch.

Contrary to my expectations, Edan’s eyes welled up as he replied to me, “Mom, those are your experiences. I have yet to experience those things for myself.” 

My bubble of enthusiasm burst as I recognized, for the first time, that Edan’s main issue with truth was that it had been “secondhand” for him since he was a young boy. He needed to encounter Christ personally. 

Of course my heart collapsed at that moment when the sincerity of his tears and my inability to comfort him met each other. It was at this point that I surrendered to the reality that God has to be to be the one to open Edan’s eyes. Only God can cause the years of Bible reading, family devotions, the memorization of Scriptural truth, parental instruction and training, and the example Edric and I displayed for Edan to come to a point of convergence so that he sees and understands who God is. The decision to know, love, obey, serve, and worship God must be Edan’s. It can’t be something Edric and I impose on him. 

So where lies my hope?

Like Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, I am praying that the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to EDAN a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of EDAN’s heart may be enlightened, so that he will know what is the hope of His (Christ’s) calling, what are the riches of the glory of His (Christ’s) inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His (Christ’s) power toward those who believe…” (Ephesians‬ ‭1:16-18)‬ ‭

The day when it all makes sense to Edan will come at its appointed time. Till then, I am learning to relax as a mom. Everything that is happening in our family at present is part of God’s grand plan. And my kids going through difficult changes and seasons in their lives doesn’t mean I have been a bad mom — neglectful, hypocritical, or ill-tempered. By God’s grace I haven’t been those things. However, there’s much room for character improvement in me still. This is an appointed time in my life for me to embrace humble dependence on the Lord, to acknowledge that I don’t have it all together, that I am insufficient and incapable of performing the greater heart work that only God can do effectively in my kids. 

So this is me…relaxing…or at least, trying to! 


As my husband, Edric, advised, “Let’s continue to do our part and be faithful. Beyond that, don’t worry, hon. God is in control.” 

I hope this comforts you today, moms! 

Math and Mommy Meltdowns

I can’t remember a time when I’ve cried in front of my children because I was so frustrated with homeschooling. But I suppose there is a first time for everything.

Two weekends ago, I attended the Philippine Homeschool Conference. The Monday after, I was full of hopeful expectation. After listening to inspiring talks and workshop speakers, I eagerly began the week thinking that all would go well. Furthermore, our family housed one of the speakers – a pastor who told endless stories about parenting and homeschooling his 10 kids. (Yes, 10.) His wonderful recollections about their farm life and the Christ-centered culture of their family fueled me with aspirations about the kind of homeschooling experience Edric and I ought to have with our kids.

However, on Monday my kids woke up de-motivated, disinterested, and difficult to teach. The older boys whined about the amount of work they had to get done. Tiana struggled with comprehension issues as we did her Singapore math.

I know the bonds thing can be difficult to understand in Singapore Math (like when you separate 10s from 1s when you are subtracting), but I thought for sure Tiana would have at least remembered what “ + “ and “ – “ mean. We had been doing addition and subtraction for a while so it surprised me when I asked her simple questions like, “So what’s 7 – 2?” and she answered with uncertainty, guessing her way to the right solution.

This went on for a few more math problems. And she kept confusing addition and subtraction and couldn’t add past 10. Then she forgot what the = sign stood for, too. My thought bubble was, You’re kidding me. This isn’t happening! Arghhh!!!

My other kids heard the stress in my voice as I interrogated Tiana several times. “Why can’t you get it? You know this already. This is not complicated.”

I wanted to scream but of course I couldn’t do that. During the conference I gave a seminar along side my mom about laying the right foundation for homeschooling and I encouraged parents not to yell at their kids…primarily because it renders us ineffective at teaching them to love God due to hypocrisy. So the frustration emerged via my tears. Burying my face in my arms and laying my head on the table, I busted out crying.

The room turned quiet. Seeing me cry while teaching was peculiar for my kids to witness. There was a moment when no one knew how to respond. Everyone paused what they were doing until I lifted my head, tears running down my cheeks and declared, “I’m a horrible teacher! I don’t know what to do! I can’t teach well. Tiana just can’t get it and I don’t understand why…” Part of me mouthed this out just to get my children’s sympathy and attention. This isn’t a tactic I recommend to homeschooling parents because it can be manipulative.

Poor Tiana looked on, no doubt embarrassed that I singled her out like this in front of her siblings, and shocked that her math book brought me to tears. My boys felt anxious and attempted to comfort me.

Elijah patted my back with one arm, and stretched out the other arm like a shield to ward off Catalina who was fast approaching me. “No, don’t disturb, mommy, Catalina.” He motioned to give me space.

Edan whispered, “I’ll help teach her, mom,” and he began to fold white paper to make flashcards for her. (What a sweetie!)

