Homeschool Materials for 2016 to 2017

I should have posted this last year but in case anyone is interested, these are the materials I have been using for my kids this 2016-2017 school year. 

Our starting month was September so we are finishing off the third quarter at present. 

CATALINA – PRESCHOOL (1 to 1.5 hours/day)

Catalina’s daily schedule includes listening to music, learning phonics sounds and pre-math skills, being read to by me or her siblings, and lots of play time! Her schedule is very laid back  and informal. 

Here are some of the resources I use for her…

Bible and character:


Phonics: (We sing the Sing, Spell, Read, and Write songs together)


Math and Logic:


Music. She listens to nursery rhymes almost daily. This particular collection is one of her favorites:


I have a lot of Wee Sing CDs: 

We have a bunch of instruments for her to play around with and dance with as she listens to music:


Other helpful materials (books to read aloud and flash cards):



Art. Catalina is currently enrolled in an art class but she also does a lot of cutting, painting, drawing, and scribbling at home. At present, she contributes to 75% of the mess every day. 

PE. Catalina is taking up ballet, tennis, and swimming. 

TIANA – GRADE 1 (2 to 3 hours/day)

Bible. The Ology by Marty Machowski (3x a week. Read aloud to Tiana and let her write a sentence or two in her Bible notebook to summarize what she learned) This is an easy and laid back way for me to introduce Bible concepts to her. It takes me about 15 minutes to read through each section or chapter (asking questions along the way to check if Tiana is listening), and then I ask her to write in her notebook and draw a picture to remember the topic and come up with her own application. 


She also has a Study Bible that we read through together. 


Math. Primary Mathematics by Rex Publishing available through Learning Plus. We cover three to four pages three to four times a week.

Science. (2x a week) I read Discovering God’s World Science by Abeka Publishing to Tiana and she also works on the pages of her Interactive Science Notebook


Language Arts (3 to 4x a week). I use a mix of Learning Language Arts Through Literature (the Blue Book), Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW), and First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. Tiana also keeps a notebook to write her lessons in. 


Social Studies (2x a week): Listen to Audio CD Mystery of History Volume 1 and use Take It To Your Seat Geography Centers for Grades 1 and 2.

Art: Art Projects by Abeka Book Publishing and my own curriculum. She’s also taking art lessons. 


Music. Tiana is currently taking piano lessons.

PE. Tiana is doing ballet, swimming and tennis. 

TITUS, EDAN, AND ELIJAH – GRADE 3, 5, and 8 (4 to 5 hours/day)

For Bible and Character I continue to use the What We Believe Series by Apologia. This is my fourth year to invest in this series and it has personally impacted me as a parent and follower of Christ. 

My kids tease me because I often cry when I read the books in this series aloud. The foundational truths in this material are not just for my kids but for me, too. They anchor us as a family as we learn about what it means to have a Biblical worldview. 

The series contains the following (each book is equivalent to a year’s worth of Bible and character):

Who is God and Can I Really Know Him? 

Who am I and What Am I Doing Here? 

Who Is My Neighbor and Why Does He Need Me? 

What On Earth Can I Do? 

How do we cover each book? Traffic gives us plenty of time to do this. We have discussions about the content and then the kids fill in their corresponding notebooking journal. Only Titus uses the junior one since he is not yet ready to write long answers to comprehension questions. It takes about a month to go through each chapter (there are a total of eight per book), but it’s also possible to finish a chapter in half the time. I let the boys fill in their journals together so they can bounce ideas off one another and have their own conversations about what they learned. Plus, they enjoy competing to see who gets done first. 

I allot two to three days in the week to read through the material with the kids. This includes time to write in their journals. Of course this coursework is on top of their daily Bible reading. For our older sons, we encourage them to read through the Bible chronologically. 



Language Arts.
 Each of my boys is using a different material for this subject. 

I tested out Abeka on Titus. He needs more structure and drills so this one is working for him. My other boys probably won’t like it, but Titus is benefitting from the predictability and repetition. 

It’s a complete curriculum for language arts. I got the whole package for Grade 3. It’s pricey but I can reuse the readers.

Titus works on the writing and grammar daily. We skip some of the penmanship pages since I don’t think that we need to overemphasize handwriting. However it is beneficial for the research component. Titus has to answer questions that require him to refer to the back of the book which includes an encyclopedia-like pages. As for the spelling, Titus practices this once or twice a week. Thankfully, he doesn’t have too much trouble remembering spelling words for as long as he gets to review them ahead of time. However, his vocabulary needs improving since he isn’t as well-read as his older brothers. 

Therefore, I appreciate the leveled readers that come with Abeka Language Arts. They are challenging enough for him to read, as well as hold his interest. Furthermore, the readers focus on good values and character. At present, he is enjoying Pilgrim’s Progress and Swiss Family Robinson. 

As for the Read and Think Skill Sheets, these are timed comprehension tests that I administer once a week. 

Writing and Grammar:


Spelling and Poetry:


Leveled Readers:


Reading Comprehension:


Penmanship:



Edan is using Total Language Plus. It uses a literature-based approach to teaching grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.


I also got IEW’s Student Writing Intensive Course for Elijah and Edan. Elijah uses Level C and Edan just started with Level A. They alternate this writing curriculum with their other language arts materials during the week besides their daily requirement of independent reading time.


Elijah has Bob Jones’ Excursions in Literature book for reading. It’s got great stories in it! Furthermore, the questions highlight critical thinking skills. Once to twice a week with this book is ample time to complete it during the year, but each sit down will require about forty-five minutes to an hour. 


I experimented with IEW’s Fix It! Grammar curriculum for Elijah this year. It’s tough! My mistake was failing to use this from the beginning so jumping into it was challenging. However, it is a very good grammar program. Instead of teaching grammar rules, it requires students to edit wrong texts and re-write them. 


Math. I stuck to the locally published Rex Singapore Math material for Edan and Titus, which I have used with my kids over the years. The only problem is that it can sometimes have errors in it. My kids tend to spot these inconsistencies as they go about their math work, but I like how the Primary Mathematics presents the concepts and gives ample exercises for practice and assessment. Each book comes with a teacher’s guide as well. 

New Syllabus Primary Mathematics Grade 3:

New Syllabus Primary Mathematics Grade 5:


Elijah uses Khan Academy. He is going through the eighth grade level as well as Algebra

Science. I am still a fan of Apologia Science books because they are creation-based. In the past I got the corresponding notebooks for Titus and Edan but my boys prefer doing the Knowledge Box Central Lapbooks

Like their Bible and character material, I read this one aloud to Edan and Titus in the car as well, and they do the lapbooking together. We spend two days a week covering science. 

Every year, I also purchase Nature’s Worshop Plus Lab Kits for my kids. These lab-kits-in-a-box make it so much easier for me because I don’t have to look for all the supplies for each experiment in the Eploring Creation Series. 

Knowledge Box Central Lapbook:



Nature’s Workshop Plus Lab Kit:

Elijah is doing Exploring Creation with Biology for his science. He also fills in the notebooking journal. I am so glad there is an option to buy tests and answer keys! 

Nature’s Workshop Plus Slide Kit for Biology:

Extra reading for Elijah from New Leaf Publishing – The World of Biology, and The Genesis of Germs:



History/Geography
. This is my fifth year using Mystery of History by Linda Hobar. I have tried Story of the World by Bauer and History Revealed by Warring. Both of these are very well-written history programs. However, Story of the World does not have a Christ-centric focus whereas Mystery of History does. As for Warring’s books, I prefer her History Audio CDs. She is a wonderful story-teller! 

Mystery of History Volume 2 Audio CDs (For Titus):


Mystery of History Volume 4 (For Edan and Elijah):

Art. The boys are taking art classes. 

Music. Elijah and Titus have violin classes and Edan is doing piano. 

PE. They do swimming and tennis, and play basketball at home. When I can get them to, they also go running with me. 

Since my kids are enrolled in the U.S. Program of Homeschool Global, they aren’t taking Filipino and Local Social Studies, however, they do use Rosetta Stone for Filipino and I got them a bunch of books to read on Philippine History, Geography and Government. 



I also supplement math, English and social studies with time4learning.com for Tiana, Titus, and Edan.


