Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Mooncake Festival!

I am proud to be Filipino-Chinese.  One of the reasons being the traditions Filipino-Chinese families share.  While some (like the ge-lai for moms who just gave birth) are a challenge to follow through, most are fun and interesting.  One of my favorite Chinese traditions is eating misua during birthdays and the mooncake festival game.

Little Master eating misua with chopsticks! His dad is very proud :)

It seems like out little master is a fan of misua and the mooncake game too.  We usually play the mooncke dice game twice a year, one with each side of our families.  It's also wonderful that we get to celebrate the birthday of Ben's great grandfather on the same night we played with the Tans.

Anyway, since we are planning another round of the mooncake game with friends, I thought I'd refresh my memory on how it all started.  Thank you Wikipedia!

image taken from

The Mooncake Festival is celebrated every 15th of the 8th month of the Chinese Calendar.  This year, its exact date is today, Sept 30.  It is said to be the time of year when the moon is at it's fullest and brightest.  It's legend features the story of an immortal named Houyi and his wife Chang'e who were banished from the heavens to live here on Earth.  The other immortals were jealous of Houyi so they told lies about him to the Jade Emperor who believed and punished them.  Houyi became a skilled and famous archer here on Earth.  His skills were recognized by the Chinese Emperor Yao who asked Houyi to shoot down 9 of the 10 suns to keep the Earth from burning.  The Chinese Emperor rewarded Houyi with a pill that will grant him eternal life but advised him to fast and pray for a year before swallowing it.  Houyi hid the pill but his wife Chang'e found the pill, became curious and ate it.  Chang'e soon realized that the pill gave her an ability to fly and the strong winds carried her as far as the moon.  Some legends say Chang'e is alone there making another pill so she can come back to Earth while other say that a rabbit is helping her which is why the black spots of the moon are shaped as such.  Meanwhile, Houyi built himself a palace in the sun to be close to her.  This was said to be how the concept of Yin and Yang came about.  Once a year, on the night of the Lunar festival, Houyi visits his wife.  This is way the moon is exceptionally beautiful during this time.

Folk Tales also say that the mooncake festival also celebrates the rebellion of the Chinese against the Mongol rule under the Yuan Dynasty.  The Chinese were banned from meeting in groups and since they knew that the Mongols do not eat mooncake, they used them to spread the word among the rebels to attack on the 15th day of the 8th month.  The end of the Mongol rule became the start of the Ming Dynasty and the festival being celebrated throughout China.

As for the dice game itself, they were started 1500 years ago by imperial scholars wishing for luck in the upcoming exams.  Scholar ranks were given as titles depending on the prize you receive.  The highest winner is believe to receive good luck for one whole year.  Koxinga officers then adapted the game to entertain soldiers while Qing Dynasty records show that game became popular even to the Taiwanese folks.  Nowadays, you'll find the game being enjoyed not only by those of Taiwanese and Southern Fujian background, but all among overseas Chinese with origins from the Xiamen area.  The prizes have beloved from mooncake / flourcakes to more practical items such as toiletries and kitchen utensils.

The rules of the game are quite simple.  Aside from the prizes, all you need is  big bowl and 6 dice. The following are the rankings:

All 6 of the dices show 4 red dots - traditionally the person who throws this gets all of the prices, including the ones that have been won by others but in the recent games, most players opt to hand over only the first prize

For first prize, you have to throw:
a) five of a kind with the remaining die as the kicker (having 5 red four dots is the highest, the rest are rank according to numerical value)
b) four dice with 4 red dots with the remaining 2 dice as kicker

For the second prize (2 pcs)
a) straight dice - the six dice showing one of each number
b)  two set of trios - 2 sets of three dice of the same kind (expect with four dots)

For the third price (4pcs)
four of the same kind of die except the one with four dots

For the fourth price (8pcs)
three pcs of dice with four dots

For the fifth price (16pcs)
2 pcs of dice with four dots

For the sixth price (32pcs)
1 pc of die with 4 dots

Since this game is played annually as a tradition, an agreement must be set among players with regard to each person's contribution to the game.  In my side of the family, the winner gets to buy all of the prizes for next year's game.  In Bry's side of the family, the winner gets to sponsor the winning prize next year while every one chips in for the remaining prizes.  With our friends, our plan is to divide the costs of all the prizees equally among ourselves.

Happy Mooncake Festival, everyone!

My Milk Sharing Story :)

"Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (September). For this month, we will tackle milk sharing and how it can nurture the community, and how this spirit of giving can be sustained. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic.
Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries."