How could I react this way to such tender-hearted children? I love my kids. I love them even if they don’t “perform” academically. But I certainly didn’t make Tiana feel that way. And I’m sure the boys were burdened with guilt for complaining about their homeschool work that morning.

It didn’t make sense to continue math lessons with Tiana, especially on the topic of addition and subtraction using bonds, so I asked her to take a break. (Later on, I had to talk with her and apologized for hurting her feelings.) We all dismissed for lunch not too long after and I had time to process what triggered my meltdown.  

Maybe you can relate…

1. My expectations were high having come from the Philippine Homeschool Conference over the weekend. I wanted my kids to behave like perfect students – good attitudes, energized, and eager to listen to me and to learn. When they fell short of this expectation, I felt resentful.

2. I was relying on myself. I didn’t pause to pray or seek help from the Lord when the frustration built up. Had I translated circumstances from a spiritual perspective, I would have concluded that this was an opportunity to beseech the Lord and humble myself.

3. Tiana was being pressured to do math work that she wasn’t ready for. Even if it was required of her level, she simply hadn’t had enough concrete reinforcement for learning addition and subtraction, and she hadn’t had enough practice. Instead of insisting that she remember and “get it,” I should have said, “It’s okay, let’s do some reviewing first and then we will return to this lesson.”

Well, the next day, that’s exactly what I did. I set Tiana’s required math book aside. Eventually I intended to come back to it, but we needed to take a few steps back to give her more time to get comfortable with counting (backwards and forwards), and easy addition and subtraction.

Amazingly, she breezed through the work I gave her to do without needing much supervision from me. After a few days of remedial lessons she no longer confused her addition and subtraction symbols and she very ably solved her math problems.

Ironically, I advise parents to do the same thing when I give seminars on homeschooling. Don’t ignore the gaps in your child’s learning. Mind these gaps and backtrack if necessary. However, I wasn’t willing to take this advice myself! I wanted Tiana to be like her brothers, who easily understood arithmetic at her age. But God designed her differently. It’s me who has to adjust and accommodate her uniqueness, and to appreciate the pace at which she is learning concepts and skills.

Although we normally perceive U-turns and backtracking as inconvenient interruptions on the way to our academic goals, sometimes our kids need to go backwards in order to move forward. When our kids feel lost and insecure about tackling a lesson because they don’t have foundational skills or a solid grasp of the content to go further, then it’s our job to equip them by patiently addressing their gaps so they can progress towards where they ought to be. It’s a deterrent to their progress to force them to learn what they are not prepared to. And it drives us nuts to do so anyway!

To deal with the issue of my other kids who were complaining that Monday, I finally printed out their revised weekly schedules so they know exactly what to expect each day of the week. I’ve thought through the mix of activities and lessons they have to cover as well, so there is a good mix of rigor and fun.

How about me? What can I improve on as a homeschooling mom? I can think of 10 things! But I will focus on the one issue that is related to my Monday experience. I shouldn’t get my sense of identity or self-worth from homeschooling. Even though I’m so invested as a mom, putting in the time and making sacrifices to teach my kids, I shouldn’t let the outcome of each homeschooling day dictate my joy and peace. There will be good days and bad days. Therefore, joy and peace ought to flow from my relationship with God, resulting in my ability to channel these to my children so I can bless them and minister to them. Then I can teach them the way I ought to even when the circumstances aren’t favorable.

More importantly, my job is not to churn out trophy kids as a tribute to myself. My job is to teach them what it means to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to model this everyday. It is to train them and prepare their hearts and minds to serve God and His purposes.


In light of these aims, what is one Monday when my daughter can’t understand her Singapore Math or my kids groan over their books? Rather than shedding dramatic tears to express my frustration because my children aren’t doing what I want them to, these instances provide me with an opportunity to ask God to show up and take over. If I let Him take over me and take over my kids then He accomplishes His agenda for that day, and it becomes a good day!

Over the past week and a half, I haven’t seen exceptional homeschool days. It’s still hard work to homeschool five kids. But God has saved me from math meltdown situations because I’ve changed my perspective. There may be homeschooling obstacles too big for me, but certainly not for Him! Let’s rest in that thought, moms!

Hedgehog & Gameboard Issues & God’s Love 

Since three days ago Edan has obsessed about a game called Sushi Go! Party, hunting for it on Internet board game sights, Amazon, and even local stores. If Elijah is into technology and computer programming, Edan’s equivalent is strategy board games. He is a game lover. His idea of a great day is to gather friends and family around a fun board game that he can facilitate for them.

