Kids Need Their Fathers

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Some weeks ago my third son, Titus, was recovering from a cough and cold so he had to stay away from the other kids. Edric happened to see him peering out of the window, all alone. So he called out, “Do you want to go walking with daddy?” Titus was thrilled. He ran down the stairs and put on his shoes.

Edric walked with him all the way to the park and back. And Titus talked the whole time. He is not much of a talker so this was significant. Some of the things he said were, “So you and mommy have been married 5 times right, because you have five kids?” “Someday I am going to marry Tiana.” Of course Edric corrected his understanding of marriage and explained why he can’t marry his sister. It was a precious time, just the two of them.

When Titus got back home, he announced to his siblings that “dad went walking with him.” He narrated how Edric saw him at the window and called out to him. He was very proud to tell everyone.

A child’s self-worth is very much hinged on the attention and regard given by his or her parents. But, I think this is especially true for the time a father gives to a son. There is something special about the affirmation and validation a son receives from his dad.

I know a couple of guys who admitted that they tried to compensate for what their fathers’ did not give by turning to unhealthy habits and behaviors, relationships, and friendships, or pursuing ambitions in order to feel whole.

No one can give back the years that a father was absent or heal the wounds that his flaws inflicted. However, I have also seen men who did not live with the example of a godly father or receive the love and affection of a dad recover from their deep brokenness. Their new identity and self-worth came through Jesus Christ.

Two Sundays ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who was physically and sexually abused by his own father. He was betrayed and harmed on multiple levels as a young boy. As a result, he grew up without a compass. In his young adult years he turned to homosexual relationships and a decadent lifestyle to feel happy. But he was never satisfied with that life.

When he finally encountered Jesus Christ and understood how much he was loved, forgiven and redeemed by God, he became a transformed person. Today he is living for Christ. He admits that he is still tempted by sexual sin but he continues to pursue God’s design for him as a man. He has a peace and joy that he never used to.

I believe that no one is beyond God’s grasp. God can always redeem the mistakes of our parents. As this passage says, “Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 NASB)

However, let us not be the kind of parents who shipwreck the lives of our children. We may not be as bad as a father who beats and molests his children, but are we present to disciple, lead and train our children, steering their hearts toward God?

Most likely, you are a young woman or a wife or a mom reading this post. And if you are married to a husband who is neglecting your children emotionally and spiritually, hope in God. Pray for him. (Look at yourself, too, and pray about the areas where you need to change…we can all change for the better.)

When Edric and I had a smaller family, I prayed for him to step up as the spiritual leader of our home, that his heart would be turned towards our children. At the beginning he was great at prioritizing me and his work, but he didn’t really know how to be an intentional and purposeful father. But as we had more sons, he realized that they needed him. They needed him to model biblical manhood and to teach them what it means to love and follow Christ. And he couldn’t do this unless he spent time with them and built a relationship with them.

Today parenting is a team effort between us. We still make mistakes but we continue to refer to God’s word for guidance. We also ask for forgiveness from our kids when we fail to be Christ-like.

Just yesterday, Edric asked Titus to forgive him for being irritable. While I was correcting Titus and Tiana for speaking to one another with an unkind tone, I asked them, “Do mommy and daddy do that?” trying to point out that they should copy our example. Titus replied, “No, but daddy gets angry sometimes.” He clarified that daddy doesn’t shout but he can get irritated. Of course I passed on this observation to Edric. And he was very repentant about it and apologized to Titus, who readily forgave him.

Edric and I continue to pray for one another as we parent our kids. He prays for me to be the mom I need to be and I pray for him to have the wisdom he needs to lead our family. Author Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I agree with this but I also believe that whether man or woman, before God, we are all broken and need repairing. If we want to build strong children as parents, we have to recognize that we can’t do it apart from Christ.

Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a season of parenting alone as a mother, then we can be encouraged by God’s tender description of himself as father to the fatherless. What an assurance that he will provide in the areas where we cannot! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalms 68:5 NLT) Kids need their fathers, but more than a loving, godly earthly father, they need the FATHER OF ALL.

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What To Do About Santa

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Educational App Reviews – MoMA Art Lab

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I’ve asked my sons to start reviewing educational apps that they have enjoyed using. This is partly because they wanted to get some new apps and I told them they have to earn the privilege to do so by reviewing apps. Of course, they made their opinions short. They are boys, after all.