Here are their daily schedules:



Whew. That’s a lot of info. If you have questions or clarifications, please feel free to message me. Let me end by saying that home education is an investment of time and resources. It’s can be the costliest education in the world because it requires total commitment and sacrifice but the results are worth it! 

Standing in Front of Others

Some of my kids get terrified about performing which is one of the reasons why I really appreciated the recently held open house activity for Homeschool Global students where they were asked to present their art works.

I had two kids in tears before they had to speak. Edric and I took them aside to give them a pep talk. A part of me was frustrated that they were self-conscious and worried about talking about their paintings (which was going to take barely two minutes to do), but I also had to be sensitive and remember that I too was once incredibly scared of speaking in public. Sometimes I still am! 

Edric and I reassured them that they could do it. We asked them to focus on being a blessing instead of themselves. We didn’t let them give in to their fears either. I caught sight of one of them praying for courage and another one trying her best to control her tears. 

All five of them had their turns describing their art pieces and they got through the ordeal just fine. Afterwards, they realized that their fears were unfounded. I was very proud of them for obeying their teacher to get up in front of everyone even though they were uncomfortable and nervous. 

Some of the other homeschool kids confidently sang or talked about their paintings. One child in particular grabbed the mic at the end and started belting out various songs. She didn’t have any issues standing in front of an audience!

My older boys felt at ease as well since Edric and I invite them to speak with us when we give seminars. So they didn’t panic when it was their turn. However this was a first for my three younger kids. Thankfully, they survived! But they definitely need more opportunities where they can practice articulating themselves or performing before audiences.

Here are some ideas for us homeschoolers:

1. Organize events with our coops where kids can perform in front of parents and siblings. Some ideas are a talent show, play, debate, and speech making. 

2. Have kids retell what they did during the day during dinner time. 

3. Get kids to serve others where they have to think less of themselves and more of others. Some examples are outreaches, community projects, or Sunday school. 

4. Let kids come up with a business idea that they have to execute and have them sell their products or idea to others. 

5. Have siblings read aloud to one another teach their younger siblings so they can practice their communication skills. 

There’s also a great material by Institute for Excellence in Writing on Public Speaking called Speech Boot Camp. It’s great for older children to use in a group setting since they can practice in front of one another, as well as encourage and critique each other, too. We did this with our playgroup two years ago on the recommendation of my friend, Andi Miller. My two older boys had a great time and learned a lot. You may want to try it on your older kids, too…


Photos of the kids’ art class. Their teacher is artist, Camille Ver:


My favorite paintings of the kids’…

Joan Miró inspired: 

Wassily Kandinsky inspired:

Family portrait: 

Free style:


NATIONAL HOMESCHOOL DAY, A DAY FOR BETTER EDUCATION: PANGILINAN

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent” – Mahatma Gandhi

In support for the Filipino homeschooling community, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has filed Resolution 308 expressing the Senate’s full support in the celebration of the first National Homeschool Day today, March 3, 2017.

“Ang daming panahong naaaksaya sa trapik paroo’t parito sa iskwela. Meron pa minsan nam-bu-bully. Magandang option ang homeschooling sa bata at magulang. Nagbibigay ito ng isang secure at hassle-free environment para maging free thinkers ang mga bata na nakatutok sa kaalaman at hindi lang sa matataas na grado (A lot of time is wasted in traffic going to and from schools. Bullying has also become a serious issue. Homeschooling is a good option for both parents and children. It can provide a secure and hassle-free environment where children become independent thinkers and focus on learning and not merely getting high grades),” said Pangilinan.

Noting that “this year’s theme is ‘Building Up the Philippines, One Family at a Time,’ the Liberal Party president said that homeschooling is also a good way to nation-building.

“We believe that if we are to shape our nation, we will have to shape first our communities, and if we are to shape our communities, we have to shape our families,” Pangilinan added.
The senator also stressed the need to craft a law for homeschooling in the country.

“As the movement for homeschooling in the country grows, we see a need to institutionalize this alternative mode of education: One that would set guidelines for a homeschooling program that ensures that children get to have the quality education they deserve,” Pangilinan said.

“Pag nakita nating lumalaki ang ating mga anak na balansyado, nakakamit ang kanilang pangarap, may kumpyansa sa sarili at sa kanilang puwang sa komunidad, yan ang pinakamagandang regalo ng nanay at tatay sa kanilang mga anak. Yan ang inaasam ng homeschooling. Yan ang inaasam natin (Seeing our children as they grow up well-balanced, achieving because they love what they do, and self-confident and assured that they have a place in the community, I think, is the best gift that a mother and father would want to have for their children. That is the goal of homeschooling. That is our goal),” he added.


Celebrating National Homeschool Day around the Philippines! 


 

What to do About the Entitlement Mentality

The phrase “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot as emblematic of today’s younger generation. Merriam Webster defines entitlement as:

  • the fact of having a right to something. “full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
  • the amount to which a person has a right. “annual leave benefits.”
  • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. “no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement”

I don’t see a problem with the first two definitions. Kids, for example, have the right to feel loved, secure, important, and special. God created them with these needs and He designed the family to fulfill them.

What we want to avoid, as parents, is raising kids who think they deserve privileges and preferential treatment because they have a me-centered view of reality. This is where training of their heart-attitudes has to come in.

Here are some practical ways Edric and I are trying to weed out the negative sense of entitlement in our kids:

Learn to Wait

Between Edric and me, I tend to give in more to the kids’ wants so I am thankful that Edric insists on being firm about training our kids to wait.

Last Christmas, Cetaphil, a brand that we endorse as a family, gave the kids GCs for Toys R Us. The kids were thrilled since we didn’t buy them expensive gifts for Christmas. We asked them to purchase presents for each other and gave them a fairly small budget per person to do so. When they received their GCs, the kids shrieked with joy, expecting to be able to troop to the toy store soon after. However, Edric encouraged them to postpone their urge to do so until such time as he deemed favorable.

At first, I felt badly for the kids. During Christmas we told them we would focus on serving an underprivileged community rather than make our celebration about presents. They didn’t complain when they received simple gifts. Therefore, my impulse was to reward their good attitudes.

Yet, I trusted Edric’s leading on the matter and he was wise to mandate that the kids wait once more. A few weeks ago, he finally allowed each of our kids to pick out something at the toy store. We had another photoshoot for Cetaphil where they obeyed and listened to instructions very well so Edric wanted to bless them for their positive character.


In keeping with our emphasis on learning to wait, I asked the kids not to open their purchases till the day after. Once again they complied. There was some resistance from our younger two who came up to me grasping their new toys hoping that they could persuade me to change my mind by batting their pretty eyelashes. But I didn’t cave in and insisted that tomorrow wasn’t very far away. They understood and eagerly anticipated waking up the next morning. Exercising self-control allowed them to thoroughly enjoy the moment when they opened their toys.

Whenever parents express concern about their kids being entitled, Edric and I ask them to think through what sort of environment and values they are perpetuating at home. It’s not our children’s faults when they grow up feeling like the “world owes them.” Most likely, it’s due to the way we are raising them.

One problem may be too much too soon. For example, many parents feel upset about their kids’ addiction to gadgets but they supply their children with devices to begin with. Furthermore, these gadgets are usually given when their children are too young to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these.

We made this mistake with Catalina when she was younger. Needing to appease her and keep her preoccupied, we would hand my phone to her. However, this had a detrimental affect on her personality. She began to resort to whining when she couldn’t use my phone, thinking it was her right to have it as a form of entertainment. So we had a season of “unplugging” for her.

Now, when I tell her, “Catalina, you can’t play with that or you can’t have that,” more often than not her reply is, “Okay, mommy.” Before, she would arch her head back and cry, sulk, or roll around on the couch or bed to emphasize her disappointment. By God’s grace, she has improved a lot!

Humility and Service

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God but did not insist on being treated like God, nor did he demand the privileges that belonged to Him. He did not appear in His glorious form but in the form of man whom He created. As if this wasn’t humbling enough, He regarded Himself as a servant, not just any servant, but the lowliest of all — a bond servant.