Since the game is difficult to source and order, it came down to one place — gamewright.com. Unfortunately, my many attempts to purchase it were inhibited by my address. The site didn’t allow purchases from the Philippines through Pay Pal or credit card. I could have moved on and forgotten all about the game, but not Edan. He pushed himself so hard this week, studying to earn tabs (a system I use to motivate my kids). As a result, he collected 60+ tabs, enough to merit the reward of Sushi Go! Party.

Edan isn’t an extravagant person, nor is he demanding when he makes a request for a toy or book. But when he really likes something, he will find a way to get it. I think this is a good trait when the desire is channeled to something positive.

For example, two years ago, he had a fascination for carnivorous plants and took the initiative to research about them online and source a supplier based out of Bukidnon.

This year, strategy board games have been his new interest. He has been researching about strategy games. I thought it was an interest that could be encouraged because it required him to apply, logic, math, communication, and social skills. 

So I put in a lot of effort to find the game, to support Edan, and the best solution was to ask my sister, Candy, to buy it for me since she lives in the US. The plan was to have it brought to Manila through my youngest sister, Carolyn, who is visiting her. Edan hoped to get the game by Tuesday when his Aunt Carolyn arrived. He dreamed and imagined what that day would be like, so much so that he couldn’t rest. All he could think about was Sushi Go! Party

His single-mindedness was both fascinating and concerning. On the one hand, I was excited for him to have the game. On the other hand, I wondered if there was a bigger character lesson he needed to learn…specifically related to waiting and patience. I would remind him, “Edan, if we can’t buy the game then take that as an opportunity to practice waiting.” 

He agreed with me. But since he knew that I asked his Aunt Candy to purchase it on my behalf, he felt pretty certain that waiting wouldn’t be something he had to do. 

Well, today, when he woke up, two unpleasant incidents occurred to produce what he called, “The worst day of his life.” 

First, one of our hedgehogs, named Eve, went missing. She left a trail of dung down the steps to our lower ground storage area, so logically, she must have hidden herself behind one of the boxes. The kids searched everywhere and returned to the kitchen table for breakfast worried and baffled by her mysterious exodus. She had disappeared. 
Edric gave them an impromptu lesson on the importance of good stewardship and responsibility. The hedgehogs fell under Edan’s care so he felt the most distressed. He didn’t get to go with his brothers to play a game called Praxis with Edric because he was tasked to find Eve. 

The second and bigger disappointment for Edan came when I relayed to him the message I received from my sister, Candy, informing me that Sushi Go! Party wouldn’t arrive on time for Carolyn to bring to Manila. Edan began to cry. He hid behind one of the cereal boxes to conceal himself but everyone knew that he was upset about the game. 

I reminded Edan that he ought to be grateful that the game was purchased in the first place since that was a blessing in itself. Furthermore, his Aunt Candy had inconvenienced herself to do this for him. Third, the game would arrive eventually, just not next week. He mustered a thank you but I know he remained troubled. 

Most of the early morning was spent searching for missing Eve. She was found a few hours later, huddled quietly behind some old tiles, clueless about the panic she caused. I praise God that cats didn’t get her! She was returned to her husband, Adam. Problem #1 solved. 

Even so, Edan lounged lazily around on the couch in our bedroom, uninspired to do anything today. He isn’t the type to voluntarily express his feelings so I had to command him to sit beside me so we could talk.

I hugged him while he explained how disappointed he was and how awful the day was as the tears kept falling down his cheeks. He admitted to me that the Sushi Go! Party game had become a sort of “idol” to him, when I explained to him what idolatry is. And I also shared that things can’t replace the joy we find in Christ. Material things, people, and circumstances can offer a measure of happiness but these are temporal and passing. In the end, there’s no one and nothing that can fully satisfy us but Christ. A part of me wondered if I was delivering too heavy message to such a young boy, but Edan listened. 

I went on to say that he can open up to me about anything, that he shouldn’t be afraid to tell me his feelings. It was okay that he felt sad about today. I was going to judge him.

He seemed to relax and then he added, “Actually there’s something that I wanted to say…”

I waited. He took a moment.

“When I read my Bible today, I came across a Psalm that talked about the loving kindness of God.”

Edan began to sob. 

“You know, mom, I felt like God didn’t love me. This was the worst day ever because of Eve getting lost and then the news about the game. So I felt really bad and then when I went to read my Bible, the first passage I read was this.”

He pointed it out to me…

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Psalms‬ ‭103:8‬ ‭

“When I read that, I felt like God was speaking to me, telling me that He really loves me.” 

Edan was really crying at this point. He felt like God was against him today but God dispelled that thought by assuring him that He loved Him, that circumstances aren’t to be the basis for interpreting God’s love. 