I can vouch for the added value of these apps as a homeschooling mom. My kids are pretty discriminating about the apps they get because we give them guidelines for choosing good ones. They often have to show us what makes an app educational — how it will help them grow in a skill or ability that they can use in the present or future. So these apps also have our parental seal of approval.

Here is their first review…

MoMA Art Lab

Developer: MoMA, The Museum of Modern art .

About: MoMA art lab is an app that allows users to create various works of art like collages, drawings and many other artworks inspired by famous artists.

Educational Value: This app is great for kids who want to learn about how artists create modern works of art. They will also learn some basic principles and elements of art.

Key Features (From Developer):

• Create and save your own artwork

• Play with shapes, lines, and colors

• Nine activities inspired by works of art, including:

  • Create a mobile

  • Experiment with paint

  • Draw from instructions

  • Create a sound composition

  • Draw with scissors

  • Make a line design

  • Collaborate on a group drawing

  • Create a shape poem

  • Make a chance collage

• Creative prompts for extra inspiration

• Audio for pre-readers

• Learn about works of art at MoMA. Artists include Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Elizabeth Murray, Sol LeWitt, Jim Lambie, Brice Marden, and others.

• Share your artwork

Educational Value Rating:  4 Stars (★★★★☆)

Recommended Age: 4 years old and older

Why we like it: You have complete freedom to create whatever art you want.   

Sweet Randomness Part III

TIANA AND HER INTERESTING USE OF WORDS:

My 3 year old Tiana is a chatter box. But sometimes she thinks she knows the right word to use in a sentence or statement but it’s cutely inaccurate.

“Mom, I need some mosquito propeller.” (Repellant)

“Oh no! Catalina has liva! (Also known as saliva dripping on my shoulder.)

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“Dad, I found my nipple.” (She meant pencil.)

“It’s a Lee-zard!” (Care of our househelp.)

“Tiana how is your stomach ache? Are you feeling better?” I ask.

Her reply, “Yes. I am well. I have no more stomach.”

EDAN’S PERSONIFICATION OF OBJECTS:

Edan is given candies by a friend.

Me: “Can I have one of your candies?” (He had six.)

“No.”

“Huh?! Why not?”

“Are you supposed to eat candy, mom?”

“Yes it’s fine. So can I have one?”

He still didn’t want to give me one! I couldn’t believe it. When I asked him why again, he said, “Can I tell you later?”

We resumed the conversation after about thirty minutes.

“Mom, remember when I told you that I pretend that my pillows are like babies?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I think the candies have smiley faces.”

“So you pretend they are alive?!

“Uh huh.”

Apparently, he puts personalities into objects. It’s kind of weird. This too shall pass.

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CLEVER TITUS:

“What did you learn in Sunday school, Edan?”

“I don’t know.”

“Titus, what did you learn?”

“The same thing Edan learned.”

Nice one.

WHAT-YOU-SEE-IS-WHAT-YOU-GET-TITUS:

I was at the beach watching Titus sitting in the sand by himself, drawing circles in the sand with a stick. I was wondering what he was thinking. So I walked over to sit down beside him and start a conservation.

“Hey Titus, what are you thinking about?” (I was trying to draw him out, excited to hear some profound thought about what he was doing.)

“I am not thinking of anything.”

Oh okay…

MY LITTLE LOVABLE “SENSITINA” (Sensitive Baby):

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Catalina’s yaya tells me, “Ma’m, si Catalina parang manok matulog.” (Catalina sleeps like chicken.)

“Talaga? Bakit.” (Really? Why?)

“Kasi pagtulog siya habang hinahawak tapos binababa sa kama, bubukas kaagad ang mata niya, parang manok.” (Because when she is asleep while she is held then put down in her bed, her eyelids open right away like a chicken.)

Hence…her need to be carried almost all the time!

AND THE HIGHLIGHT FOR THE WEEK…

Tiana: “Mom, do you know I love you?”

I smile and ask, “Why are you telling me that?”

She whispers…”Because I love you…”

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Sweet Randomness Part 2

BROTHERLY LOVE:

Elijah came home from a seminar he spoke at with his dad two Tuesdays ago. He went upstairs to say hi to everyone and then sat down at the table looking very forlorn. Everyone started eating but he seemed sad.