The word for bondservant in Greek is Doulos which implies slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, or to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. (Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doulos.html)

“The King of the Universe, the Lord of glory, voluntarily became a pauper for our sake. He had to borrow a place to be born, a boat to preach from, a place to sleep, a donkey to ride upon, an upper room to use for the last supper, and a tomb in which to be buried. He created the world but the world did not know Him. He was insulted, humiliated, and rejected by the people He made. (Source: Ken Boa, Reflections Newsletter, May 1988.)

Our children have inherent worth as people created in the image of God, but like Christ, they don’t have to insist or demand to be treated as special. Neither should they expect the “world to revolve around their needs and wants.”

Instead, they can copy Christ’s example. He set aside His privileges and position to serve our needs. This act of humility didn’t diminish His worth, instead it allowed Him to accomplish the purpose for which He came to earth — the sacrifice of His life on the cross to pay for our sins which met our greatest need — forgiveness. Similarly, are we teaching our children to seek the highest good of others? Are we exemplifying this ourselves?

Edric and I have five kids with five different personalities, and all of them manifested a self-centered perspective early on in their lives. By two years old it was usually full blown in its ugliness and without intervention and consistent training, all of our kids would have been out of control by now. While they continue to struggle with selfishness (who doesn’t?), they understand that as a family we are committed to serving the Lord and others. We are on this earth to be a blessing.

In order to emphasize this, we expose our children to ministry activities where they must serve and think of the needs of others. When our kids minister alongside Edric and me, they experience what it is like to go outside of their comfort zones and channel their God-given talents towards caring for others. In the process they realize that they can live purposefully, beyond the pursuit of self-gratification.


This usually happens when our kids are at the age when they can express their personal reflections and insights. At about nine or ten years of age, we give them opportunities to stand in front of audiences to share what God is teaching them.

Elijah was more natural at this but we asked Edan to participate as well about three years ago. We avoided forcing him. But when he finally got to experience speaking along side us his heart attitude changed. He now says, “I want to be a blessing!”

Edric and I have also learned from my brother and sister-in-law who are part of the sports ministry of our church. They include my nephews and niece in their outreaches whenever possible. At present, their kids also disciple other children and lead bible studies for them. Edric and I asked our kids to do this as well but they got discouraged when their first few attempts didn’t produce desired results. The kids they were teaching preferred to play! However, we have challenged our older children to get these studies started again.

Contribute

Our desire is to instill in our kids what it means to be contributors rather than takers. Whether it is serving in ministry or helping out at home, we want our kids to take initiative to meet the needs they see and learn the value of work. 

Edric recently required the boys to take care of the yard with him.  At first our kids resisted, especially Edan who prefers to be indoors. However, after our kids experienced mowing the grass, taking out the big shears to trim plants, shrubs and branches, sweeping and collecting dead leaves (and then burning them to roast marshmallows), they realized that doing chores together can be a lot of fun! Our yard is still in dismal shape and needs a lot of beautifying! 

Since we have household help we don’t want our kids to feel like someone is always there to pick up after them, straighten their rooms, and respond to their every request. They are able-bodied enough to fix their beds, clean their mess, and be responsible for their toys and belongings.



During our trip to Dubai, Edric had the boys sort through all their clothing and pack their own luggage. I usually prepare all their clothes and shoes, but Edric forbade me from doing so this time around. He reminded me that the boys are old enough to exercise independence in this area, that it was necessary for them to do so, too. At first, I hesitated to agree with him for fear that our sons would forget important articles of clothing.

However, I praise God that I listened to Edric because I haven’t had to micromanage how they pair their outfits or keep track of what goes into their suitcases. They have taken the initiative to put away their clothes and select what they will wear every day which makes it a lot easier for me since I only have to worry about the girls’ luggages. 

Stewardship

Even if our kids technically have material possessions that belong to them, we tell them they don’t own anything. God owns everything we have as a family. We are just stewards of these blessings, therefore our response needs to be one of appreciation and conscientiousness about taking care of what is the Lord’s. Since we don’t own anything, it becomes easier for our kids to share as well. No one is allowed to say, “This is mine!” 

Frugality and Thriftiness

While we don’t want our children to worry about money, we don’t want them to think it comes easily either. It starts with us, as parents, modeling simplicity. When our kids observe us demonstrate restraint it motivates them to do the same. When we don’t exercise discretion they tend to think they can spend indiscriminately, too.

My older boys hold me accountable now. Elijah will challenge me in a polite way by asking, “Mom, do you really need that? Mom, that’s kind of expensive…”

Since Elijah and Edan earn money when they do jobs for Edric, they understand that a lot of effort is entailed in saving and accumulating wealth. It probably helps that we don’t give them allowances since they are homeschooled. Instead, they get paid when they do actual work. As a result, they exercise caution when spending their money, too. They prefer to invest their funds in stocks in order to grow it for future use.

Elijah and Edan both have individual stock portfolios. Their investment philosophy is invest in companies with a healthy track record, give good value for money, and are aligned with their personal convictions. For example, they prefer not to put their earnings into companies that sell junk food. Good call, boys!

Giving children a vision for what they can accomplish if they can save and invest money also keeps their impulses at bay. For example, when Elijah was eleven years old, he bought himself an IPad to increase his productivity. His rationale was, it was a “business investment.” He paid seventy-five percent of the cost of an IPad Air after researching and bidding for the best deal. We didn’t just hand him a new device even though he was old enough to responsibly handle one. We let him save up for it and go through the trouble of finding the best deal. As a result, he has taken very good care of his IPad and he uses it to learn about coding, program, track his stocks, and communicate with. 

Gratefulness

One of the best cures for entitlement is gratitude. This past week Edric had the kids memorize, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Timothy 5:17) Since we are in the Middle East, meeting with old and new friends, visiting different sites and learning about a unique culture, our kids may not always appreciate every experience we have. Furthermore, they may forget to express their sincere thanks when people treat us or take us to places. Church friends have been so hospitable and accommodating towards us that our kids can become spoiled, too! (We feel spoiled!) So we have repeatedly reminded them to be grateful, to avoid being demanding or upset when their expectations are not met. After all, we don’t deserve the kindness being  showered upon us.

Gratitude also helps to guard our hearts from greed, one of the symptoms of entitlement. I don’t know how many of you are from Chinese families but here’s something that I appreciated about what my father did in ours. (I am half Chinese, my father being the Chinese parent and my mother being the American one.) Growing up, my father didn’t raise my siblings and me to bank on inheritance. So my siblings and I avoided planning our lives based on the expectation that our dad’s businesses, investments, and properties would be handed down to us. Instead, my dad assessed whatever needs we had through the years and blessed us when he saw it fit to do so.

He decided what was fair and still decides what is fair because he is still alive. In the process, he also gets to enjoy whatever “gifts” he gives us.

More importantly, my parents emphasized and continue to emphasize faith in the Lord as the unifying identity of our family. They still disciple us as their grown up children (as well as our spouses and children). As a result, we share the same values and perspectives on family, ministry, work, and wealth, and have a deep love and loyalty towards one another.


Nevertheless, I continue to pray that money will never come between us. I know it happens to the best of families and ours isn’t immune so it is by God’s grace alone that we desire what is best for one another and rejoice when we see each other prosper. Some of us have more than others and even though there may be times when it’s tempting to compare lifestyles and privileges, what safeguards our hearts and minds is the truth that all things come from the Lord’s hand. Whom he chooses to bless materially is in accordance with his pleasing and perfect will. 

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
At the end of the day, I believe that a negative sense of entitlement boils down to a theological issue. It may be hard for kids to grasp this when they are young, but as they grow up, we need to remind them that every person is a recipient of grace. All of us are un-deserving of God’s grace, yet He forgave us and gave us the right to become His children.

“Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus Christ), to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”John 1:12

If we understand grace then we will be gracious when we aren’t treated the way we hope to be, when we don’t get our way, or when we fail to receive what we think we deserve to have. Why? Jesus Christ has met our desperate need for forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father has satisfied our deepest longings for love and acceptance. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to break away from the pain and bondage of sin. And our best life is yet to be, in heaven. Therefore, any good thing bestowed upon us today is a bonus! So we, and our children, can learn to wait, be humble and servant-like, contribute (work hard), be good stewards, practice thriftiness and frugality, and remember to say thank you! 