During my first few weeks with Ben, I was very concerned with my milk supply.  Even if I fed Ben directly most of the time, I'd still express milk to build up my supply and so that I have some to store in case of emergencies.  Every drop was precious!  I never thought that I'd eventually come to a point that I was satisfied with my supply but by Ben's third month, I had a good milk stash in our freezer.  That was the first time I thought about donating my milk.  I've donated to the nearby hospital and to mommy friends who were still building up their supply or were under short-term medication.  I even posted at the Human Milk for Human Babies Manila page in Facebook and was able to help out a stranger who needed breast-milk for her daughter.

The most memorable experience I had with donating milk was being featured in ABS-CBN's show "Ako ang Simula".  They needed to interview a mom who donated milk for the victims of Ondoy.  I was nervous but decided to go ahead for the love of the advocacy.  The funny thing is that they wanted footage of me expressing milk on the spot and I just fed Ben.  It was a good thing Medela Mom's Maricel was there for support and encouragement!  Anyway, I was shy so I didn't spread the word when the show was aired but some family and friends happened to catch it and told me how they appreciated what I did.  It was a good feeling to be able to help spread the word how important breast-milk donations are especially during natural disasters.  It is really wonderful how many moms would respond to calls for breast-milk donations.  Their contribution to the health of the young ones cannot be compared to any other type of contribution, be it monetary or in kind.

Donating and receiving breast-milk might still be a tricky issue for some parents, but if done responsibly, milk sharing is a very beautiful thing.  It is one of the best proofs that breast milk is the best thing you can offer a baby, especially premature ones.  I hope more moms will be open to it.

Brenda has notes on breast milk givers and takers
Mafeth wrote about being a milk donee
Cris donated her liquid gold
Pat had a happy problem donating solved
Jenny wrote about wet nursing from a relative's experience
Rachel discussed how she felt about receiving donated milk and nursing an adoptee's baby
Mec insists it takes two to Milk Share Tango
Cai received milk from her sister

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scrapbook Tips for the Non- Artsy Mommy

One of the things I like about Ben's school is its strong home-school connection program. As part of this, the teachers and parents would work together to make a personalized scrapbook for each child. I am not very artistic, but good thing Ben's lovely teachers shared with us some tips on how to make the scrapbook pages. Hopefully, they'll help you, too:)

Nothing makes a scrapbook more personal than photos of you and your little one.  You can make the picture the center of your scrapbook page and work around it.  Thank goodness for colored printers!

Consider plastic covers (like in a clear-book  to protect your pages.  You can also try using silver ring binders to put the pages together so it is easier to add new ones.

I always imagined scrapbooks to have script personal handwriting.  Why not write your own descriptions and messages to make your collection of memories more intimate?

Keep receipts, tickets, invitations and other trinkets that remind you of special events.  I wished I kept Ben's hospital bracelet when he was a newborn.

Ben's teachers last year scanned some of his artworks so that they can become part of his scrapbook.  I thought it was a very cool idea

Ben's teachers would suggest a lot of themes for us to work on.  From family, favorite food, and even things that make him happy vs. sad..  A scrapbook is not just a great way of treasuring precious moments but also for getting to know your little one better

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Disney Live in Manila!

We took Ben to his first concert last weekend. We got tickets to the Disney Live : Mickey's Rockin' Road Show last Friday . I found out about it because they were giving 20% discount to citibank card holders. I was the first one to actually buy tickeys from the SM megamall business center. I was sure because the ticket agent in charge was not yet given an official memo to apply the discount and I had to call Ticketnet so they can coordinate with SM. I was about 5 minutes late in fetching Ben that day but it was worth it.

Anyway, I can't remember the last time I was in Araneta so the first thing that I noticed was the carpark building they built right beside the venue. This was a good move since I remember how much Bry and I dreaded parking the last time we were there.

Now on to the show proper, I thought it was really good. The performers were very engaging and they really encourage the kids to participate. The length was just about right and they had quite a variety of characters (wish there were more, though :) ) Ben especially loved watching Woody, Buzz and the soldiers. At first I thought that having the actual mascots of the Toy Story Characters would have better but then again they wouldn't be able to do the stunts the actors did. And where were Daisy, Pluto, Chip and Dale?  All in all, the performers were quite talented and the visual effects adequately stimulating for the kids. I think Ben had a great time and we'll definitely do it again next time.

I am glad Ben is now at a stage when we can take him to live shows like this. I miss watching concerts and stage plays which Bry and I used to do a lot before we had Ben. Who knows, he might be ready for a live band concert next time Maroon 5 performs here in Manila, hehe