Out of nowhere he said “Nobody was excited to see me come home.” And he started to tear. (He can be very dramatic.)

I was surprised he felt this way…my 10 year old, big boy.

He continued, “Only Nancy (the househelp) said, Hi Elijah how are you? Edan didn’t even pay attention to me. He was just doing his computer programming when I arrived. You (mom) just went to your room to be with Catalina.”

Edan was equally surprised that Elijah felt this way.

I knew Elijah just needed some attention. So I asked him to come sit by me and I put food on his plate and asked him about his time with his dad.

Edan didn’t think he needed to apologize for being busy with computer
programing but he very thoughtfully said, “I saved your cup noodles even if mommy told me to eat them and I didn’t eat your ice chocolate.”

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AFRAID OF THE DARK:

Edan doesn’t like to use the toilet by himself when the lights are turned off. So he always tries to get one of his siblings to accompany him.

“Titus! Do you want to use the bathroom? Come, come let’s go…”

Titus replies, “No, I don’t want to.”

Edan finds another victim…”Tiana! Do you want to go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“Do you want a prize?”

“Yes!”

She runs to the bathroom to accompany Edan and comes back with no prize.

Suckered…

LIPSTICK:

Tiana walks into my room and with conviction says, “I really really need makeup.” (I don’t know where she gets this. I don’t wear a lot of make up.)

So I give her lipgloss instead to play with.

A few days later, she comes home from church with her lips all glossy. I noticed them in the car. They looked very pretty but I wondered how she put the lipgloss on.

I asked her, “Can you show me how you put on lipgloss?”and she demonstrates it for me (very skillfully.)

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“Sunday school.”

Hmm…I sure hope not…

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SUBTLE MESSAGING:

I take Tiana with me when I do errands so we can spend time together. One afternoon she was being too rambunctious in the backseat and I asked her to stop.

She didn’t like being told to stop moving around so she started inventing a tune and singing to herself, “I love mommy sometimes…sometimes I love mommy.”

Of course I started laughing.

I can’t get enough of these kids!!!

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Sweet Randomness Part 1

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TIANA (3 years old):

Someday in heaven there will be lots of animals. I will ask God, “God, can I have a cat?”

“Sure,” God will say.

“God, can I have a dog?”

God will say, “Okay, good job. Yes.”

“I want to go to God’s house. I want to stay there. He has a new crib for Catalina. He has drawings for me and markers.”

“Where is God’s house?” I ask. (She points up)

“What does it look like?”

“Grandmas house!”

—-

During our homeschooling yesterday…

I pull out the same material that we used two weeks ago when I tried to teach her numbers and then got frustrated with her when she didn’t get it.

She looks at it very concerned and says, “You won’t do what you did last time, right?” referring to the way I chucked the book on to the bed.

“Yes, I won’t. Mommy was very wrong when I did that!” (We had fun this time around. God reminded me to enjoy the time with her and to be positive.)

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TITUS (5 years old):

He had the cap of a marker in his mouth. It was a big one and I was concerned that he might swallow it. So I told him, “Titus you need to remove that from your mouth. Remember what happened when you swallowed a marble? But this one is different, it is bigger. If you swallow that one you might choke and die.”

He looked up at me thoughtfully and replied, “Yeah but if I die I just go to heaven right?”

(He got me.)

When his tooth came out…

“How did it come out?” I ask.

“I was just playing with my shirt and putting it on my tooth and boom, it just came out!”

“Did it hurt?”

“Nope.”

He was poking the hole where it came out of with a cotton bud. (I guess he has a high tolerance for pain.) Edan also assisted him by putting a cotton ball on it.

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EDAN (7 years old):

He is walking around the room folding his hands and curling his toes under his foot so that he sort of hobbles forward.

“What are you doing?” Edric asks.

“Whatever I do to one side of my body I have to do to the other.”

He looked so bizarre. He kept this up for a couple of days until Edric told him he had to stop. Edan gets a little obsessive compulsive sometimes.

About his achievement test…

“How was it?” I ask.

“It was so easy!”

“That’s good to hear!”

“Yah, I only didn’t know…” He enumerates several questions he didn’t answer. Easy, eh?! I love a homeschoolers self-confidence!

EDAN and ELIJAH (10 years old):

Edan proudly says, “I killed a fly today, mom.”

“Wow. That’s great!”

He proceeds to explain in detail how it got caught in the fly swatter, just at the tip, before it could escape.

