Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our Simbang Gabi Story, 2015 Edition

This year marks the 20th year that I've completed the simbang gabi novena.  And even if it's something I do every year, it feels different each time.

My earliest memories of simbang gabi were during my grade school days.  My dad would wake me up at 4:30 in the morning and we would walk to church.  I must admit that I dreaded it, and was relieved that my parents only took me and my brother to the first and last days of the novena.  It also didn't help that the mass was long and we had to stand throughout the whole mass.

But my journey took a different turn when we started going to simbang gabi at Mary the Queen Parish, where the Jesuits would give articulate, relevant and concise homilies.  I was in second year high school back then.  Also, it was during this time that I found out that you get to make a wish if you complete the nine day novena.  My first simbang gabi wish was "embarrassingly shallow ".  Needless to say, It wasn't granted, haha! But I did the novena again the folliwing year.  It was the first day of simbang gabi of the following year that Bry and I became a couple.  (yes, folks! 3rd year high school.   So young, right? Please don't tell our kids!)   

Because of the role that the novena has played in our love story, Bry and I couldn't help but be drawn to it each year.  What started out as a challenge to be completed, became a way of giving thanks for all the blessings we had during the year.  Our simbang gabi routine also evolved as we became parents - from attending the dawn mass to going to the anticipated mass. (Thank goodness the Greenhills Chapel's schedule was early!)

Whenever we attend the simbang gabi, I couldn't help but look back where I was during the past year, and feel sentimental and grateful.  I remember during one of the masses three years ago, Father Johnny Go, SJ chatted with us before the mass, saw Ben, and talked to him about Xavier, and now Ben is a Xavierian.  Two years ago, I was in a rush to go home early after mass because I had to feed the twins.  This year, the twins went with us during one of the masses.  

Whether it's Simbang Gabi, or another year-end ritual, it's such a blessing to be able to take a step back and reflect on the year that was and enter the new year with hope and prayer.  I know it might be a long shot but I do hope that our kids would someday see the beauty of Simbang Gabi and continue the tradition:)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What are you grateful for? :)

This month has given me a lot of challenges, but I try to remind myself to focus on the positive and be grateful.  It may seem simple, but it's not always easy, especially when you feel like ranting.  The practice of finding something grateful each day is something  I hope I can pass along to the kids.  When we say our nighttime prayers, I would ask Ben what he's grateful for.  I do hope he'd make that a habit.

As for me, I admit, it takes some effort to be grateful at the end of a long tiring day.  But as I attempt to be a good example to the kids, here are some of the things I am thankful for that I've mentioned in our recent nighttime prayers

I am thankful for
- the good job cards Ben gets from school
- the helpers at home for being into arts and crafts which makes our DIY projects more fun
- Supportive mommy friends
- Bree and Bea singing Christmas songs at home
- Bry already being already home the other day just when I was about to text him if he has left the office
- My quick phone chats with my mom and brother
- My one-on-one chat with Papa during Sundays 
- For being able to talk to my parent In-laws about ALDUB

These things may not be a big deal, but after taking some moments and acknowledging them, I feel that I have some energy to smile and take care of my family. And of our course, a powernap and doing some coloring won't hurt.

How about you? What are you most grateful for as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ and the start of another year?

*photo and qoute from instagram's yogainspirations

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Grit and Swimming with Ben :)

I posted last month about how proud we were of Ben for his hard work with swimming and eventually getting medals during his last competition.  It was a milestone and a tipping point for him.  That was't the first time he competed and he was concerned that a lot of kids will be faster than him.  To be honest, I am (for a lack of a better term) "highly invested" in his swimming "career" because I have been taking him to swimming lessons and going inside the pool with him for more than 4 years.  I try not to pressure him but I can't help but feel anxious whenever he gets frustrated abour his speed.  Nevertheless, even we knew he wasn't the fastest, we kept on training.  I remembered Bry telling me that what is important is that Ben gradually improves. So, instead of being discouraged when Ben would be in no mood to swim, we just kept on going and told him that practicing will make him better.  We are very fortunate to have coaches who are able to properly motivate him and push him to work hard while having fun in the water.

