Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Preparing for CHRISTmas

I had been busy mind storming about possible family bonding activities for the Christmas season. I checked the internet for suggestions on what families can do together to make the “holy days” memorable but nothing seemed to excite me from the options I have seen. We already visited Casa Santa and had our pictures taken with a live Santa Claus last year. We have already watched the C.O.D. or Christmas on display in Greenhills as a way of continuing the family tradition my parents started when my younger brother and I were still kids. We have toured around Makati to marvel at its Christmas lights display. We have shopped together for gifts for our extended family members. What else can we do? I continued my Christmas shopping and bought some of our needed grocery for Noche Buena while I continued to be open to possibilities.

Then, I got my biggest surprise this Christmas when I was asked to organize the Simbang Gabi for our condominium community four days before it started. I learned that our Liturgical Committee Head was already busy preparing for his overseas assignment soon and begged off from the responsibility of organizing and overseeing the preparation. Being his assistant, the responsibility landed on my lap. I initially thought that the task wouldn’t be very difficult since there are other members of the Liturgical Committee and there are cluster representatives in the different buildings in our community. But I was wrong. I found out in the course of the preparation and coordination that there were only three reliable members of the Liturgical Committee. And that included me, a lay minister and our head. Since our head was busy with his work commitments, he only committed to provide the music by playing the keyboards. I was already very happy with that. At least, finding a musician was one task off my very long to-do list. The lay minister, although very knowledgeable with the requirements for the Holy Mass, relied more on me to mobilize and coordinate with people and to provide the other items or requirements for the Mass.

It was very stressful especially in the beginning because I had to do almost everything and I had to move from one place to another during the mass because no one else volunteered or was familiar with the parts of the mass. There were only a few cluster representatives who responded to my text messages and calls when I coordinated. Out of the many representatives, I think less than 10 percent responded and much lesser are those who responded positively. A lot of times during the first few days of the Simbang Gabi, I wasn’t sure who was going to be the readers, offertory ushers, fruit or grocery basket donors or choir. Every night, I kept praying to God that He would touch and move hearts and that He would send other volunteers who would help me organize the Simbang Gabi. Then, slowly each night, God sent one or two more volunteers until it came to a point that I didn’t have to be the only commentator. I thank God that there was another woman who volunteered. This development enabled me to focus on other tasks/roles that needed to be done/filled during the mass like ensuring that the symbolic offering every night for the Christmas Novena would be in order and that those assigned to offer would not forget to bring what they are supposed to bring and walk at the right moment. That the offertory procession would be in order and that there are people chosen to carry the love offering baskets, water, wine and host and that they are carried in the right order at the right time. That there would be Power Point slides used to project the Responsorial Psalm, Christmas Novena, Prayers of the Faithful and the songs for the Mass and that there would be someone who would operate the computer and the lcd projector. That the contents of the mass kit are complete and ready for use, etc. etc.

I remember there was a night when our resident musician could not make it to play the keyboards for the mass and George was not sure if he can make it because of work concerns as well. I had to gather recorded mass songs so that we’d still have music during the Simbang Gabi. Thank God someone volunteered to be commentator that night because I needed to be the one who would operate the computer and lcd projector and assist the technical assistant in playing the songs.

I experienced so many challenges preparing for the Simbang Gabi but the miracles I witnessed each night were so much more. The first miracle I witnessed was the very big turnout of mass-goers. The chairs were not enough since day 1 because those who attended the Simbang Gabi in our clubhouse were always more than a hundred. In fact, on the first night and on the last night of the Simbang Gabi, the attendees were more than doubled because our clubhouse was filled with people up to the second floor. The second miracle was that I always get surprised with the turnout of donors for the fruit or grocery basket. There were days when no one has committed or pledged to donate and I would just pray to God that He would move my neighbours to be generous. And then I noticed that it was during those nights when I wasn’t certain if someone would donate or offer a basket that we had the most fruit/grocery baskets offered. Amazing! There was also a night when no one confirmed among those I texted until around an hour before the Mass. A neighbour who was supposed to donate and offer during the weekend but did not make it called me and told me she will donate and offer that night. What perfect timing! It was only then that I realized why she was not able to attend and offer during the weekend. It was because she was appointed by God to offer that night when no one else would donate and offer except her. The third miracle I witnessed was the raising up of new volunteers among the residents of our community. One by one, some neighbours eventually approached me and volunteered to help in their own small way. We still have a very small group of volunteers for our liturgical services but it’s better than not having any volunteer at all. I continue to hope and pray that God would send more laborers into the harvest for the harvest is great but the laborers in our community are few. The fourth miracle I witnessed was when our next door neighbour who rarely went to Mass attended our Simbang Gabi and they even agreed to carry the wine and host in one of the Masses. And then I wondered… Could it be that some of our neighbours are like them who are not regular churchgoers but because the Mass was already in the comforts of our clubhouse, they have chosen to attend? Possible! And with that realization, I grew in conviction to endure the hardships, challenges and inconveniences of organizing the Simbang Gabi.

