Friday, July 29, 2011

A 100-Peso Afternoon with the Kids

After days of rain, rain and more rain, the sun finally came out today... well, let's just say, the sun just peaked through the clouds.  I thought of bringing the kids to the park or the soccer field in Ayala Alabang but I remembered the grass might still be wet and we might end up getting all muddy and messy.  How about an indoor playground then for the kids to stretch those sleepy muscles?  So we headed to the indoor playground in Alabang Town Center.

Alabang Town Center before the renovation

One of the perks of homeschooling, is that we can go to the mall anytime we want.  And the best time to go is when all the other kids -- who are not homeschooled-- are still in school.  The indoor playground in ATC was not full of kids and only a handful of toddlers were playing.  Jianne enjoyed running around without fear of bumping other kids.  She climbed up and down the ladder and the ropes.  She had the monopoly of one this one horsey-springy-whatever ride that is.  Don't worry there were three other horsey-springy-whatever-ride that-is that the other kids were able to hop on.

I thought when we arrived that Coby, our 8-year-old would run to the playground.  But he just sat on the bench with me and as I watched his sister.  I told him to go play but he does not want to.  At first, I thought he was only shy but I realized playgrounds don't excite him anymore.  He likes different activities now and it does not include playground time.  I realized our Coby is growing up.  Good thing his Papa saw that he was getting bored and decided to take him to Time Zone.  So no more playground, Time Zone is the new playground for our 8-year old.

But before we left the house, I told my husband that we will just go out, allow the kids to play, and not spend anything.  I don't want the kids to feel that every time we go out, we have to buy something or spend money. We can just enjoy our time together without spending... or so I thought.

Okay, so there we were at Time Zone, both kids wanted to play but I have to stick to my policy of "No Spending Today".  Aha moment! I allowed them to play just one game each and that's it.  Both kids agreed.  Coby spent 18 pesos on his car racing game while Jianne spent 17 pesos for her mini-carousel.  Total money spent on games, 35 pesos.  After both their games ended, they readily went out of Time Zone with smiles on their faces.  No crying, no pleading for more games.  Simply calm and satisfied.

As we hopped on the escalator, our little muncher, Jianne, said she wanted to eat.  This little girl loves to take a snack every so often.  She would always tell me that her tummy is biting her and she needs to eat.  Drama queen, don't you think? :)  Just then we saw the Panaderia Illustrado stand near the exit.  Each of them chose the glazed doughnut, so one glazed doughnut --- 30 pesos, times 2 is 60 pesos.

Panaderia Illustrado's doughnuts

I always bring with me their water bottles wherever we go.  Not only do we save money on drinks but the kids are always reminded to drink water all the time.

Total money spent with the kids on a Friday afternoon, 95 pesos--- very cheap.  But time spent with the family--- truly, truly priceless.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ligo Sardines Levels Up

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional food critic nor am I a product reviewer.  Just sharing my two cents on certain food products my family consumed over the last month or so. 

This would be the first time I would be "reviewing" a product in my blog.  Well, this post is not really a review but merely a sharing a positive experience I had with the Ligo Sardines Gata (In Coconut Milk) Style.  By the way, I was not paid by Ligo Sardines to post this :-)

I saw on TV that a certain local brand of sardines has included a "gata" variant in its sardines line up.  Being a certified gata-dish-lover, I searched for this brand in the nearby supermarket but to no avail.  I was about to leave the supermarket aisle downhearted but then I saw Ligo, another brand of sardines, also has a gata variant, so I grabbed it and headed to the cashier.

I love sardines -- ordinary, spicy, even the mackarel or the white kind.  I especially enjoy it for breakfast combined with scrambled eggs and fried rice and a warm cup of coffee.  But that evening, I decided to try out this gata sardines for dinner.

 I prepared my crushed garlic and sliced onions for sauteing.  As I opened the can, I was surprised to see a slice of ginger inside, the size of a one peso coin.  Ask  any gata-dish lover out there, any gata dish would not be complete without the flavor of ginger.   After sauteing happily for a few minutes, I just garnished the dish with spring onions and served it to my hungry husband for dinner.