So Edan and I continued our conversation, this time focusing on what God’s love is really like. We talked about how God’s love need not be proven by the things He gives us. These are all a bonus compared to the gift of His Son, Jesus. When He gave us Christ, He gave us everything. We are His children, His resources are infinite, and heaven is our home. So when He withholds something we really long to have or when circumstances don’t seem to go well for us, we need to trust that this is what is best for us, according to the One who loves us. 

By the end of our dialogue, Edan was smiling through his tears. He realized that today’s disappointments gifted him with an opportunity to encounter the Lord in a personal way today. 

We spent the rest of the morning doing art instead of pouring over books. Edan described it as therapeutic. He drew and painted a dragonfly among other drawing skills. His gloom and doom disposition was replaced with joy. 


I am so thankful to the Lord that He is at work in the lives of each of my kids. He knows exactly what is going on in their hearts, and He intends to meet them and minister to them. But Edric and I have to keep encouraging our kids to read His Word. The truth is what gave Edan the right perspective today. 


“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ 

In the midst of what felt like turmoil for him, he went to the word of God and received the assurance he needed most…Not that his hedgehog would be found or that his desired Sushi Go! Party game would come on time, but that God loves him. Thank you, Lord! 

On a sweet note, he also told me that he felt much better after talking to me. Let’s all be good listeners to our kids, my mommy friends! 

Support and Encouragement for Your Homeschooling

If you are considering homeschooling, in the trenches of it, or seeking to be a more intentional parent, then you will need all the support and encouragement you can get. 

I remember a season when I struggled to teach my oldest son, Elijah, how to write well. Thankfully, I found a writing program called Institute for Excellence in Writing by Andrew Pudewa — Student Writing Intensive Course levels A to C. 

This program introduces kids to the basics of good writing and works them up to a level of excellence that is remarkable. The focus is on structure and style. Kids learn how to express themselves clearly and creatively.

Although I am an avid writer I wasn’t able to inspire the same sort of interest in my kids. I needed help. Pudewa’s material changed this for my boys.

Today, my two boys, Elijah and Edan, use this for the writing component of their Language Arts curriculum. They are thoroughly enjoying it, too, which is an answer to prayer! 

Sometimes the kind of help we need when homeschooling is a skill or resource to supplement an area where we can’t teach a subject or material effectively. Yet, most of the time, what we really need is perspective from others who understand the challenges and unique adventures that come with being a home school parent.

This is exactly what the Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI) intends to offer parents this October 22, 2016, as it collaborates with Educating for Life to mount the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016 at the SMX Hall in SM Aura. 

There’s no perfect homeschool parent. We all have our strengths and we come with our weaknesses too. And that’s why we benefit from the victories and insights of others. Furthermore, it’s important to stay connected to other homeschooling families and foster community. This is something we are in together, and going the distance means we have to look out for one another, too.

I am particularly looking forward to this homeschool conference because Andrew Pudewa will be a keynote speaker. His contributions to the larger homeschooling movement have been so valuable. Furthermore, he has had a significant impact on our family’s homeschooling journey. 

It must have been 10 years ago when my husband, Edric, told me about a lecture he attended where Andrew Pudewa spoke on how boys and girls learn differently. Some years later, I met Andrew Pudewa at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Conference in Branson, Missouri. Early this year, Edric and I were introduced to him again during the Global Home Education Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Pudewa delivered a very insightful talk on how conventional schools are an outmodeled form of education in this day and age. He presented compelling reasons to support why homeschooling makes sense given that we have advanced past the Industrial Age and are presently in the Information Age. (He also has great homeschool material on public speaking.) 

He is a gifted communicator and musician, and he is a well-known and sought after speaker in the homeschooling world of America. During the conference, he will focus on motivating children. (He will also have pre-conference workshops). Whether it’s getting them to write, read a book, or finish a task, motivation is important.

“Children like to do what they can do, they want to do what they think they can do, and they hate to do what they think they cannot do. If you want excited and enthusiastic children who learn well, you must understand these key laws of motivation and focus on the essential element of relevancy. If it matters, children will learn it, and if it doesn’t, they won’t.”


ANDREW PUDEWA- Keynote Speaker

Besides Andrew Pudewa there will be other keynote speakers like Bo Sanchez, my mom (Deonna Tan-Chi) and yours truly. I am nervous and excited! Please pray for me! Of course there will be a host of  great workshop speakers who will cover specific issues and concerns about homeschooling, too. Here’s what to expect during the PHC 2016:

PROGRAM

7:00-9:00 – Registration 

9:00-9:15 – Welcome remarks 

Keynote Sessions:

9:15-10:00 – Building a Firm Foundation by Deonna Tan-Chi and Joy Mendoza 

10a:00-10:20Strengthening the Foundation Through Financial Planning* by Eric Nicdao 