  

 

Before the Love Month Ends at S&R

 

I’m still away, very away, in the Middle East in the world of camels and enjoying the desert. It’s been a wonderful time with Edric and the kids.

Before the month of February ends, please enjoy some shopping at S&R for me. I miss it! Grocery shopping is very different in Dubai and Abudhabi. Apart from Carrefour, I don’t see many big supermarkets like I am used to in Manila. 

Edric and I took a trip to one of the mini-groceries a block away from our hotel to pick up some detergent, deodorant, and food the other day. It was a teeny-tiny place where we had to squeeze through the aisles and avoid head-on collisions as we turned each corner.

I’m the kind of shopper who particularly fancies going to the grocery. This is where I spend most of my money as a wife and mother, so I do appreciate it when it can be a total experience – a place where my kids enjoy coming with me to, where I don’t feel rushed or stressed, where I don’t bump elbows with people going in the opposite direction; where I am confident of the quality of the produce, meats and products, and where the service is excellent.


Although I can’t always find everything I need in S&R, it’s one of my happy places as a mother. Back when I used to frequent the branch in BGC, where we used to live, there was a disabled man who would warmly greet my kids and me at the entrance. He always smiled and said, “Nice to see you, again.”

It’s those little things, if you know what I mean.

Since this is the love month, I just want to appreciate S&R for the love it gives its members. It matters. Atleast to me.

As for those of you who may be interested in discovering what’s new at S&R and what sweet promos they are offering, keep reading…

Honey Roasted Nut Mix (P899.95): 

Huggable Shopkins (P949.95): 

Lentil chips (my kids love these):


Cheesecake Factory Cheesecakes (P999.95):


Buy 1 Take 1 Bathrobes (P999.95):


Quiche (P164.95):


Conquering Mt. Pulag

Climbing Mt. Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines, was one of those bucket list moments for me. Edric and I decided to join the Valentine’s Day Pulag climb organized by the Rock Ministry of our church. It was an unconventional way to celebrate our commitment to one another but the experience proved to be one of the best ways to revisit our relationship and glean valuable life lessons. It was one of the most difficult, self-inflicted challenges we surmounted together!


Day one involved a climb to Camp 2 from Ranger Station — an easy two and a half hours. We pitched our tents by mid-afternoon and didn’t mind the drizzle. At this point the cold felt bearable. By 5 PM, however, the weather conditions deteriorated significantly and everyone in our group of about seventy-two climbers retreated to our tents to seek refuge.


My vision of the evening had star gazing, fellowship, singing, and outdoor cooking in its picture. This fantasy was impossible as no one dared to venture outside of their tents to hang out when the rain and wind continued. Moving around the campsite would mean getting clothes and shoes soaked and muddied. Only those foraging for food from neighbors and those who desperately needed to relieve themselves attempted to. (Some actually resorted to Ziploc bags to contain their “organic matter.”)

Had it not been for the calm composure and confidence of our team leader and friend, Jessie Tan, who is an experienced mountaineer and owner of the local brand, Conquer, we would have skipped dinner entirely. He ably got two burners going under the vestibule of one of the bigger tents. Edric and I, along with our friends, gathered in that same tent to eat off whatever resembled a plate or bowl. Amazingly, we feasted on adobo, salpicao, rice, and steak, courtesy of my brother, Paul, and sinigang, prepared by my brother-in-law, Joel. (It almost felt wrong to have that much food when we were supposed to be roughing it.)


When the rain did not relent, everyone’s bigger fear was the biting cold. I didn’t quite understand what my mountaineering father-in-law meant when he briefed Edric and I about the possibility of hypothermia on Pulag. Well, I very well got what he meant that night.

Although we prepared the right gear, we didn’t anticipate how frigid and uncomfortable the rain would turn the event into. The extreme drop in temperature, windchill, and precipitation which persisted into the early hours of the morning made us doubtful about reaching the summit when we awoke at 4 am the next day.

Throughout the night I tossed and turned, unable to get any quality sleep. It didn’t help that Edric wore a pink panther shawl around his neck which had big paws on it that kept slapping my face each time he turned his body (see photo above). Moisture also entered the floor of our tent. Had it not been for the inflatable padding my father-in-law lent Edric and me, we would have been sleeping on a layer of icy water.

Throughout the night the wind battered our tent but thankfully it returned to its form after each onslaught. Our group of eleven which included my brother, his two sons, my sister and her husband, four friends from our discipleship group plus Edric and I had it better than others who pitched on higher ground which made them even more vulnerable to the wind and cold. We found a spot surrounded by miniature bamboo that created a natural barrier around us. Some people whose tents were more exposed to the elements had to evacuate and transfer into sturdier, Conquer ones. (That’s a plug for my friend!)


By 6 PM, hope of sunlight emerged as some color returned to our surroundings. But the sky remained cloudy and it’s grayness concealed what should have been a beautiful display of the sun rising. Campers awoke to a nervous energy as the group discussed whether to attempt the ascent or wait it out some more. At first the guides were unwilling to take us up but after some persuasion they agreed to do so. Not everyone decided to abandon the shelter of their tents but there were a good number of us who were intent on making it to the summit.

Edric and I were part of the first group. With our hands stinging from the painful cold and our bodies bundled up in several layers so that only a portion of our faces was exposed, we proceeded to trek upwards behind our guide. At certain moments, our balance was compromised by the force of the chilly wind as it beat heavily against us. But we pressed on. The walking produced body heat that warmed us to our extremities.

Three-fourths of the way our guide decided to wait for the rest of our team. Edric and I couldn’t hazard stopping for fear that our body temperatures would drop, so we kept going till the shadowy form of the last peak presented itself among the clouds. Adrenaline kicked in and we bounded up (well, Edric certainly did), and the feeling of reaching the summit was extraordinary! God used the wind to push the clouds along so that we actually had more visibility of the scenery below than we expected to have. We had to anticipate the timing of each clearing of the sky as these moments passed within seconds. The Lord also added the bonus of a rainbow.

What life lessons did I pick up during this climb?

Lesson # 1: Listen to your husband. On the day before our climb to Mt. Pulag Edric and I had an argument about whether a porter should carry my bag. He thought I shouldn’t rely on a porter while I insisted on having one. My plan was to wear a waist pack and turn over all my other belongings to the porter whom I hoped would trail along right behind me in case I needed to access my windbreaker or fleece. “This is good livelihood for them”, I reasoned with Edric, but he turned toward me with an annoyed look on his face and blurted something like, “You are being a baby!”

Of course this triggered a defensive reaction on my part and I pridefully argued that I birthed five kids without anesthesia and I am the type of person who is low maintenance and the farthest thing from fussy. So that’s how our packing experience began.

We went back and forth for a while until we finally apologized to one another, and I also gave in because I knew that disobeying him would lead to my demise. Stuffing my essentials into my back pack, I psyched myself to bear the burden of it.

Well, I am so glad that I listened to Edric instead of forcing his hand to give in to my glamping version of climbing. When we got to the Ranger Station, most of the porters didn’t show up. They must have assumed that the weather forecast would dissuade climbers from coming to Mt. Pulag. So I wouldn’t have had the luxury of paying a porter to carry my bag had I banked on one to do so. Edric gave me a knowing look and I acknowledged with a, “Yes, you were right,” which he always appreciates hearing from me.

Furthermore, since the weather changed quickly over the course of our ascent, having my jackets and beanie readily available to was a big blessing.

Lesson # 2: Learn from others who actually know what they are talking about. People dish out all kinds of advice (about anything) assuming that Google gives them credentials to do so. Yes, I even do this sometimes. But there’s nothing like learning from people who have actually experienced things like parenting, marriage, financial stress or success, endured trials and surmounted them, and in this case, climbed real mountains. After talking to at least three people who knew what Mt. Pulag was really like, I internalized their advice and panic-bought what I didn’t have in my closet and couldn’t borrow.

Under-preparing for this experience would have been disastrous for us. However, Edric and I got the things that mattered most during this climb which saved us from hypothermia. 1. Waterproof shoes 2. Hiking socks t prevent blisters 3. A waterproof and windproof jacket. 4. Fleece layer 4. Thermal layer 5. Protection for the face, head, and ears. 6. An insulating pad for the floor of the tent to elevate our sleeping bags and cushion our spines 8. A sturdy but light-weight tent.