One bowl is not enough for the two of us

As the kids munched away their macaroni dish, my husband and I savored every bite of this spicy yet flavorful surprise.  The coconut milk overpowered the fishy taste of the sardines that we hardly noticed that we were eating canned fish.  Washing the dishes afterwards was a cinch as our plates were all cleaned up!

tapwriter: New Family Routine Brings Blessings

tapwriter: New Family Routine Brings Blessings: "Our family's Sunday night routine recently included a family devotions hour. I have been wanting to start this 'ritual' with my family but ..."

New Family Routine Brings Blessings

Our family's Sunday night routine recently included a family devotions hour.  I have been wanting to start this "ritual" with my family but I have yet to allow my husband to initiate it.  Good thing our pastor introduced the family devotions booklet to the congregation last Sunday and my husband was encouraged  to start spending time with the Word as a family.  

Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."  My husband led the kids and I in reading the verse and talked about what the verse meant and how we can apply it to our lives.  The devotions booklet also included questions related to the verse and the kids readily answered them.  Although Jianne could not really understand the what we were talking about, at least she was hearing our insights as well as her older brother's thoughts and learning from us too. 

Just before we ended the devotion, our son Coby expressed his doubts whether he will be going to heaven or hell and he was quite fearful about it.  This became an opportunity for me to share the gospel to him.  In my mind, how come you still have that fear because I know that we have been studying about eternal life and salvation since he was 5 years old.  Anyway, after the devotion I explained to him again what salvation is, why we needed to be saved and who can save us.  I saw that was able to grasp what I explained to him, I even illustrated it on paper.  

After making sure he understood the truth about our salvation, I asked him if he wanted to do something about what he just learned.  Without batting an eyelash, he said yes to me.  So I led him to pray the sinner's prayer.  I congratulated him afterwards and told him that he is now officially a Christian, a follower of Christ.  His eyes widened in amazement when he realized that he is indeed a Christian, that Jesus is now living in his heart.  And then his questions kept coming... how will Jesus talk to me?  Will I hear his voice? Will I still sin? All those questions made me realize that he really understood what had just happened.  

Like all of us who chose to follow Jesus, living in this world is not easy, in fact, it is impossible.  But because God continues to supply us with his grace moment by moment, we can go on in this difficult but joyful journey of life with Him guiding us.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Multi-task or not to Multi-task

(Imported from my previous blog)
Women, or more precisely, moms have been known to be great at the science of multitasking.  I, for one, has succumb to the call of the times to do hundreds of things all at the same time.  In my pursuit to juggle the daunting task of raising kids, managing a household, loving a husband, not to mention homeschooling and working from home, I am surely tempted to perform all these responsibilities, as they say, in one sitting.  I must admit that I have been a victim of this art, as some people describe it.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that multi-tasking is a crime.  Like I said, I was and still am (in some instances) a multi-tasker but I am able to let go of its hold on my life. defines multitasking as the concurrent or interleaved execution of two or more jobs by a single CPU.  Really? CPU? As in computers? I had to laugh for a while after reading this definition.  Multitasking was originally referred to as a task of computers.  No wonder I find it stressful!  First and foremost, I am a human being created by God with feelings.  I am not made to last a millennium.  And second of all, I can REALLY only do so much.  Hey, even computers break down right?
When I began to juggle all my do-lists altogether, at first, I felt a sense of pride.  Wow! I was able to do complete my list, I must be very good.  This multitasking thing is great! I would unashamedly share the experience with other people who don’t have the ability to do it… or so I thought.  Unfortunately, reality bit me and it bit me hard.  Yes, I could teach my son, work with my abstracts, take care of my little girl and entertain calls at the same time but it’s just too stressful.  So, here I am doing three to four things at the same time but what kind of ME is in it.  I mean, I have to divide ME in all these tasks, so I only give let’s say 1/4 of me in teaching, 1/4 in working, 1/4 in caring and 1/4 in calls.  Now is that giving my best? Where’s the quality control here?  I am only giving a part of me, not the whole of me and the recipients are getting not only a portion of my time but the worst of me, the stressed-useless-angry-frustrated me.
Here is how my schedule looked like while I was still multitasking:
Wake up stressed already.  Be on the computer requesting for work while having breakfast.  Wake up the kids and hurry them up, “Faster, I have to do a lot of things today”.  After kids’ breakfast, school starts with the frantic mom always in a hurry thus creating tension between the teacher and the student.  While teaching, I log on again and download work load for the day and constantly standing up to check on the progress of the download.  Not to mention the text messages I have to reply to (do I really have to). Just thinking about it makes me sick really.  Then the self-induced stress continues throughout the day leaving me exhausted to the bones.
Again, as I always do in my aha moments, God has always been the author of my realizations.  I cannot think of solutions on my own, He gives me the wisdom and I owe it to Him always.  So, as I tread on the dangerous (for me) journey, God has opened my eyes to the reality of the craziness I am in.  I am putting my sanity on the line and He  is not pleased with that.  Daughter, how about prioritizing things? Well, I do prioritize but I put them all in number 1.  I realized that there should be a hierarchy in all things.  I don’t have to pull my hair every waking moment thinking of how I could accomplish everything I need to do.
So I asked God.  What do I do first?  What would my day be like if I choose not to multi-task but instead order things and do my best in each task I am set to do?  I tried slowing it down and it worked, really worked.
Now, after realizing that I was spreading myself too thinly I decided to intentionally change the way I manage my day, my life.  I start my day with a conscious effort to read His word first and ask Him what He wants me to focus on for the day.  I leisurely take my coffee or tea for breakfast and listen to soothing music.  I check on the subjects we need to do for the day and remind myself not to put burden on our school time too much.  After giving 100% of my time to teaching the son and assisting my daughter in her writing, school ends for the day.  Right before lunch time, that is the time I turn on the computer, check my email and request for work load for the day.  While having lunch with the kids, I download the  files to save time.  After lunch and playing with the kids for a few minutes, I prepare my mind to write those abstracts.  Depends on the how much load I have, I try to finish it before 6PM so I could spend some time with the kids again and prepare for the arrival of my husband from work.  If the workload is light, I could squeeze some time in the gym for my boxing session.  At the end of the day, though exhausted still, I feel less frustrated, more grateful and looking forward to the next day.
I am not saying that multitasking is bad.  I still do multi-task but on a minimal level only like watching TV and texting or  meditating while taking a bath :) But that was my personal experience and if other people can manage it well, good for them.  I was just probably not wired to do it or just getting old :-)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Homeschoolers' Flag Ceremony