The fifth miracle I got was the answer to my question and search at the start of the Advent season. I realized while preparing for the Simbang Gabi that this was the family bonding activity God wanted me and my family to share this Christmas. I discovered that this was the first time my husband was able to complete the Christmas 9 Day Novena Masses. And his experience was made more memorable because he was not only a spectator or regular attendee but he had some active participation and specific roles in some of the Masses because I needed his help and there weren’t many servants/volunteers who can help me. Most of the time, he was part of the music ministry and he was helping out Yanthy with the symbolic offering. Our 2 year old son, Yanthy, was able to attend the Simbang Gabi for the first time this year because it was held in our own clubhouse and it was held in the evening when he was still awake. He even played a special part because of the symbolic offerings which are part of the Rogationists’ way of having the Simbang Gabi. It was also very meaningful and memorable for our family especially for Yanthy because he lent his things to the Baby Jesus in the manger. Since I was the one organizing and only a couple of residents volunteered to provide the symbolic offerings, a number of the things offered in the manger are Yanthy’s things. I was very happy that Yanthy was involved somehow in preparing for Jesus’ birth. I saw how eager he was to lend Baby Jesus his baby pillow, baby clothes and toy drum. I was glad to see my son happy to offer his own things so that the Baby Jesus would have something to “use.” It was a delight to see and hear my toddler son sing liturgical and Christmas songs during the Mass. It was a fulfilment of my dream; that one day when I have my own family, we will be one household serving the Lord. I only hoped and prayed for something nice that our family could do and experience together this Christmas but God surprised me and exceeded my expectations by giving us this amazing and unforgettable experience of the first ever Simbang Gabi in our condominium community. These are just some of the many miracles I witnessed as I organized the Simbang Gabi. There’s so much more but I am at a loss for words right now. I just can’t help but marvel and be awed at God’s amazing hand.

It was an exhausting and challenging 9 days but if I would be asked to do it again, I would still say yes. The Simbang Gabi experience did not only help me and my family prepare our hearts for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It also helped many residents in our community prepare their hearts for Jesus. It was an honor and a privilege to be God’s instrument and to be like St. John the Baptist to our neighbours. As I end this reflection and sharing, let me share part of the homily of Fr. Tim, one of the priests who celebrated the Simbang Gabi with us. He said that God needs people like Mary who are willing to make a sacrifice so that others would experience His Love. His words struck me because God called me to make a sacrifice this Christmas so He could use me to organize the Simbang Gabi which would bless a lot of people. I wasn’t stressed much because of the Christmas shopping because I started early. It was only later that I realized why God moved me to do this early. It was because He was going to give me another assignment. What stressed me was the day by day preparations for the Simbang Gabi when a lot of the things we needed were provided sometimes literally at the last minute. But it also paved the way for me to witness God’s faithfulness and amazing grace. Then I realized, it was not only me who made a sacrifice but also my family because we were exhausted during the Simbang Gabi because of the preparations and coordinations and we slept late most of the time including Yanthy. We were not able to prepare much food also for our Noche Buena because I didn’t have much energy anymore to cook a number of dishes. I simply prepared a pasta, salad and soup dish. Moreover, although we were able to shop for gifts for other people and for Yanthy, my husband and I were not able to spend ample time searching and buying gifts for each other. We were not able to go out also to have a date on our wedding anniversary because we needed to serve in the Simbang Gabi. We simply had lunch as a family in a restaurant and offered a fruit basket and a copy of my book during the Mass. But as we reflected on our Simbang gabi experience on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we realized that what we have experienced as a family this year is what is essential. That’s what really Christmas is all about. It’s all about Christ and about being Christ to others. I’m blessed to have given Jesus Christ -- the real reason for our celebration -- the gift of myself. And I’m doubly blessed to have received Him in my heart as the most precious Christmas gift I have received this year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wanted: Story Teller