“I killed ten flies today”, toots Elijah.

I give him the eye for trying to one-up his brother.

“Yah, I can only kill one.” Edan responds, almost embarrassed.

Elijah realizes his timing was wrong and says,”Oh, but when I was your age I couldn’t even kill one fly!”


I love these kids!!!

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Approachable

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Edric and I have an open communication policy with our kids. This means they can correct us and call out areas that we need to improve on. Of course, they are encouraged to do it in a polite way. It certainly keeps us on our “character toes.”

This morning, in the car, the boys were like a bunch of hyenas. They were cackling, singing loudly and Edric hit his toleration threshold. He was in the middle of composing a text message so he said, “Quiet boys, quiet!” His tone was agitated. The boys simmered down. But it was an awkward kind of silence.

Meanwhile, Edric asked me for the address of a wake we were going to attend and I offered to forward to him the text message so it would be easier for him to pass it on to friends who were going to attend the same wake. However, he thought it was simpler just to hand my phone over so he could copy it down onto a message he was already writing. I retorted with sarcasm under my breath, “It’s not simpler.” The kids looked over at me and Edric was like, “Excuse me? Did you just say something under your breath?”

Edan inched over to my side (we were all in the back and Edric was in front, in the passenger seat). Whispering into my ear, he asked, “Was dad practicing meekness?” Our bible study as a family the previous week was about being meek. And one of the examples Edric gave was responding with meekness toward family members. I suggested to Edan,“Why don’t you ask daddy?”

A few minutes later he did. “Daddy, were you being meek?” Edan stuck his head in between the two front seats to question Edric. When Edric realized he hadn’t been a good example, he asked for forgiveness from the kids and from me. But he also added, “Your mommy also needs to learn to submit and respect daddy.” I quickly apologized too and asked for forgiveness from Edric and the kids. Elijah turned towards me and gave me an approving look. He may be just 10 years old but he really internalizes these moments and watches us ever so closely. (Actually, all of them do.)

The rest of the car ride was fine. The tense atmosphere was dispelled and we went back to chatting with one another.

Whew! It’s really quite impossible to be perfect in front of our kids. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to keep moving towards Christ-likeness. Family is the best context to do this when each person is motivated by love and committed to helping one another grow in character. I really think that children are a blessing in this sense. Seeing our “issues” through their eyes makes Edric and I desire to be more careful, conscious and consistent about being Christ-like. If they can’t find Christ in our home, in our personal lives, then we can’t expect them to want Christ either. I praise God that their hearts are still tender and forgiving, and they know we are on this journey of faith together, as a team.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15, 16 NASB)

 

Positively, Sweetly

I want our home to be a contagiously encouraging environment. Some days ago I wrote about affection as a powerful motivator, but so is affirmation. My children languish under harsh criticism and negativity, but they bloom when they are acknowledged and encouraged. And if there is anything we should be sparing with as parents, it is the use of punitive words that tear our children down. I’m guilty of this at times, especially when I’m trying to compel my kids to respond to my authority. And if I am not careful, I can really discourage them.

Last Saturday, for example, I was frustrated with Elijah when he spilled chocolate milk on his white shirt. He was supposed to perform a violin piece at an event and all I asked him was, “Please don’t get anything on your shirt.” However, in the car, he carelessly forced a straw into his chocolate milk drink and it splattered on him. This agitated me. I looked at the speckled portions of his shirt and thought, how am I going to fix this?!

I turned to him and with an obviously aggravated tone said, “I warned you to be careful and to take care of your shirt. Why did this happen?” He went on to explain that it wasn’t his fault. It was the tetra pack, the angle that he was sitting at, etc. etc. And I counteracted with, “You have to use your brain. It’s not complicated to avoid getting your shirt dirty.” These weren’t the kindest words to use and I knew it, but I was so irritated that he couldn’t follow simple instructions.

When we got to the venue, I asked someone if they could watch my bag so I could go and clean Elijah’s shirt because he spilled chocolate on it. This hurt Elijah’s feelings. He started to cry when he was alone with me and he asked, “Why did you have to tell (so-and-so) that I spilled chocolate? I felt embarrassed.”

Really?! I thought. I don’t have time to massage emotions right now! I’m in the middle of trying to remedy this shirt issue.