When we started homeschooling three years ago, I thought I could skip teaching my son about our National Anthem.  Although, we have encountered the national symbols including the national anthem in our Social Studies class in Grade 1, I never really took the time to explain to him what the lyrics mean.  Until about last year, when the concept of nationalism came up in one our conversations.  I will not dwell on the actual conversation per se but it dawned on me that our homeschooling is not complete without paying homage to our motherland and instilling in our kids minds that we are Filipinos and must be proud to be one.

One day, an idea came to mind that I should start a regular flag ceremony day in our homeschooling schedule.  
So I searched the net for an mp3 version of our national anthem, downloaded it and saved it on my desktop.  I knew that our "Panatang Makabayan" or National Pledge has been changed years ago, but I have to admit I have no idea how the revised version is like.  So again, I searched the net, saved a copy from the net and wrote it on a piece of cardboard so the kids can read along with me as we recite it.  

I also got an idea from Coby's DVBS (Daily Vacation Bible School) two summers about doing a pledge to the Bible.  Since we are a Christian homeschooling family, who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, we needed to commit our homeschooling journey to the Bible, God's Holy Word.   

To complete our flag ceremony and pledge day, we needed a flag.  I really didn't want to buy a mini Philippine flag because I know that the kids will just play with it.  So I asked Coby to draw a Philippine flag  on his sketchpad and we can just stick it on our wall or behind the front door.  Not only did we save money, we also used the resources we have i.e. Coby's art materials and artistic hand. :-) 
Our own Philippine flag

With all our paraphernalia ready, we started our first flag ceremony two weeks ago.  I decided to do it every Monday to start the school week off.  But first we discussed what we needed to do every time we hear our national anthem.  Wherever we are, we need to stand up straight, put our right hand over our chest (heart) and sing the song proudly.  No unnecessary movement whatsoever.  Even though Jianne does not know the song, she would hum along with me and was really serious at it. 

After singing along with the music, we recited the pledges.  I held the cardboard of pledges and asked Jianne to follow Kuya and Mama as we recited the Panatang Makabayan, Pledge to the Bible and Pledge to the Christian Flag.   