10:20-10:30 – Raffle 

10:30-11:15Motivation – The Art and Science of Helping Students Learn Well by Andrew Pudewa 

11:15-11:25 – Raffle 

11:25-12:10pm – Wings to Soar: Leaving a Legacy for our Children by Sanchez 

12:10-12:20 – Raffle 

12:20-2:00 – Lunch Break / Expo visit 

Workshop Options: 

2:00-2:45 The Ins and Outs of Homeschooling in the Philippines by Edric Mendoza OR Transitioning from Brick and Mortar to Homechooling by Jenn Punzalan OR Homeschooling the High School Years by Raquel Guevara  

2:45-3:00 – Mobilize to next session 

3:00-3:45Laying the Foundation in Preschool by Milona Barraca OR Paper and Pen: How “Low Tech” Reading and Writing Benefit Students* by Andrew Pudewa OR  Transitioning to College by Ivy and Bernard Marquez 

3:45-4:00 – Mobilize to next session 

4:00-4:45Starting Your Homeschool Journey by Donna Simpao OR The Hows of Interest-Led Homeschooling by Alex Hao OR Homeschooling the Special Needs Child by Jen Bellosillo 

4:45-5:30 – Break / Expo visit 

5:30-6:00 – Major raffle prizes / Closing Remarks 

*Subject to change

For more information, check out Keynote and breakout sessions
KIDS’ ACTIVITIES

There will be various activities for children of all ages should you want to bring your children along. These activities will all take place in the Expo Hall. Please make sure, however, that they are with a trusted adult at all times. HAPI and Educating for Life will not be liable for any untoward incident that may happen to your child during the event.

SCHEDULE

Write Pretty by Meg and Maddie (8:30am-10am)

Children ages 7 and up will enjoy learning a new skill with fellow homeschooled children Meg and Maddie Barraca.


Handlettering by Maddie (10:30am-12noon)

Join in the hand lettering trend by learning how to write calligraphy. To be conducted by Meg and Maddie Barraca. For children ages 7 and up.

Just Add Water – A Brush Calligraphy class by Marj Liwag (12:30pm-2pm, 4:30-6pm)

Little Miss Printer herself will teach this class for children ages 7 and up.

Inks and Lines – A Tangling class by Marj Liwag (2:30pm-4pm)

Learn about this relaxing art that creates beautiful images from simple patterns.

Challenge Island (8am-10am, 10:30am-12pm, 2:30pm-4:30pm)

Loosely based on the popular show, Survivor, children ages 5 and up will learn collaboration and cooperation the various Challenge Island tasks that they will be given to their tribe. Are they up to the challenge?

Crochet Along with Crafted Crafts by Marge Aberasturi (7am-6pm)

Marge Aberasturi of Crafted Crafts will welcome children ages 6 and up in her booth for beginning crochet lessons. Additional P250 fee for yarn and hook.

MEET THE ART MASTERS by Likhang Bata Creativity Center (7am-6pm)

Likhang Bata Creativity Art Center’s classes are a fun way to introduce the art masters to the children. The classes will be held in Likhang Bata’s booth the whole day.

SAFSOF SPORTS PLAY AREA BY TOPMnl (7am-6pm)

Let your kids move and play in our indoor sports play area! Crawl under arch gates. Swing your club in mini golf. Topple the cans with the soft catapult. Play bowling. Practice targeting skills with the Multi Ring Toss. All using SAFSOF safe rubber foam sports toys. For kids ages 3 years to 12 years.

SMILE TODDLER PLAY AREA (7am-6pm)

Children ages 1-3 will enjoy the various activities prepared by SMILE Group in the Toddler play area.

For more information see Kids’ Activities.


REGISTRATION FEE OPTIONS

For adults:

1. Regular rate (With access to plenary talks, breakout sessions and expo)- P1000 per participant

2. Group rate (Register 4 and get 5th ticket at 50%) – P4500 (Payment should be made as a group, not individually, to qualify for the discount)

3. Expo only (Access to vendor booths only; no access to talks and breakout sessions) – P50

4. Walk-in and on-site payment rate – P1200 per participant

For kids:

Children can choose their activities for a fee of P500. Parents can also choose to bundle the activities (except the toddler play area, which is P500 for the whole day) with the following rates:

Choice of 1 activity – P500

Choice of 2 activities – P900

Choice of 3 activities – P1200

Choice of 4 activities – P1550

Materials for the activities (except the crochet lesson, where participants will purchase hook and yarn separately) are only for borrowing. Each child can only register in one Challenge Island slot to give other participants a chance to enjoy the activity.

To register online: PHC 2016 registration

Check out the Facebook page: 


Get the free app!


In summary…Five reasons to attend the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016:





HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE! 

Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?