Lesson # 3: Trust God. Everyone was praying that the sky would clear so the climb would be more pleasant. I know many of us were disappointed that it kept raining through the night and that the cold was near insufferable for us tropical folks. However, we also continued to believe that God would make a way for us to get to the summit and see the wonders of his creation from the peak. And we did! He let us catch a glimpse of his glory and faithfulness as the wind which had been so dreadful actually exposed the blue sky above, the mountains and valleys below, and the sea of clouds that Mt. Pulag is famous for.

Another amazing miracle was that our large group got permission to pitch all our tents at Camp 2. Previously, we were informed that the group had to split in two because of its size. About forty would stay at Camp 2 and the rest would start their climb from Ranger Station at 1 am and proceed directly to the summit. Given that the weather was horrible, the second group would have suffered a great deal or given up. There is no way they would have completed their ascent. However, God granted us favor and the group was allowed to stay together so that no one was out climbing when the weather was at its worst.

Lesson # 4: Success is rarely achieved alone. Having Edric by my side and friends and family members who were a source of encouragement, humor, and wisdom during the experience made me realize that we all need support and company as we journey through life. Furthermore, the right relationships matter. Our Mt. Pulag team was determined to finish well. In life you want to be with those who are intentional and purposeful about their choices and goals.


Being with Edric in the tent, suffering together in the cold also gave me courage and peace. As long as we were together I wasn’t worried. I knew he would take care of me. We would finish this feat together, as a team.



Lesson # 5: Perseverance through trial results in strength of character. There were moments when I battled thoughts like, What am I doing in this miserable cold? This is a life-threatening situation! Why did I agree to do this?!

Yet the struggle to survive proved beneficial for my character growth. I needed the affliction to muscle me up emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…” Romans‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭

First, it made me thankful. Being able to clean the grime from underneath my nails after I got home, enjoy a hot shower, and sleep under a comforter in a room with four walls and a ceiling felt like heaven!

The hardship also increased my threshold for pain which is so important in this age of instant gratification. I detested bearing the cold (which reached -3 degrees) but the ordeal made me realize that God gives strength to press on, keep going, and stay positive.

Life is not all valley, all hill, all plateau, all dessert or all mountain. There will be times when it feels easy and other times when the challenge is extreme. Yet in view of eternity, everything is momentary. And very often the points when it seem impossible to win only means that the victory is surprisingly close.


For followers of Christ, the greatest victories are to overcome sin and death. Both of these Jesus Christ did for us on the cross and when He rose again from the dead. Therefore we can persevere through all trials and all difficult seasons of our lives because of the hope that He gives. Our circumstances may not always change for the better but our destiny is secure.

“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:55-57‬ ‭

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-17‬ ‭

Lesson # 6: Set your mind on home. Towards the end of our climb, as Edric and I descended the mountain, we talked about the highlights of our experience. I shared that mine was knowing that we were finally headed home. The mountain peak was awesome, the event was unforgettable, but it was the thought of home that excited me most. This mindfulness of home kept me energized the entire way down. Edric and I rushed back to the Ranger Station in an hour and a half even if it was supposed to take three hours!


As followers of Christ, the assurance of going home to him as we enter our twilight years or deal with the reality of sickness and hardship should supersede whatever fear or pain overwhelms us. I was excited about the thought of our earthly home but how much more joyous it will be when we enter our heavenly one. Whatever our struggles, disappointments, or triumphs may be, the best is yet to come.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord- for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:6-8‬ ‭

Would I climb Mt. Pulag again? Maybe not at the same time of the year! But I have no regrets. I came down from that mountain marveling at the handiwork of God and his faithfulness, a renewed respect for mountaineers, a deeper appreciation for Edric and our marriage, a special memory to cherish with family and friends, wisdom and grit from the character-building journey, a sense of gratitude for the blessings of food, clothing, and shelter, and a yearning for my heavenly home.

When Words Hurt

Proverbs says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Life words inspire our spouses and children towards fruitful thinking and behavior, while death words tear down, embitter and demoralize them.

How timely it was when our Tuesday couples’ group discussed Craig Groeschel’s Soul Detox series which began with the topic of Toxic Words. What is the most hurtful thing anybody has ever said to you? What is the most encouraging thing that anyone has ever said to you?

These were the questions we were all asked to answer. So each one of us shared about instances in our lives, whether in our childhood, the near past, or in the present, when toxic or life-giving statements were made by family members, friends, colleagues or strangers to us. A number said that parents’ words were a source of deep wounds.

Yet I praise God that most of us applauded our spouses as the persons in our lives who have declared the most positive words to us. I personally thanked Edric for speaking two life giving statements that have meant so much to me. The first is, “I will always love you. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you.” The other one is, “Don’t worry baby, I will take care of you.” These assuring statements mean so much to me!

To apply the lesson on how to avoid saying toxic words, Edric taught as a simple principle — three guidelines for taming our tongues: Right word. Right time. Right motivation.

Ephesians 4:29 commands us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Although there may be instances when we need to correct a person, it may not always be the appropriate time to do so. As the passage explains, “according to the need of the moment.” Or, there may be occasions when we want to bring up an issue with our spouse, child, friend, colleague, or subordinate and our motivations are tainted by selfishness. Instead we are to consider whether it will bring “grace” to them. The motivation is restorative, to connect them to or back to Christ.

A few months ago, when our driver accidentally drove the rear car wheel of our vehicle over Elijah’s foot, I know Edric struggled to control his anger. As a protective father, his instinct was to lambast our driver right after the incident happened and pulverize him with criticism, even if Elijah’s foot ended up being okay. However, he thought through the repercussions of shaming our driver. Would this bring him closer to Christ? Would shouting at him testify to Christ-likeness?

Of course the answer to both those questions was, “No.” So Edric paused and denied his first impulse. Later on, in private, he had a serious conversation with our driver about how he could improve. By then Edric could speak in a calm manner while getting the pertinent message about awareness and carefulness across. Our driver, no longer rattled by his mistake, also responded to Edric’s instruction well and was extremely apologetic. Shortly after, Edric had the opportunity to share the gospel with him, which our driver openly received. I don’t think he would have been as responsive to Christ if Edric had closed the door to his heart by lashing out in anger.

I recall another incident when Edric, speaking for the first time before our church congregation, delivered a message that he felt lacked spiritual insight. He walked off the stage discouraged to face my father, who was mentoring him to be a Bible teacher. Expecting to be castigated and lectured he heard the words instead, “Good job. I know you did your best.”

My dad knew what Edric NEEDED to hear at that moment. Eventually, he looked for a teaching moment when he could advise Edric about how to preach a better sermon. However, the point is that he let some time pass so that Edric wouldn’t dwell on his discouragement.

Today, God has given Edric the ability to handle His Word accurately and insightfully. He has grown to be a very good Bible teacher, and this isn’t just a biased wife saying this. I believe God has bestowed upon him a gift for communicating with people. Yet I imagine that Edric may not have pursued this path had my father spoken the right words at the WRONG time when he was mentoring him.

We may not always be the recipient of the same kind of grace that the above examples demonstrated. Some of us may have been (and continue to be) battered and assaulted by abusive speech and negative statements. So how can we safeguard our hearts and minds from the devastating effects of toxic words?

First, we need to fill our minds with truth. After Edric and I broke up in our dating stage to honor God and pursue purity, the evil one bombarded my mind with lies like, “You will never be blessed because of your past mistakes. God will not love you the same way He loves your siblings. You are a failure.” The constant theme behind his deceit was performance-based acceptance. I had to “perform” to earn God’s favor, to do penance in order to redeem myself. However, I clung to the affirming truths that I read in God’s word.

Romans 5:8 assuringly says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” A few chapters down it also declares, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans‬ ‭8:1)‬ ‭

When we sincerely repent, acknowledging our sinfulness to the Lord, and cling to the grace He offers us, He promises that we are no longer condemned. Let us remember this when the evil one seeks to devour our peace and joy with his lies.