Pledge to the Flag

I thank God that He has prompted me to include a flag ceremony day in our homeschooling.  Now I can say that we are proud to be a Pinoy homeschooling family! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Goodbye Chips

Our weekly trips to the supermarket would not be complete without passing the chips aisle.  Each family member will pick one to take home for the week.  After watching Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution and how he advocates for healthier snacks for kids, I felt ashamed as a parent.  I mean why would I feed my kids and my husband these oh-so-crunchy-and-oh-so-salty snacks?  Although, we do not eat chips everyday, probably once or twice a week, I still feel the need to really take it off our grocery list.  

One of the things I am thankful for is that my kids love fruits.  I failed to mention that aside from chips and other snacks, our grocery cart would also include apples, oranges, pears or bananas.  Coby, our eldest, loves munching on these healthy snacks when he runs out of chips.  Somehow this habit has rubbed off to his Jianne who would fight over the last piece of banana with his kuya.  

For moms and dads who find it hard to deprive the kids of the chips, I suggest doing it first and be a model to your children.  My husband is a certified chips junkie.  As my sister-in-law says, they were deprived of chips and processed foods like hotdogs when they were young, so it is only now that they are enjoying these "sinful" food.  When I talked to my husband about letting go of his chips, he was hesitant at first because he says he needs the "crunch".  But he told me he would just get the nacho chips without salt, the one you use for making mexican nachos.  I on the other hand is not really fond of chips.  In fact, I cannot consume a bag of chips on my own.  But I must admit that I have a sweet tooth and I would die for chocolates! Letting go of my dark brown buddies is not easy but I have to for my sake and also for the kids sake. 

So here are my healthier snack alternatives that you might want to try with your own kids.  

Fruits, fruits, fruits.  I do not need to emphasize the importance of fruits in our diet.  Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants that our family needs every single day.  If your kids, don't like fruits, let them see that you are not only eating them but enjoying them yourself.  Kids model their parents right? So whatever we parents do, our kids will follow.  For smaller kids, parents can cajole them into eating by making up stories about fruits or reading them books about fruits and vegetables.  Fruits are very colorful so let them see those bright red apples, sunny bananas, juicy watermelons, yummy mangoes and delectable grapes arranged in nice bowls sitting on the kitchen counter or on the dining table.  We have to patient in cutting up the fruits into smaller portions for our younger kids.

You go, Yogurt.  Ice cream is good but yogurt is better and a healthier choice.  There is huge range of flavored yogurts to choose from in the supermarkets and pick ones your kids will like.   One trick I got from the net is to insert a Popsicle stick in the middle of the container and let it freeze, ergo, yogurt Popsicle!  By the way, you can also add fruits to the yogurt to counter the sourness.  

Pop-corn my heart.
 Yes, popcorn is a healthier choice than chips.  But you need to get the ones with plain, low salt or natural flavor.  We usually buy the natural ones and we don't add salt anymore.  They smell and taste like the good 'ol popcorn from the movie house and it gives you the crunchiness regular chips give.  

Extra Cheese please.
 Slice up some cheddar cheese and arrange them alternately with plain crackers on a brightly colored plate. Again, plain crackers with no salt or low salt plus creamy cheese is a great combination for a light snack.   

Bottomless Fruit Drinks.
 Freshly squeezed fruit juice is best.  If you have the electronic juicer at home or just the plain handheld juicer, use this to prepare fresh fruit juices to the kids.  If squeezing is too tedious for you, try to get the canned fruit juice in the supermarkets.  They are a little more expensive that the powdered juice drink but remember healthier is always better.  Dads can also make fruit shakes or smoothies at home.  Get any fruit in season and shake, shake, shake!  

Please Pass the Veggies.  Carrots and celery cut into strips matched with dips like pesto dip, cheese dip other homemade dips will get your kids to eat those dreaded vegetables.  Steamed corn is also one of my daughter's favorite.  If I can't get the cobs packed ones in the supermarket, I get her the canned whole kernels and she enjoys them just the same.  Instead of frying french fries, try baking  them which eliminates the use of too much oil.  Try to find baked potato wedges recipes on the net.  

These are just some snacks our family has tried and has been enjoying up to this time.  Remember we need to be intentional parents.  We must be involved in every thing our kids are doing especially what they eat.  It would take much of our time but it's all worth it.  Let's not take our health or our kids's health for that matter, for granted.  Happy munching!!! Don't forget to brush your teeth too :-)