During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

Letting Go

This is a new stage of parenting for me, parenting a young man, as my husband and I like to refer to our 13 year old son, Elijah. After he turned 13, it felt like parenting 101 for me all over again.

I don’t really know what I’m doing. It feels like navigating unchartered waters in a misty fog.

By God’s grace, Elijah has been a pleasant “teenager”…so far. This is possibly because he hasn’t actually gone through puberty yet. I’m expecting this to happen within 2016. He’s at the beginning stages of it. However, he hasn’t exactly shot up in height. His voice hasn’t cracked yet. And well, other things are pretty much the same.

As I anticipate the hormonal transformation he is going to go through, I’m preparing myself, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to “let go” of the mothering bit. He’s not a baby anymore. And as my father in law lovingly reminded me, I’ve got to stop babying him.

I don’t really think I “baby” any of my kids, but if packing Elijah’s bag for his two week trip to the Holy Land counts, then yeah, I guess I do. I matched his outfits and oriented him on everything that was in his suitcase. I stayed up until late the night before he left to prepare his backpack with essentials.

It sounds like a form of babying, but letting him go on a trip without Edric and me accompanying him seems like a big step in the opposite direction. This is the first time any of our children have flown to another country without us.

The first night, I looked at his empty bed and felt like crying. His brothers were most certainly crying. I saw them in the dark, sitting on their beds doing so. When I flicked the light switch on, there were tears in both their eyes. They missed Elijah. I gave them big hugs and tucked them into bed, trying to offer words of confort I also needed to hear.

It was my parents’ idea to treat Elijah to a trip to the Holy Land with them when he turned 13. This is their plan for each grand child for as long as they can. So, the good news is he’s with adults whom I trust. My sister and her husband are on the same tour, which is doubly reassuring.

However, it took me a few days before the separation anxiety subsided. I am finally able to relax. Elijah doesn’t have a phone with roaming capacity so we have to rely on spotty Internet connection to communicate through his Ipad. I’ve talked to him briefly during the week and he already sounded like a more mature version of himself.

He was riding on the bus with a woman beside him during our first conversation and I was like, “Who is that girl beside you?” Eventually, he told me it was a young lady whom he shared the bus ride with.

When my dad jokingly said, “Yeah, he’s been talking to lots of girls,” I was like, “What? Really? What girls, Elijah?”

Elijah interrupted me quickly by saying, “Mom, you know I’m not at that stage yet.”

Oh okay. Whew. I know that. He’s not interested in girls yet, not in the romantic way, at least. (I suppose this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Children stay children for longer. They aren’t influenced by the culture of school where people crush on one another early.)

The most challenging part for me about letting Elijah travel without us was getting over the worry. What if he gets lost? What if he gets abducted? What if he gets injured? I don’t think there is any mom out there who won’t be able to relate to my anxiety.

But I am trying to dwell on the positive aspects of this two-week separation. Elijah is making new friends; he is spending quality time with the Lord as he experiences the Bible come to life; he has to practice responsibility as he keeps track of his belongings; he has to mind his budget; and he is learning to look after himself. If climbing the tallest mountain in the Philippines with his dad was “Lessons on Manhood Part 1”, then this is “Lessons on Manhood Part 2.”

Yesterday, Elijah contacted us to show us the shofar he bought. It was a huge ram’s horn! And he told his dad that he got it for a great deal. I’m trying to picture Elijah bargaining with a Jew for this trumpet and I’m proud of him!

As for Edan, my second son, he has stepped into the “kuya” shoes. Today, I asked him to baby-sit his brother and sisters in the hotel room while Edric and I gave a three-hour seminar on homeschooling and parenting. I left my phone with him, but he didn’t have to SOS us at all. When I returned to pick them up the kids in the hotel room, they were entertained, busy, and having fun without us.

When food is left on the table, Edan is also our new garbage man. I usually ask Elijah to eat everyone’s leftovers but now it’s Edan’s turn. Somehow, this has increased Edan’s capacity to eat. He’s been eating a ton of food in the last week!

What about me? Elijah’s trip away is a reminder that God is the one who protects my children. I need to relax and trust Him. It’s not my control or my presence that keeps any of my kids safe. I do my part but their wellbeing is ultimately in God’s hands. So I don’t need to worry when I can’t keep an eye on them 24/7. God can do a much better job.

I am also learning not to be dependent on my kids for my sense of joy or purpose. The first day Elijah was away, I thought, Is this what it’s going to feel like when my children leave home one day? Ouch. It hurts!

I’ve invested so much time in my children’s lives because of homeschooling that I can’t imagine what it will be like when my kids go off to college or pursue careers that take them away from the Philippines. And eventually they may start their own families, too.