While our first response is to counter toxic words and statements with truth — also known as defense — our second response is to apply wise and grace-filled offense.

I recall an incident when one of my relatives remarked, “Catalina is dark, why is she so dark?” in reference to her skin color. It was a tactless comment intended to compare her to my four other fairer-skinned kids. God gave me the wisdom to reply, “Oh really? I love her skin. I think it’s beautiful!” I meant it, too. Instead of challenging my response, that same relative smiled and backed off.

There are people in this world who get a rise out of making comments to provoke others. I have received a number of these on my blog and Facebook Teach with Joy page that may or may not be meant to incite me. They certainly appear to be a challenge to engage in conflict. But I’ve come to realize that I cannot control what people say. The only thing within my control is how I respond.

Whenever I feel the urge to wield the power of the pen to embarrass or belittle those who hurt me with their statements, I have to ask myself, Will I honor God if my retorts are motivated by pride? Is it worth my time to battle with people who like to be combative, who are out to prove that they are right? Might it be better instead to pray for them?

If we belong to Christ, we are accountable to Him for every word that comes out of our mouths (and devices!) Instead of avenging ourselves, He encourages us to “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke‬ ‭6:28)

Oh, I know that’s hard to do! But, the good news is, whenever we start to pray for people who verbally offend us, we actually develop a heart of compassion for them and we change for the better, too. This isn’t to our credit either. It’s because the act of surrendering difficult people to the Lord and elevating the issue we may have with them to a spiritual plane gives us a divine perspective. The Holy Spirit replaces our vindictiveness with Christ’s love and capacity to forgive. Therefore I believe God’s command to bless and pray for people who hurt us is also His way of shielding and liberating us from the anger and hurt we feel when we are victimized by them.

Since most of us live in community with others, we are bound to hear negative statements, accusations, and unkind things said about us. If there is room to improve then let’s humble ourselves and do so, but if these judgements are false and baseless, then let’s be reminded that we are precious to our Heavenly Father. If no one ever affirms us as special and important, He certainly considers us as such. When words hurt us we don’t have to retaliate or carry these hurts into our relationships. The truth of God’s love for us should anchor us so securely that we can speak life words into the hearts and minds of others and respond with wisdom and grace when people verbally attack us or put us down.

Make a Commitment to Wellness

For the past few days I set aside my fitness meal plan to indulge a little. Thankfully, this break from healthy eating was short-lived. Part of my rebellion stemmed from angst over a consultation about my overall health that left me feeling discouraged. The consultation itself was an amazing experience. Everything made sense about wellness from a cellular level. But when I received the prescribed diet for me, I did the opposite of what I was told to do! Alas, the sinfulness of the human heart!

I ate bread, rice, and meat that I wasn’t supposed to, thinking that the suggestions of what to avoid were unrealistic. Eating is so important to me that I flipped out as I read through the list of grains, nuts, and organic products which the prescription asked me to abide by, which weren’t very easy to source.

Yet, after three days of food protesting I came back to my senses and consigned to the fact that I can do better with my food choices. Although I consider myself a healthy eater in the sense that I avoid sugary desserts, candy and chocolate, juices, soda, and loads of carbs, I am not consuming an optimum diet.

As a result, this has diminished my overall sense of well-being. I am not supposed to eat certain foods because they simply aren’t good for me and I am intolerant to them. Even if I feel angry that this is my reality, I also know that going in the opposite direction — that of rebellion — will eventually lead to my demise.

Today, I went with Elijah to S&R to study how I can revise my current menu for the home. I will be checking out other places as well for organic produce, as well as gluten-free, dairy-free options so that I can confidently conclude that I tried my best. The rest I will have to leave up to the Lord and entrust my body to Him as I do my part.

During my visit, I was happy to see things I can eat and drink:

  • Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
  • Almond Flour
  • Lentil Chips – no added sugar and gluten free
  • Olive Oil Mayo 
  • My favorite mixed berries pack was on sale! 

S&R also had cage-free eggs, organic vegetables, and a bunch of gluten-free and non-gmo snacks and products. I have known about these in the past but this time I actually paid attention to them.

A number of exercise equipments were on sale, too! (Someday I hope to have a home gyms. Sigh. For now it’s running the hills of our village)…

Elijah greatly helped me. He’s a young man now and prides himself on being able-bodied when I need extra muscle. He’s also thrifty so he kept me from overspending!

There’s a difference between wellness and fitness. Apparently you can be slim and trim but internally off-balance because your gut health has been compromised. I will do another post on the results of my consultation which became an eye-opener. For now it’s good to know that if I really want to be committed to wellness there are options out there for me and my family (and I won’t starve to death).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology and Hands-on Learning

Last year I was introduced to a company called Smart Toys, a distributor of learning materials that combine technology and hands-on learning. One of their products is called Marbotic — learning materials that were created by “tech-lovers and education experts to blend traditional wooden toys and touchscreen technology.”

Smart Numbers teach kids to count using ten beautiful wooden numbers and three educational apps inspired by the Montessori method. Smart Letters combine three apps and twenty six wooden letters to help kids learn reading and writing.

Catalina tested the Smart Letters out and she thoroughly enjoyed taking each letter and placing it on the screen to hear it’s name, sound and discover what words begin with the letter.

Marbotic is unique because it engages children with tactile experiences as they learn, but it also harnesses the advantages of technology. Although it’s a little pricey, it’s one of those educational toys/materials that you can use with succeeding children. The wooden letters and numbers are well-made, sturdy, and don’t require batteries.


Children as young as one year old can handle these with supervision and by three they can learn independently.

I also asked my kids and their cousins to sample Smart Toys‘ 3D coloring books which come in four different titles–Dino, Ocean, Safari, Bird. After kids color the pictures, they can pair them with a free app that makes their art come to life.

Other notable educational products by Smart Toys are Augmented Reality (AR) Books. These AR books come to life when you scan them with your smartphone or tablet. There are seven titles — Dino, Ocean, Safari, Farm Animals, Bug, Herptile, and Birds. 

Kids can read about creatures come to life on a page! It’s augmented reality for educational purposes. 
As a homeschool mom, I am thrilled that there are so many materials out there that I can use to teach my kids. My mom taught my siblings and I using textbooks with newsprint pages. We survived and did fine because that’s all we really had to choose from. Today, however, homeschool parents have a plethora of options for every bent and interest of their children. This is the best time in the world to be a homeschooler! 

For more information on Smart Toys please contact 0917-8877959 or follow @smartoysph on Instagram. 

 

The Organized Home

My husband has always wanted me to be an über organized wife and homemaker. I have tried over the years to live up to this desire of his. But it’s always been a challenge to be consistent. I start off well but then busy-ness gets in the way or the kids and household help don’t cooperate with my “systems” for orderliness. Stacks of paper get taller, toys and books end up on wrong shelves, junk accumulates, expiry dates get ignored, and frustration levels increase because people can’t locate what they are looking for.  

I am not blaming others. At the end of the day, managing the home falls under my watch. And the key for me is to turn my attention towards home making, which is difficult to do when I am everywhere else but in the home. 

There were a few things I could no longer stand as 2016 came to a close, namely the pantry, refrigerator, storage room, homeschool room, linen closet and guest room closet. I am not as OC as Edric may be, but we share a similar distaste for stuff that uselessly occupies space. We periodically give away items or participate in garage sales. And very often, we simply throw away useless clutter. Why, for example, do we have to keep used gift bags and broken fly swatters? We had a bunch of these in the pantry for no good reason. 

Edric actually finds closet-cleaning cathartic. When he has the privilege of free time, I will often see him standing in front of his clothes or shoes assessing which articles need to be taken out. Moments later he will emerge with a pile of things to give away. And then he will rearrange every shelf and drawer and feel like a new man afterwards. 

Towards the end of the year, our kids joined a rummage sale in our village and they diligently helped me sort through their toys, clothes, shoes, and books until we blocked our hallway with an uncountable number of things to load into our van and sell at ridiculously cheap prices. How did we accumulate this much stuff?! We aren’t even the hoarding type of family. 

There is always going to be something in our closets that we can part with or give away, and it’s good for our kids to learn this early on so they don’t develop unhealthy attachments to material possessions. 