I was nervous for Ben during the competition, but reminded him that what matters is that he does his best.  His hard work paid off as he got two bronze medals in backstroke and butterfly.  It was also a humbling experience as well because he almost got another medal for breaststroke but failed to touch the wall of the pool right away, causing him to be 4th place.  (He learned a valuable lesson there!)

When Ben and I talked about the experience, he told me that he was glad he kept on training even if it was hard because it made him stronger and faster.  The coaches also noticed an improvement not just in his speed but also in his attitude towards training.  I am thankful for that chance to make him realize the value of hard work and for not giving up right away when things get rough.  I hope he remembers that and applies it not just in sports but also in other aspects in life.  This experience of him reminds me of why having "grit" is important.  I hope that Ben gets more opportunities to develop it as he goes through his formative years.

How about you? What's your GRIT story?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Art of Saying No

Those who know me well know that I don't like saying "no" to people.  I guess, it's the "people pleaser" in me, and when I find myself in a situation where someone asks for a favor that seems doable, I hardly decline.  However, as a parent to three kids, and with the heavy traffic taking up a big chunk of our time, I had to set my limits.  Here are some of my thoughts as I struggle to learn to say "no"

- When it's a non negotiable, say "no" right away and stick with it - If you know right from the start that it's against your principles or if it's contradictory to your rules at home, then the decision is easy. (unless the house rules need to be revised, which calls for a family meeting

-  When undecided, give yourself a deadline.  Then don't stall and leave perople hanging if you already have a decision.  You'll feel better once you've informed them and they'd respect you for it.

- When it comes to kids, being consistent is the key.  I find it hard saying no to my kids even if the rules call for it, but I know that I'll just regret saying yes if i did just because I was pressured by them to do so.

- Our time is precious, and one way to make most of the time we have is saying no to things that are not worth our time. As a mom, I consider spending time with my family a priority, so when I spend time  away from them, I ask myself, will what I be doing make me a better and happier person? Is the travel time worth the trip? Will my presence be appreciated? One of the things that is close to my heart is the breastfeeding advocacy so I do my best to say yes to opportunities to inform families about breastfeeding.

I still find it hard to say no, but I am learning and realized that doing so is not necessarily a bad thing.   And as you become firm with your stand on things, you get to know yourself as a person and become stronger.  How about you? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why Yoga is for Everyone :)

volunteer kids yoga classes at Pinagbuhatan Pasig

When I first heard about yoga, I was intimidated because it seemed that it was only for people who are flexible and with good balance.  I was glad that I faced that fear and had come to realize that it is for everyone to share and enjoy.  So, to put an end from my break from blogging, here are some of my favorite reasons why yoga is for everyone

Yoga teaches you to focus on your breath - just sitting down quietly for 10 breaths, closing your eyes and stating your intention for the day is already yoga.  Being able to breathe deeply is not easy as it seems, especially when you have a lot in your mind, but those 10 quiet breaths can actually make you productive afterwards.

Yoga teaches you to be mindful - I love to multitask so to actually choose a task, focus on nothing else but that activity is a challenge.  But that is what practicing yoga calls us to do, because when you put your heart, mind, body and soul into something, it's going to come back a hundredfold  and you know you gave it your all.

Yoga teaches you to love your body - because each of us has a unique anatomy, practicing yoga enables us to accept our own individual strengths and weakness.  It also encourages you to be aware of certain muscles and bones as you poses which you would have taken for granted otherwise.

Yoga teaches you to be humble - There will always be someone who is more experienced and someone who is newer to the practice.  It is definitely tempting to compare yourself to the person on the mat beside you but you shouldn't since it is a non competitive activity.