So I’m thankful for this foretaste of what it will be like to really let go. It’s allowing me to re-visit where my sense of identity lies. Yes, motherhood defines a big part of who I am, but my life can’t revolve around my children. They’ve been given to me for a season, to instruct, influence, minister to, and disciple. I’m certainly going to make the most of this time while their hearts are malleable and responsive to me (and Edric). But one day, they will have to stand on their own and make choices without mom and dad around. And I will have to deal with the void their absence in the home leaves behind and look forward to how God will use me in another season of my life.

If I’m to be fruitful when I’m an older woman…fruitful in the purposeful sense because I’m fulfilling God’s plan for my life…then I have to be anchored in the Lord. I am a follower of Jesus first before I am a mom.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine you are the branches; he who abides Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

And hey, no matter what, I will still be mom to my kids. Someday, my children may not need me the same way they need me now, but there will always be a big space in my heart reserved just for them and the door to it will remain open.

Singer and songwriter Mark Shultz wrote When You Come Home years ago which used to make Elijah tear as a younger child. He would tell me to stop the song because he couldn’t listen to it. It’s such a tender song. In the end, the mom in the story passes away but she reminds her son that she will be waiting for him in heaven. Elijah never liked to think of being separated from me when he was little. And now he is off on his own!

I haven’t listened to the song in a long time, but it makes sense to include it here as I ponder upon this idea of letting go. (I’ve been in a sentimental mood since Elijah left so you get another emotional song in this post!)

What’s my take home from this song? Let go as your children grow up and grow past needing you, but always keep your arms open.

When You Come Home

My first day of recess
They all laughed at me
When I fell off the swing set
And scraped up my knee

The nurse called my Momma
To say I’d be late,
And when she gave me the phone
I could hear Momma say
“I’m so sorry, son.
Oh I think you’re so brave.”

And she was smiling when she said:

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home

I waved good-bye through the window
As I boarded the plane,
My first job in Houston
Was waiting for me

I found a letter from Momma
Tucked in my coat
And as I flew down the runway
I smiled when she wrote:
I’ll miss you, son,
You’ll be so far away

But I’ll be waiting for the day

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong
And I will be here
When you come home

Well, I don’t think
She can hear you now,
The doctor told me
Your mother is fading,
It’s best that you leave

So I whispered,
I love you
And then turned away.
But I stopped at the door
When I heard Momma say,
I love you, son,
But they’re calling me away

Promise me before I go

When you come home,
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home,
When you come home.

Sweet and Thoughful Gifts for Moms

For the years of tireless sacrifice that our moms have made, one day out of the year isn’t enough to acknowledge all they have done for us. But then again, moms don’t demand medals or trophies for what they do. My mom is the epitome of selflessness and she has never expected to be recognized for loving and caring for my siblings and me.

However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t lavish our mothers with praise and gratitude. Even if Mother’s Day comes just once a year, let’s make the most of it and spoil our moms with the appreciation they deserve!

I received my Mother’s Day presents early this month from different companies who gave me wonderful ideas that I would like to share with you.

If your mom likes chocolate, then consider the unique, limited-edition Toblerone bar which says, “You’re the best, Mama.” Each Toblerone bar features a lovely pink rose. Sizes come in 100 grams at Php 100 (Milk, Dark, White, Crunchy Almond), 200 grams (Milk) at Php 200, and 400 grams (Milk) at Php 400. This Mother’s Day edition is available at groceries. 

If your mom likes flowers, Designer Blooms has imported fresh flowers such as tulips to communicate how special mom is to you. Designer Blooms café in Molito Mall Alabang sells fresh flowers, plants and herbs, gift baskets and accessories for fresh flowers. It caters to walk-ins so if you need a last minute bouquet, it’s not too late!


Designer Blooms also has stores in Alabang Town Center – Expansion Wing, Madrigal Entrance, SM Megamall – 3rd Floor, Building A, Bonifacio Global City Rustans Marketplace – Lower Ground Floor, and it has DBexpress outlets at SM City branches in Sta. Rosa, Bicutan, Fairview, Sucat and Calamba. Or, you can order through their site: Designer Blooms


If your mom is like my mom, who is health-conscious and into preventive medicine, then you might want to look into Manuka Honey products. 
This past week, I ended every night late. Sleeping later than 9:30 or 10 PM is often the precursor to getting sick for me. I felt that scratchy, itchy throat Tuesday morning, but thankfully, Manuka Honey sent me a box of their products for Mother’s Day, and their Bee Propolis Throat Spray, Manuka Honey, and especially, their Propolis Suckles kept me healthy and well enough to get through this hectic week.

One teaspoon of Manuka Honey MGO 250 keeps viruses away. You can double the dose when you are sick which will speed up the healing process in a natural and healthy way because it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The spray is amazing for the throat as it has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe throat pain. And the Propolis Suckles (which I took several times a day), removed the discomfort in my throat.