So I dismissed his feelings and retorted, “You need to acknowledge that you weren’t careful, apologize and stop making excuses for what you did.” My heart wasn’t right. I wasn’t gentle. I was upset.

Edric noticed that Elijah wasn’t alright so he took him aside and they spoke for a while. After a few minutes, I was summoned. Uh-oh. Edric asked me why I embarrassed Elijah. I began to clarify that it wasn’t intentional. But he interjected and reminded me that I had hurt Elijah’s feelings nonetheless so I needed to apologize to him. Oh my, this parenting business can be so humbling!

Edric was right. I had to say sorry. When Elijah and I were together, I sincerely asked for his forgiveness. My insensitivity was wrong and I had failed to understand his feelings. Elijah readily forgave me. We reconciled and I gave him a big hug until he felt better.

God used this incident as a reminder to be very cautious with the manner in which I correct my children. I may not yell or shout but I can word-weave painful statements that can cut deep. Or sometimes, I blurt out brainless, tackles things without thinking of the resulting effect on the hearts of my kids (or even Edric).

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:8-11

Parenting constantly reveals the many areas where I need to improve and taming my tongue is one of them. How can I say this in a way that will build my kids up? Should I not say anything right now and wait till later? What will the repercussions of my words be?

I think back on the way my parents treated my siblings and I, and I have learned some valuable lessons from them. Their default disposition was to be affirming. One of the things they “specialized” in was instilling God-confidence. They repeated this often: “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” (Philippians 4:13). Therefore, we had pretty healthy perspectives on ourselves — not self-esteem, which is to think of much of ourselves — but we believed that with God’s help, we could overcome obstacles or accomplish challenging tasks. We weren’t the most brilliant or talented bunch, but thanks to the encouragement of our parents, we knew that Christ was our enabler.

The second thing they did was to generously commend right conduct and godly character. This motivated us to live up to their positive expectations of us. It also made us consider the importance and value of character as a greater measure of success.

Edric and I are trying to apply the same approach with our kids. We don’t want them to have puffed up egos (which will be to their ruin), but we do want them to believe that God has gifted them for a special purpose. He is going to use their strengths, achievements, and even their weaknesses for his unique calling. Through him they can do all things.

We also applaud triumphs of character and decisions that glorify God. But it takes mindfulness and awareness on our part because we can miss those moments.

Sometimes, as parents, we can expect good character to be the minimum. Why should I compliment right behavior? That should be a given. Instead of noticing the positive, we can nit-pick on the negative. And while our children want to meet our expectations because they desire to please us, how much more joyful and motivated they are to do what is right when they are appreciated and built up…even for the small things.

On the plane ride back from Cebu, Edric and I sat the three boys in one row and Tiana was in between us. There were a bunch of kids acting up, crying and fussing throughout the plane. I looked across the aisle and saw our kids sitting down properly, seat belts on, quiet and compliant. Part of the reason was that they were dead tired from a long day of activity. But it meant a lot to me that I didn’t have to call out across the aisle for them to remain in their chairs. I enjoyed a peaceful flight to Manila. When we were alone, I told them how much I appreciated their obedience, that it was a testament to their relationship with Christ, and it was a blessing to Edric and I. Edric echoed the same thing.

Affirmation doesn’t always have to be in the form of praise for character. I’ve also noticed that it is very effective to randomly take them aside and say things like…

“I love you so much. Do you know that mommy appreciates you?”

“Have I told you lately how special you are to me?”

“I really enjoy being with you. I like to spend time with you.”

My kids eat this up. It does wonders for their emotional tanks and their sense of security.

I don’t know any kid in this world who is not motivated by encouragement. The need to train and correct is a part of parenting but it can be balanced and cushioned with generous affirmation. And if we want to have a positive home environment, we need to exemplify what it means to be encouragers because our kids copy us!

Yesterday, I heard my 2 year old, Tiana, delightfully say, “Very good, Titus!” She said this in appreciation of a drawing that her older brother, Titus, had been working on. I heard her affirm him with her tiny sing-songy voice while I was in the bedroom and it put a smile on my face. Elijah remarked afterwards, “Tiana is trying to be like you, mom!” Well, all I can say to that is praise God! Inspite of my foibles here and there in the area of tongue management, the kids are learning to be affirming towards each other. That is of the Lord!:)

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6 NASB)

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Homeschooling Solutions Grand Launch!