Yoga helps you appreciate nature - Especially for kids who don't get to experience a lot of nature everyday, yoga introduces them to the concept of our oneness with the plants, animals, and other parts of our world that would make them more appreciative of our environment.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kids Yoga Teachers' Training by Rainbow Kids Yoga

I've become interested in Yoga because of Ben.  He has become a handful and I needed help in staying calm and being more patient.  Then I asked myself, maybe Ben can practice yoga, too.  That's how I found out about Rainbow Kids Yoga Teachers Training here in Manila.  I've been discerning about attending it since last year and actually finalized it only during the last day of the early bird discount.  As the days of the training approached, I was both excited and nervous.  I was excited to learn but at the same time nervous of what will be expected of me.  After all, I am quite new to yoga and I don't consider myself very flexible and familiar with a lot of yoga poses.  Also, with the kids used to me being with them the whole day, I was anxious how things will be at home with me being gone for long hours.

I immediately felt better the moment  teacher Lei stepped in the yoga studio.  Her online profile described her as having a bundle of energy and I agree.  Her positive aura is infectious and I can see right away why she is a wonderful kids yoga teacher and why she can motivate other people to do the same.

The 3 day training was informative, fun and enlightening! I was shy since I didn't know anybody, but being surrounded with people with such positive energies gave me strength, and everyone was friendly, introducing themselves and laughing.  Everyone kept an open mind and there was no judgement whether you're a seasoned yoga instructor or a newbie.  Since we did a lot of demo classes, it was fun being a kid again.  There were some serious discussions as well, and I appreciated how Lei was able to share her experiences in teaching kids so we can learn from them.  However, to be honest, I think most of us found the quiet time part of the demo classes to be the favorite.  It was nice to settle down for a few minutes after moving up and about and just be grateful for the experience.

Another thing I enjoyed about the training was the opportunity to get to know the other participants and learn from them.  Each person has something to offer.  We were taught to put our own personal touch to the way we teach yoga, and by observing how my fellow participants teach in their demo classes, I got to know them better.  We had moms, dancers, preschool teachers and veteran yoga instructors.  Some came all the way from Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand, all united because of our interest in yoga and kids.

For my demo class, I made a Toy Story Themed yoga class in honor of my kids who love the movie.  Observing my fellow participants has inspired me to improve my ideas for classes.  Another thing I realized is that kids yoga is not just about  the poses (although they do play an important part), but also helping the kids focus on their breathing and letting them practice their imagination.

On a side note, as a Catholic educated by Jesuits, and member of the Christian Life Community, practicing meditation and contemplation is not new to me.  The teachings of St. Ignatius calls us to find God in all things, we can only do so by being "present" as the yoga practice calls us to do.  It's really wonderful how yoga and religion can compliment each other.

I will be an honor to be able to share what I've learned with family and friends.  Should you be interested, please let me know.  As we say during the training, yoga is better when we do it together so the more the merrier.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Our Family and The Food Intolerance Test

Have you heard of the food intolerance test? Most probably you have.  After all, I've heard about this test from several blogs already.  I thought about whether or not I can actually bring something new given that there have been several posts about the topic, but who knows, maybe this info will be new to someone and will find it quite helpful.

The food tolerance test is a blood test that allows you to find which kind of food your body finds difficulty in digesting because you lack the enzymes to do so. While eating food that your body is intolerant to is not life threatening, avoiding it means less headaches, tummy-aches (indigestion), lack of energy, feeling of being bloated, etc.  If you are trying to lose weight, it's best to avoid these kinds of food as well.  Interestingly enough, Another symptom of food intolerance is hyperactivity.  So if you notice your child being high amounts of energy after eating a certain kind of food, he/she might be intolerant to it

There are two kinds of tests.  The Food Detective, which gives you a general guide of foods to avoid and the Food Print, which is more detailed. At first, I was interested to have only me and Bry tested but we were offered a good rate if we got tested as a family.  And since the kids needed to be tested for blood-typing anyway, we decided to have it done for them as well.  It maybe costly but since you can refer to the results for the long term, it can be worth it. (It can be done for kids 2 years and up)

So here is a sneak peak of our results:

I only showed here the food items in the red zone which is the important part of the test.  I am curious as to how a bit of tweaking in our diet will affect our family's health.  As stated in the results, it seems, Ben and Bea may benefit with a low-Gluten diet.  And while I love eggs, I should remind myself to eat in moderation.  I am also hoping that some adjustments to Bry's diet might help him with his migraine.  