Yet another idea for moms is to present them with a meaningful gift that thanks them for teaching us to love God. I have been a fan of The Carpenter since last year when good friends gave Edric a Scripture board made of pinewood with the verse, Joshua 24:15. 


I really like their steel art series a lot. In fact, I have one in our home, thanks to Trina Jeturian, who is behind this unique brand of products that celebrate “Christ in contemporary living.”


When Edric asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day because the kids were asking him, I wasn’t sure what to say. It kind of seemed self-serving to plant thoughts in their minds through Edric. 

As a mom, the greatest gift I can receive is my children’s obedience and respect throughout the year. I think I speak for all mothers when I say that what matters to us is how we are honored by our children everyday. 

That is the best gift we can give our moms, too. Everything else — purchases and plans that communicate thoughtfulness are just a nice bonus on Mother’s Day! 

Even so, and at the very least, let’s communicate to our moms how much we love and appreciate them tomorrow! Every mom likes to hear “I love you and thank you, mom!” 

Saying Goodbye to Seasons of Motherhood

I finally weaned Catalina two months ago. It was kind of a forced wean because Edric and I traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for seven days which left her no option but to take the bottle. But like all my other kids who breastfed for a long time, she resorted to milk in a cup instead.

When I came back, she still asked to nurse and I tried but there wasn’t any more milk. Of course I could have produced it again had I let her keep latching on. But at two and a half years old I also figured it was time to move on. She breastfed primarily for comfort, not for sustenance. 

Still, she made attempts so I would explain, “Mommy has no more milk.” This answer didn’t always satisfy her so I had to add, “Mommy can always hug you and hold you. I will always love you.”

  
I thought I accepted the weaning as the right thing to do until I broke down one Sunday afternoon. Catalina saw me and reacted, “Why? why?” And then she pretended to cry, maybe to emphathize with me or maybe to make fun of me. (Knowing her personality, it may have been the latter!)

It finally dawned on me that breastfeeding babies has come to an end. Sure, okay, technically, I can have more kids. But I may not, and apart from that, it’s dealing with the reality that Catalina is “growing up.” She isn’t a baby anymore. In fact, she told me she’s “a little lady” because that’s the term Edric uses to describe her. 

Sometimes, I want my little baby back! I miss breastfeeding her to sleep, being able to comfort her when she is scared, tired or needy, the physical bonding we share that is so tender and special, and how happy and satisfied she looks when she is nursing. (It’s always difficult for me to wean my babies.)

Older moms used to tell me things like, Cherish every moment with your babies, you will miss this. I would look at them while holding an infant in my arms or breastfeeding one, tired as heck, and their advice seemed distantly relevant to me. But now, from the vantage point of having nursed five babies, survived the sleepless nights, and moved past the feeling of being “tied-down” by the responsibilities of caring for infants, I look back and think…they were right. They were all right! It all came and went so quickly, so soon. And, sigh, I miss it all.

Those difficult seasons made me a mother. Those trying nights of waking up to comfort my babies allowed me to discover the amazing resilience we have as women. And those challenging moments of teaching my babies how to communicate, walk across a room, feed themselves, and learn other survival skills they would need as little humans made me believe that God gave moms a supernatural patience and grace to persevere and repeat ourselves a thousand times! 

Being a mother has been such an adventure, and it continues to be. I’ve come to accept that it’s always going to be hard to say goodbye to each season of motherhood because I am a fully invested mom. Whether it’s the first few months of caring for a newborn, breastfeeding through the infant stage and beyond, raising wiggly toddlers, homeschooling young children, or navigating the teen years (this is a recent one), there will be tearful passages and triumphant ones that make up the sweet song of motherhood. Like me, there’s no committed mom out there who will not feel the sorrow of leaving one stage and entering another.  

So I must move forward with gratitude, embracing the experiences that my growing children will live through with me. It may be goodbye to having babies but it’s also a big hello to exciting times ahead. 

For instance, I am learning to appreciate Catalina and love her in new ways. She sleeps in the girl’s room with Tiana but sometimes, during the wee hours of the morning she will sneak into our room, inch into a space beside me on the bed and quietly whisper, “Can you hug me, mommy?” 

When I am dead tired, I drape an arm over her body to make it seem like it’s a hug, but this doesn’t count for her. She will insist, “Can you face me?” Then she will press her cheek to mine and close her eyes. I will smell her soft skin and feel the warmth of it against mine. Soon after she will doze off peacefully and I will smile…partially because I can go back sleep, too, but more so because this is its own kind of special. Breastfeeding was wonderful but this is better. This is a new season to treasure.