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One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure

Garage sale homeschooling. That’s what I would like to think of our garage sale experience two weekends ago. Elijah got to put his math skills into practice. He earned 1,500 pesos for selling toys. The other boys sorted through their old things and put prices on each item.

This was a collaborative effort between Tan-Chis and Mendozas that turned into a fun bonding day for all of us. Our own family didn’t earn much, just 7k at the end of the day but hey, people were willing to buy our junk and our home was majorly de-cluttered. Plus, Elijah learned how hard it is to make money. He was trying to convince a whole lot of people to buy our old toys and I thought he did a great job.

We can’t wait to do this again!

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Dirty, Sweaty, Stinky

I was at the park with my kids one afternoon, when I heard a mom freaking out about her son’s dirty shoes. In the background, I caught sight of my own kids looking like a bunch of scalawags compared to the neat little boy who was being protected from mud at all costs. They were making soupy sand with a water hose and tossing sand bombs. Disheveled hair, sweaty bodies, and muddy feet and legs made for quite a sight as they and their cousins took over the sandbox.

I don’t mind dirt. Kids need dirt once in a while. As long as they don’t eat it and as long as they take baths after they are done rolling around in it, then that’s quite alright with me.

My parents were the same way with my siblings and I growing up. They let us run around barefoot in the yard, climb trees, dig traps, slip and slid down the grass, play house and make actual fires for cooking our “food.” We could explore any part of the house, even the roof, and we spent a whole lot of time with our stinky pets (I had a native monkey). My siblings displayed mud balls on the bathroom counter like little trophies and we almost always had black feet when we came back into the house. I don’t remember wearing much either. We were always half-naked or so it seemed (until we hit puberty, of course).

Those were fun years.

It’s harder to replicate that kind of childhood for our kids because we are urbanites. Living in the heart of the city doesn’t give them much opportunity for mud adventures. I miss that kind of outdoorsy lifestyle which has been replaced by computer games, tv, Internet, IPods, IPads, etc.

I did some research on outdoor play and discovered that playing outside has many benefits that we don’t always think about. It helps improve eyesight, it encourages an appreciation for God’s creation, it exposes children to many opportunities to enhance their gross motor skills. They also invent games when they are outdoors. Running around, leaping, jumping, swinging, climbing are all great for burning calories, and these activities keep kids less susceptible to developing obesity and heart disease. Exposure to vitamin D from the sun (during less intense times of the day) also keeps them healthier. Furthermore, being surrounded by nature engages all of their senses. The National Wildlife Federation even claims that kids who get outside “need less medication and are less prone to depression.”

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Edric and I have to be creative as city people homeschooling our kids. The fact that our kids’ default mode is to play inside is not their fault, but ours. Edric and I may go running on some mornings but the kids don’t join us because it is way too early. And we spend most of our day inside. So our kids do the same and will continue to do so unless we are more purposeful about their daily activities.

I remember how intentional my parents were with us. They had daily morning walks with us. We would swim in the nearby club together. They built a simple, outdoor playground, and a mini basketball court in the backyard. We had a rope that hung from a tree so we could swing on it. And they got us all kinds of pets.

Edric and I may not be able to do exactly the same for our kids because of space constraints, but recently, we have been trying harder to instill a love for the outdoors in them. Even if we live in the city, there are many things that we can do for free or inexpensively. A condo lifestyle shouldn’t be a hindrance or an excuse.

One of the things we have done is enroll our older boys in a Football (soccer) club – Azkals Global Football. We pay 300 pesos/child for every 2.5 hours of soccer training. The group we joined is an all homeschoolers group of kids, which is great. The coaches are more exacting of the kids, too (which we prefer.) They toughen up the boys. Our little kids accompany them and play beside the field. During the rest of the week, we try to take the kids to a nearby park or go to High Street. Sometimes, we take walks with the kids, too.

The good news is our kids are starting to really like playing outside, but it is still a pitiful amount of time compared to what we had growing up. We really hope to condition them to prefer the outdoors as their play area of choice. But Edric and I can’t just hope that our children will prefer to play outside, we have to go outside with them. So we are doing that whenever we can.

Today, our playgroup was at a park. The kids ran around with their friends and they invented all sorts of games. I loved hearing them laugh and shout out game rules. They would come panting back to where the moms were gathered to ask for a drink or a snack every now and then. I looked at all their sweaty faces and dirtied clothes and I thought, this is what kids should be doing in the afternoons…getting sweaty, dirty, and stinky while playing outside. That’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of!