Over the last two weeks, four other areas were decluttered, too. I solicited the help of the kids to fix the homeschool room. Edric employed them to assist with the storage room. I took command of the pantry and refrigerator. Tiana provided some assistance to me for these areas as well.


There is something about straight rows, books in cascading order, lose items in bins, and structure that make you feel like a better person. Like you actually have it together as a homemaker. This sounds like the confession of a desperate housewife but I am totally serious. Order allows me to think clearly and be more efficient as a wife and mom, heck, as a human being, period.

It used to bug me that Edric pressured me to improve in the area of organization. But I am so glad God gave me a husband who sets the bar high when it comes to order. He’s been a good example to me. His email inbox is clean. (Mine has like 4,000 unread messages…I know. It’s ridiculous. This will be next month’s project.) His computer files are categorized very sensibly. He has a place for every thing he owns and a packing process whenever he travels. He “spreadsheets” whatever he can, even the kids and me, so he can create goals and intentional plans to reach those goals with us. His week revolves around predictable schedules and he uses a rating system to evaluate what commitments he needs to prioritize or calendar. 

Now, I look at these habits of his and think, What a guy! I am in good hands. I need to be more like this!

At the very least, I have to do my part to create a home where Edric feels relaxed and happy to return to everyday because everything is in order. Granted, we have five kids so “everything in order” might be shooting for the stars, but it’s my role to try my best anyway. 

This is where I am at so far… 

Dirty kitchen pantry:

Kitchen pantry: 


Refrigerator:


Homeschool Room:


I still have to fix my closet, the linen closet, finish my 1-month meal and grocery plan and home management plan, and do some repairs and renovations around the house. Still a long way to go…

Organization, I am learning as a home-manager-in-progress, is not a one time event. It’s a daily commitment to…

1. Have a place for everything and return things to their proper place.

2. Teach my kids and household help to follow systems so everyone is involved in keeping the home organized (beyond just neat or clean).

3. Stick to a reasonable schedule so I am not rushed or too busy to stay organized.

4. Model to my kids the character of orderliness and the value of decluttering.

5.  Be a good steward. God has entrusted to me time, relationships, the home we live in, and the belongings we have. If I am not organized, these aspects of my life will be compromised. So I need to do my best to be faithful. Not perfect or obsessive, but faithful. 

Happy organizing! 1 Corinthians 14:40 encourages, “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”

We Don’t Need to Have it All this 2017

It’s probably a cliche to say that women want to have it all. But the truth remains that this is often our perspective which is why many of us end up frustrated and unhappy. Just look at the first woman, Eve, who had the perfect guy and the perfect garden, and yet she failed to deny herself the ONE thing that she was told she couldn’t have.

We haven’t changed much since then. We still subscribe to the idea that happiness and fulfillment will be ours when we have that dream guy, beautiful children, a Pinterest-worthy home, successful career or business, and loads of money to spend on our every material desire. The list is more exhaustive than this…I could add to it a vibrant social life, popularity, flawless and ageless beauty, a thriving ministry or worthy charity, etc.

Let’s get real. There’s no way to “have it all.” As my father used to wisely advise my siblings and me, “Life is about choices.” 

Many times the choice is about whether we will live for ourselves and our worldly accomplishments or heed the Lord’s plan for us. In Matthew 16:25-26, Jesus tells his disciples, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  ‭

I have often been asked, is it possible to homeschool my child and be a working mom? It isn’t an easy question to answer because everyone’s circumstance must be taken into consideration. Some moms are single parents while others play an integral role in the financial stability of their families. As much as I would like to promote homeschooling and reply, “Yes, it’s possible!,” I would be setting them up for future heartache and frustration if I failed to include this reality: It’s not sustainable for moms to give their 100% to a 9 to 5 job and 100% to homeschooling. At some point it will come down to a matter of priorities rather than trying to “have it all.”

BUT…here’s a spiritual perspective to consider. God has a surprising way of rewarding the faith decisions we make. I know moms who stepped down from their corporate jobs to be consultants from the home or even quit working entirely in obedience to God’s calling so they can focus on homeschooling. As a result, their husbands received surprise promotions or their businesses experienced financial successes to cover their family’s’ needs. Or, they learned to make do with less. In other words, provision wasn’t a problem for the Lord when they aligned their priorities wit God’s will for their lives.

I thought this was a fitting article to write at the beginning of 2017. What choices did we make in the past year? Will we continue to make these? Are these choices in line with the priorities that God wants us to have?

To be honest, I started the year with my ducks in a row but somewhere at the half way mark, I became preoccupied with doings that veered me away from my priorities. I took on projects that ate into my time with the kids. This meant that I made more money but I sacrificed quality homeschooling. More spending capacity didn’t equal greater peace or happiness for me because I knew that I was trading something more important — my day job as a homeschool mom — for activities that would not matter much ten years from now. Edric and I convened to evaluate how to protect my schedule in 2017 and I am looking forward to a less frenetic pace of life so that he and the kids have the best of me.

Over and over again in my life, I have found that focusing on the right priorities is costly. For example, when I got married to Edric I knew he wasn’t a wealthy guy. He worked hard and had a stable job, but financially speaking, we wouldn’t be swimming in cash or enter into marriage with the ability to afford luxury. But I was okay with that. The more important consideration for me (besides Edric’s love for the Lord and for me) was that he desired to provide for us to the best of his ability, and that he committed to rise up to the challenge of being a provider. So between the option of waiting to be financially comfortable before getting married or getting married young, I chose the latter. 

Some people commented that we were too young to be getting married. But our parents had given us their blessing and we both received confirmation from the Lord through His word, mentors, and specific answers to prayers that the timing was right. 

Did we have financial challenges? Definitely. But I wouldn’t trade the year we got married and the history we’ve shared for the material wealth we could have possessed had we postponed our marriage in favor of earning more money. 

Furthermore, we didn’t think it was healthy for us to stay in a serious relationship and struggle through the temptations of purity for an extended period of time. And yes, sex in the context of marriage was something we were looking forward to. So why delay being able to enjoy this aspect of marriage for too long?! 

In our society today, young men and women are getting married later and later, and it’s more and more uncommon to find a 20+ or 30+ virgin — male or female. My hats off to the few, gloriously standing men and women who have vowed to preserve their purity no matter what. However, it’s extremely difficult to navigate through the sexually charged environment that surrounds us without becoming a casualty of immorality. 

Therefore, Edric and I prioritized getting married early because we knew we wouldn’t last, purity-wise. We were too attracted to one another! Think of how exhausting it would be to continually resist the pull of gravity! I am sure you understand what I am saying because we are all the same. When we love someone, it’s God’s design for us to desire sexual intimacy with them. But it’s not God’s design for us to experience this outside of marriage. (If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you already know that it’s only by God’s grace that Edric and I broke up at one point in our dating stage to run away from this struggle.)

When Edric and I got engaged, we opted for a short four months to plan our wedding. The short engagement was a form of protection for us as well. We kept our plans for the wedding simple, practical, and inexpensive. Fortunately, we got married before the dawn of the age of Bride and Breakfast (Janna and Ian Simpao are my friends so I can say this without disrespecting their website.) Those images of perfect weddings and gorgeous ideas would have driven me crazy with envy. 

So what did our wedding look like? Did I “have it all” as a bride? Most certainly not. Our original venue and dream for a beach wedding changed two weeks before the day of the ceremony. My entourage probably suffered through the cold of the Tagaytay air as they walked down the aisle in their chiffon dresses designed for the beach. 

They carried two wilted roses stabbed through the center of an orange stuck for lack of an expensive bouquet to hold. Our table arrangements had hardly any flowers on them. And my dress had no ornate beading or dramatic flare to it. I designed it myself, bought the fabric with my mom and mom-in-law in Divisoria, and paid 15,000 pesos for a seamstress to execute my drape-everything-to-one-side (my good side) asymmetrical vision of a dress. 

Our giveaways were fifteen peso 3×5 wooden frames with the verse, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

Oh, and by the way, Edric and I forgot to have those frames handed out. So for years, we had boxes full of these frames and no clue what to do with them until my mother in law creatively used them as Christmas decor. 