Here is something interesting, according to the results, all of us have low-tolerance for cow's milk.  And other patients I know who got tested also had cow's milk on the red list.  We grew up in a milk-minded society where we've been taught that milk is good for the body.  But if many people are sensitive to cow's milk, maybe it is about time to really think about other sources of calcium, specifically from vegetables.  I am guilty of this too, and it is hard to change a mindset that has been in our culture for years.  But what I learned from the test compliments what we were taught as lactation counselors that (1) breast milk is best because the alternative is not really ideal for our human babies and (2) once a child turns one, he/she doesn't need to drink formula milk as source of calcium.  

Let me reiterate the difference between food intolerance/sensitivity and food allergies.  Food allergies involve the immune system and are lethal, whereas food intolerance is not.  But that doesn't mean its not important.  In my understanding, it would be good to avoid foods that are on the red zone but it's effect on you will depend on the level of sensitivity you have on it (as can be seen by the number beside it).  Also, if you can talk to a nutritionist to better understand the results, that can really help a lot.

So, any thoughts about this test? Would you consider getting yourself tested given the chance? Hope these tidbits of info will be of help.

PS.  Another option would be researching on how to eat based on your blood type.  You can read a bit about it here.  However, just as in any other things I post, I suggest you do your own research, Especially when it comes to diet, it's not just your blood chemistry that should be taken into consideration but other things like medical history as well.

Hello Munchkins Play Cafe is now open!

Quezon City mommies rejoice! :) There 's a cute, fun, child friendly cafe newly opened in your area.  Please check out Hello Munchkins Play Cafe located at 219-6 Biak na Bato QC

It's a child friendly cafe that not only serves good food, but also has spaces where children of different ages can learn. It aims to build a community of moms who can get together to unwind, share ideas and have fun.  Here are some photos: 

Rainbow Gate so that you can find the cafe easier

You'll be greeted by a cute play bus

At the ground floor, there's a small play area, some educational toys for sale, and a cafe.  Among the delicious items being offered are:

they have pies and sandwiches, too

Now on to the lovely upper floor

colorful stairs!!!

lockers for safety

The first room is for crawlers and tots who are still learning to walk

Older kids would enjoy this art and reading room 

And my favorite...

A dance studio! Stay tuned for some exciting classes

The ladies Anneli and Vanessa believe in this saying, I do, too! How about you?

There's an open house tomorrow, June 20, 2015, feel free to drop by if you can :)

Cafe hours are 10am-7pm, Tuesday thru Sunday

The rates of the cafe are:
P200 1st hour
P120 per succeeding hour
Spend P500 in the cafe and get 1 hour of free play

Here's a sketch for directions to the cafe:

For more info, please like their Facebook page or contact 09175289163

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Lets gobreastfeed !!!!

There is no denying that I am passionate about educating families about breastfeeding, which is why I enjoy helping out in LATCH breastfeeding classes.  I believe that with the proper information and support, women can successfully breastfeed their babies.

One of the questions most pregnant women would ask is "What if I don't have enough milk?" In connection with that, most mothers who stop breastfeeding do so because they feel they aren't capable of providing enough for their baby.  There are also a lot of myths that make breastfeeding seem complicated when it shouldn't be the case.  Also, the numerous sources around the web can be very overwhelming and hard to validate.

Kate in action during one of LATCH's breastfeeding classes

Thankfully, fellow LATCHer Kate de los Reyes has launched her website gobreastfeed to be a go-to source for breastfeeding information.  I am honoured to have shared my breastfeeding story in that website and you'll be touched by the other breastfeeding stories as well.  More importantly, it aims to provide on-line breastfeeding classes so that proper information can be easily accessible.

I like the layout and design of the website, simple and clean.  A fitting tribute to Kate's experience as country editor for Yahoo Philippines.