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Just Mom and Four Kids

I am no parenting martyr. I love having househelp and “yayas.” But there are occasions when I intentionally leave all the yayas behind and take all the kids with me. A trip to the grocery or bookstore would be examples of such occasions. Today was the grocery.

It’s a little bit crazy when I have all four kids with me, but there are some great benefits to alone time with them.

First, the kids have to help out. There is just no way for me to manage four kids while going up and down the aisles of a grocery. I am bound to lose one or two of them if the older kids don’t assist me. The kids learn to be responsible for one another and get affirmed for their helpfulness. This morning, I put Tiana and Titus in one cart and let Elijah push them. Edan stayed beside me and read off the items on my list. And I pushed a separate cart for all the groceries. There’s a great sense of satisfaction from living the do-it-yourself lifestyle and teaching your kids do the same. (Okay, I sound like such a phony since most of the time I do have help. hee hee.)

The second reason why I leave all the help behind is because I want them to know that they aren’t indispensable. This sounds mean, but let me clarify. I do appreciate them and I encourage them often in their work, but I also want them to know that I can live without them. Edric and I can manage without househelp if we really wanted to but they are a great plus. And I would like them to understand that the Mendozas will not fall apart without househelp. This keeps them on their “toes” because they do live in our home, and they become part of our family, but we still have an employer-employee relationship.

My third reason is I like giving my househelp a break. I respect the hard work and effort they put into their jobs. But I know they also need their own space and down time…away from the kids. They deserve some peace and quiet. I have four children. They are all noisy. Enough said.

Fourth, being alone with the kids allows me to see the character “holes” in their personalities – the areas that they need to be trained in. For example, at the grocery, the kids all wanted snacks. As a treat, after they endured nearly two hours of going up and down the aisles, I said they could all pick out something. Everyone had their own snacks that they brought to the check-out. (By this time, Titus and Tiana were taken out of the cart and allowed to look at the snacks that were beside the check-out counter.) Titus and Tiana opened up their snack right away and started eating. Titus finished his, Tiana left hers half-eaten, but Edan and Elijah waited. After Titus finished his snack, he wanted to eat something else. I told him he had to wait. Five minutes later, he asked me again. And I said, “Wait.” Then five minutes after that he asked me again.

He is a persistent person — a great trait — but he obviously needs to be taught patience and self-denial. We are going to work on that.

Elijah, on the other hand, needs to work on appropriate behavior. He is a very energetic person and took off with the cart after I had paid for the groceries like he was riding a racecar. He zoomed towards the exit and nearly hit a couple of shoppers.

Fifth reason, I get to see their character strengths. Elijah and Edan very dependably and ably assisted me. Elijah was great at following me everywhere with the two young munchkins contained in his cart. Edan, who was in charge of the list was great at making sure that nothing was forgotten. (And it was my little homeschooling tactic to get him to practice reading by looking at the list and identifying the items we had to find in the aisles, which he did great at!)

Somewhere near the dairy section, Elijah saw a man’s cart lose its wheel and he wanted very much to help him. He came over to me to tell me and I said, “go ahead and ask him if he needs help.” So he tried looking for the man to help him but he had disappeared down another aisle. I appreciated seeing Elijah’s heroism (hmmm…sounds like something his dad would do…) Titus and Tiana stayed in their seats, until the cereal section, and then got back in the cart without complaining or fussing. They even started singing nursery rhymes together while we were going to the fruit section. It was such a delight to hear them.

Most of all, I just enjoy being with the kids. I love watching them and their mannerisms and the interplay of their personalities. I find them incredibly entertaining. When I am fully in charge of them because I don’t have help with me, I really pay attention to the details.

Children are really such a joy. There is a deep sense of satisfaction and delight that I get from being with my kids. It’s not just about taking them to the grocery without househelp, it’s about being around as they grow up and all the moments that make up the years. I will miss this stage someday, So if it means a couple of hours of taking on the stress of managing four young children at the same time, bring it on! It’s a pleasure I won’t always have. I mean, I can’t imagine that teenage boys will want to hang out with mom in the grocery. That probably won’t be a “cool” thing for them to do. Now it’s still “cool.” ;)