I’ve been meaning to write a reflection right after my husband and I attended the Kerygma Conference last November but I simply couldn’t find the time. Now, I know why. God wanted me to experience the insights I gained from the conference more powerfully. He gave me that opportunity last Tuesday when I was invited to speak on Love and Sexuality to more than 500 first year college students at a university in Manila.

I was deeply moved by the talk given by Bro. Bo Sanchez during the Leadership Track of the Kerygma Conference last November. He began his talk by removing his shoes. Then he said that he doesn’t claim to be better, more holy or more spiritual than anybody present in that room. He believes though that the reason he is where he is right now and he is doing what he is doing right now, which is to preach and lead a big community like Light of Jesus (LOJ), is because God simply WANTED him to serve Him in that way. Then, he said that maybe some of us present in that Leadership Track might be wondering why we’re attending that track. He said that there is only one reason... God wanted us to be there! We are all leaders in one way or another because God wanted to use us. It’s not because we are good or we are the best at what we do. It’s not because we earned our positions. It’s not because we deserved to be where we are. It’s all grace! God chose us simply because He wanted us to serve Him by being leaders and role models in our respective circles of influence.

I grew to appreciate these truths and insights more powerfully when I shared my story to college freshmen last Tuesday morning. I felt that I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my presentation. I was out the whole weekend with my family before my talk and I only had the day before the scheduled event to prepare my material. With this feeling of inadequacy, I came before God in prayer last Monday morning. I told God how I felt and I asked Him to grant me the grace of His humble wisdom so I could speak the right words to the youth who will be listening to me. God led me to reflect on the readings for the day of my talk.

Let me quote the lines that struck me from the readings.

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.”“Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:1-2, 9-11)

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; announce his salvation day after day. Tell God’s glory among the nations; among all peoples, God’s marvellous deeds.” (Psalm 96:1-3.)

And finally from the Gospel according to Matthew 18:12-14.“What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the astray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

I was amazed! I felt God’s affirmation that He really wanted me to speak to the youth the following day. He was sending me to proclaim the Good News to them by sharing my story. He wanted me to testify about His goodness and faithfulness in my life. He wanted me to join Him in seeking His lost little ones and to help bring them back to His fold. What an honor and a privilege! He chose my story out of countless love stories. Why? Well, I think it’s because my story is just like any ordinary girl’s story. What made it extraordinary was God’s amazing involvement in carrying out His perfect plan for my life. I was confident that God would bless my efforts in preparing for the event. I was confident that whatever is lacking in my presentation, God would supply so that His purpose would be fulfilled. I may not be the best preacher, speaker or story teller but He chose me. He has anointed me. I know that He would enable me. I also agree with my husband when he said that one reason God puts me in situations where I feel that I am not prepared or adequate is because he wants me to rely on His grace to deliver and fulfil His purposes. So that when things turn out well, I would not credit that to myself but to God’s grace and power.

True enough, God blessed the symposium where I spoke and shared my story as a single lady making the most of my season of singleness and of course my love story, how God fulfilled His promise to me of giving me a godly helpmate.

As I pondered on the events of that day during my time of prayer that same night, I couldn’t help but be awed. I realized that even if there was only one student or little one who needed to find his/her way back to God, God would still organize a symposium just for that person. And so I thought, that even if there was only one student who was moved and inspired by my story, my story would still be worth telling because of the value that our Father gives to each one of us. I may not know the extent of my influence last Tuesday but I’m certain that God’s purpose has been fulfilled. I know that by sharing my life and love story, those students were given an alternative on how to live their single lives. They were given an opportunity to make a choice – to involve God or not in their lives, be it in their academics, future career or love life. I can only pray that they would also choose to let God be God in every aspect of their lives.