My good friend, Jennie, did a superb job on my make up (as a favor) and it looked fantastic at the beginning but as the night progressed, photos will prove that my face turned greasy-looking with the unwanted bonus of a pimple surfacing when the concealer wore off. Plus, I had strands of hair falling across my forehead and sticking to it. 


A number of other mishaps occurred but I would rather tell you that I was the happiest bride in the world. To be honest, the fails didn’t matter to me. I was marrying Edric before God, family, and friends. Every untoward incident and substandard aspect of my wedding day paled in comparison to the commitment he and I were making to one another and the joy of sharing that moment with those whom we loved. 

Could our wedding day and reception have turned out to be flawless had we prolonged our engagement period? Could the affair have sparkled with all the impressive trimmings and trappings that came with a hefty sum? Most probably. However, we valued getting married sooner than later, and looked forward to the marriage rather than the actual event of the wedding. 

Today, my priorities are…

1. to please, honor, know, love, and obey God 

2. to be the wife and mom He has called me to be.

3. to minister to others and declare the gospel message by using my talents, abilities, and resources 

4.Take care of myself so I can do all of the above 

I know it doesn’t sound like a magnificent list that will earn me worldly accolades. However, after half a year of striving in some ways to “have it all” I am convinced that these are and will continue to be the most valuable things to me. 

So how will this translate into practical goals:

– Finish reading my Bible again

– Pray more consistently – Colossians 4:2

– Make room for quietness and stillness (without depending on my phone for entertainment)

– Read more books that are spiritually edifying, that give me a storehouse of truth to draw from and bless others with

– Make Edric feel important by completing the list of things he wants me to get done 

– Respect Edric’s authority and submit to his leadership — be his strong supporter. 

– Improve in the area of serving him by having a positive attitude when he asks me to do something 

– Be more responsive when he initiates sexual intimacy (He told me to add this! Ha ha!)

– Be more affirming and encouraging to Edric and the kids

– Protect my homeschooling schedule by keeping my mornings and afternoons free as much as possible, except for days when the kids have classes

– Give each of my kids lots of personalized time so I can meet their needs more intentionally 

– Try to do the things that my kids enjoy. Be more playful 

– Read to them more often 

– Continue to use my blog and social media platforms to reach out to people 

– Be more involved in the lives of the women I disciple 

– Drink veggie and fruit shakes consistently

– Sleep early in the evenings 

– Exercise at least three times a week 

– Say no to speaking engagements and projects when they conflict with my priorities.

I know most of us will think through our resolutions as the 2017 begins, but I hope we will prayerfully ask the Lord what our priorities ought to be before making our lists.  We don’t need to have it all in 2017, but we can let God have all of us so that our priorities are aligned with His will and design for our lives. In so doing we receive the blessing of having the most important things! 

I have used this before but I will end with it again because it’s so encouraging… 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:26-33‬ ‭

Happy New Year! 

Enjoy Christmas Feasting the Right Way

I know it’s so tempting during this time of the year to eat every wonderfully delectable thing set before us. Eating a lot comes with the Christmas season, and it’s common think, “I will give myself a break and diet when the New Year begins.” 

Well, this is the sort of mindset that gets us into trouble. It’s not worth it to load our bodies with bad calories that will make our fat cells happy but get us depressed when we try to fit back into our jeans when the New Year comes around. Plus, unhealthy binging makes us vulnerable to getting sick, too.

So how do we strive to achieve a balance? After all, we can’t go to Christmas gatherings and be party-poopers about the food when family and friends have thoughtfully prepared the spread for us to enjoy. At the same time, we need to be more conscious and exercise a greater amount of self control to make it through all the festivities without compromising our health or our kids’. 

For example, I used to eat a generous slice of cake anytime it was served to me at parties, but as I got older and came to terms with how horrible sugar is for my body, I had to curb this habit. I would ask for sliver of a cake instead of a huge slice and then share that portion with Edric, who was of the same mind to avoid eating the whole thing by himself. This way I got to enjoy a little bit of sugar without suffering from the guilt afterwards. 

One of the wisest perspectives on eating I have ever learned was from my grandfather who lived to be 96. His health philosophy boiled down to this: everything in moderation. Don’t overeat, don’t under-eat, don’t neglect exercise, and don’t harbor bitterness, anger or worry. My grandfather passed away a happy, contended man, by God’s grace. I would like to think his ability to exercise self-control without being legalistic had something to do with this. 

So how do we enjoy Christmas food this season WISELY?

Eat and drink smart:

1. Never skip a hearty breakfast. When I don’t eat breakfast, I tend to eat bigger lunches and dinners when parties usually happen. Breakfast also regulates metabolism so it’s important to stick to the habit of eating a good breakfast so you and I, and our kids, aren’t starving when it’s time for that Christmas buffet. Plus it’s easiest to burn the breakfast calories. If you are rushing out the door in the mornings, grab a banana and put some peanut butter on it. Then pack some almonds or granola to munch on in the car. 

2. Load up on veggies and fruit to quell the craving for sweets. I praise God that my kids like carrot sticks, apples, and oranges. Even Catalina has been brainwashed to like carrots. Yey! When their tummies are full of the good stuff, they don’t look for the bad stuff. As for me, I make my Nutribullet drinks made up of fruits and veggies. (I need a transformer to run it because I bought it from the US and it’s a 110 volts appliance.)


3. To flush out all those heavy meals, eat prunes and brown rice…and other colon-cleansing foods. Our younger kids don’t always like brown rice so we mix white rice into it so it’s softer. But, they still benefit from the fiber from brown rice. As for prunes, these are a sure-fire way to flush out the intestines. They work for me! Try eating six to eight prunes for a snack and you will see what I mean. 

4. Take bite-sized portions of desserts at parties and don’t keep sweets in the refrigerator or pantry. The more sugar you and I eat, the more addicted we get to it. It is actually as addicting as cocaine! (This is according to my doctor sister, Carolyn.) And if it’s accessible, we are vulnerable to sneaking up to the fridge or pantry to indulge ourselves. In our family, we give away the sweets we receive. We don’t recycle them as gifts; we simply pass them on after tasting them by bringing them to other gatherings to share or we let our household help, driver and their friends and family enjoy them. It’s called spreading the calories across more people. 

5. Drink lots of water and avoid sugary juices or pop. Instead of ordering a soda or juice at a resto, ask for water. It’s cheaper and better for you and me. As for our kids, they need to drink milk twice a day on top of their diet. I started using a brand called Friso lately after I discovered that it’s prescribed by pediatricians for kids who easily get constipated or suffer from upset stomachs. 


6. Use alternatives to sugar. We hardly use sugar in our home to sweeten drinks or food. Our sweetener of choice is honey…raw wild honey or Manuka Honey
Keep immunity levels strong. 

1. I let my kids take Manuka Honey for their immunity and to fight off colds, but it also allows them to satisfy their desire for something sweet in a healthy way. 


2. Don’t neglect the vitamins. For example, Vitamin C. My four older kids have gotten used to taking non-acidic vitamin C pills. They taught themselves to swallow these as a challenge and now it’s a habit. Doctor-sister, Carolyn, also says to take multivitamins, probiotics, and fish oil regularly. (For one of my future articles I am going to pick her brain about functional medicine so I can share her insights here.)

3. Avoid being out too many late nights in a week, which means that you and I have to strategically select which parties are worth attending. My kids (as well as Edric and I), tend to get sick when we don’t stick to our regular routine for bedtime. So we have to say no to certain events or request that these occasions start earlier in the evening if possible. And at times, we have to check out early and excuse ourselves in favor of a good night’s sleep. 

4. Go outdoors to exercise when there’s good sunlight. December weather is getting so nice for family walks, runs or biking sessions. The trick is to engage in these activities as a family so that the kids are excited about exercise. Our kids are more motivated to exercise when it’s a shared activity. 

There’s no need to panic about holiday eating for as long as we practice moderation for high-calorie foods and apply the tips above. Eating great food is a wonderful tradition during Christmas. But, since we live in the Philippines and the social activities go on and on during this time of the year, we also need to apply self-control. Enjoy but don’t over-indulge. If we do this, we will get to have our cake and eat it, too, (for as long as we don’t eat the whole cake!)