Know the basics of breastfeeding through this Crash Course portion of the website

Learn from the experience of other moms by reading Breastfeeding Diaries

Important and Interesting Articles about Breastfeeding are a must read since there's always something new to be learned about the topic

Forums for breastfeeding families to discuss their concerns

Kate and gobreastfeed need our support.  After all, breastfeeding is not just about how a mom feeds her own baby, it is a public health issue.  Please spread the word about this website and if you can help raise funds for the on-line classes, it will surely be appreciated.  You can do so by going to this link

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Mommy Big School Challenge

I've been trying my best to prepare Ben for big school, but I realized I have to prepare myself as well, particularly when it comes to him being compared with other kids.

How do you encourage a child to do better without pressuring him? How do you respect your child's individuality but at the same time show him the reality that he will be rated and ranked? How do you show that hard work pays off but at the same time there will be times when it won't be enough?  

I don't know the answers to this questions.  Maybe I'm just anxious.  These are the moments when I kind of wish I can talk to my future self who can give me tips on how I can help my kids do well in life.

Thankfully, an answer somehow came during the parents' orientation for Xavier parents last Tuesday.  I'd like my children to have a strong character, particularly resilience and perseverance.  As Father Ari said, life is like a marathon, and we should focus on preparing the kids by not just teaching the basic skills, but by encouraging them to have patience and endurance so that they'll be successful in the long run.  Miss Angela Lee Duckworth explained it as having "GRIT".  Father Ari showed a video of her explaining this, which I am sharing with you guys below:

I've heard the term "grit" before but have a better appreciation of it now.  As Bry said, "I'd rather have kids that are "late bloomers" than " one-time wonders".  Sometimes, I'd catch Ben saying "but it's hard" when talking about a task.  I hope that I'll be able to encourage him so eventually say "It's hard but I will try", and to keep going.

There are two other phases that come to mind in relation to grit.  One is "jia yo" from the tv series Meteor Garden.  Similarly, there's a phrase "Aja, aja, fighting!" from it's Korean counterpart "Boys over Flowers".  Literally, "jia yo" means to "add fuel", which is probably why a person wants to say it when he (or the person he is talking to) needs that "exrra push/ energy".  Bry and I would text that to each other especially during a challenging day.  Maybe I should include that in the kids' vocabulary as well.

Any thoughts on "grit"? I'm so glad that Xavier and I are on the same page as to how we want to form Ben.  Please pray for us as we emabark on this new adventure starting next week.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Our quick visit to Sta. Elena Fun Farm

few weeks ago, The kids and I were fortunate enough to be invited to visit the Sta. Elena Fun Farm.  I've heard good things about the place for some time now so I was really looking forward to it.  I wasn't sure if I would be bringing the twins along but was glad I did.  Here are some photos for our short trip.

Quiet scenery just a few seconds before the kids explored

The farm has a small lake where you can go boating, and feed the ducks and fishes

A farm isn't complete without it's own tractor:)

Ben spent a lot of time in the sand playground

Pony ride for the little man

of course, They're other adult horses, too!

Chestnut the carabao is quite famous among the animals in the farm

The kids tried the zipline.  It was not that high and the attendants were very cautious which makes doing it for the first time saf and fun.  It was the twins who wanted to try it for themselves after seeing Ben do it.

Overall, we had a pleasant experience and the kids had a lot of fun.  I wished we stayed longer but we had to be back in Manila during the afternoon.  Bring hats, extra shirts, face/hand towels and wipes, sunblock, lots of water and snacks :)  Oh, and the P300 per head entrance fee, of course.  Please call ahead before making plans to ensure availability

Here's some Basic Info:

The FUN FARM at Sta. Elena
Barrio Malitlit, Sta. Rosa Laguna
Operating Hours: 9 am - 4 pm. By appointment only. 
For bookings and inquiries, email: 
Call or text: (049)5732725, +63920-9131349, +63939-8032409, +63918-8886588, or +639297521076

To get to the farm from SLEX southbound:
1. Take Cabuyao exit
2. Turn right after the tollgate
3. You'll see the Santa Elena Village gate in about 500 meters.  Follow the signs going to the farm from there

Hope everyone is making the most of what's left of the summer.  Have a Blessed Week ahead :)