I also realized that every opportunity that God gives me to share my life and love story is God’s way of blessing me. Yes, He’s using me to bless others who listen to me. But, they are not the only ones blessed. He blesses me as well! How? First, He blesses me by reminding me of the wonders He has done in my life. How can I forget God’s great love, mercy and faithfulness to me if I keep on telling people about His works in my life? How can I not go on even amidst trials and difficulties when I am reminded constantly that I have a powerful God who moves mountains, who makes walls collapse and who makes the impossible possible? Second, He blesses me by helping me grow in appreciation of my husband. Every time I tell our love story, I am reminded of the reasons why I chose to marry this man. God strengthens our marriage and my commitment to my husband every time I share our love story. Third, I am reminded that I am blessed to have a child and to be a full time mother at this time of my life. I am reminded that all these were made possible by God because He loves me very much and He wants to give me only the best.

My heart is bursting with joy! I feel that through that experience God gave me back the fervour of my first love. I’m just so in love with Him again! And I commit to testify to His goodness, faithfulness and love for as long as I shall live not only with my words but most importantly with the life that I live. Just as Bro. Pio Español said in his talk during the Leadership Track of the Kerygma Conference, the world needs role models more than great preachers. People can forget what you say in your talks or presentations but they will not forget your legacy. How you live your life is more important than how you deliver your lines during your talks or presentations. That is what I strive for – that by the choices that I make and the life that I live people will know that God reigns in my life and that I’m an ardent lover and follower of Jesus.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bonding Times and Play Time Favorites

I have just finished reading a parenting magazine and I can’t help but be grateful to be reminded by the editor and their invited pediatrician about certain truths on parenting and spending quality time with our kids. What struck me the most is a line from the developmental pediatrician who said, “Your physical and emotional availability are what really matter to your child.” I also agree with the editor mom when she said that a child need not have too many toys to be happy. Just like what the paediatrician said, it’s not really toys that make our children happy. What really make our children happy are the quality times we spend with them playing together, laughing over stories or silly moments, sharing both regular and special family bonding moments and the like. These thoughts led me to look back at the regular bonding times I spend with my toddler son and I discovered that many of the things my two-year-old boy loves doing with me or with his Dad do not require fancy toys. The truth is, our little boy finds so much joy not so much in his toys that we sometimes use during our play time but more importantly on the fact that we take time to play with him or spend quality time with him. His toys are there to simply add fun to our time together or to be instruments in making our time together extra special.

Here is a list of Yanthy’s favorite daily activities with me or his Dad or with both of us:

1. Tickle Time and Funny Bones – Yanthy loved tickle time ever since he’s a baby. Lately, he’s the one who initiates it. He likes to be tickled and he likes to sneak in and tickle us in our bed, sofa or wherever we are. We started playing funny bones when we first taught him his body parts. We reinforced his new learnings by playing this game and it has stuck with him since then.

2. Playing Hide and Seek – This is a game we loved playing since he was a baby. He’d giggle a lot while playing this game and we have incorporated counting which made it also educational.

3. Running around – Yanthy loved running since he was around 7 to 8 months old. He runs tirelessly all day around the bedroom, house or our compound. When I can no longer run with him (because I get tired much faster), I just watch him on the sidelines and remind him to be careful so he doesn’t get hurt. He had his share of falls and scratches but he remains unfazed whenever given the opportunity to run.

4. Singing and Playing Musical Instruments – Yanthy likes music very much. We spend most of our day with music in the background. He tells me when he wants to listen to music and he would ask me to turn our stereo on. Sometimes, I would just see him trying to turn it on himself. Then, while listening to music or singing songs, we would play one or two musical instruments like his drum, xylophone or maracas. At other times, we play the piano. Yanthy loves listening to the sounds that he makes as he playfully strikes the piano keys. When we are not dancing and playing instruments while listening to music, we draw, color or play with his other toys. In my experience, songs have helped Yanthy increase his vocabulary and sharpen his listening skills. He has actually become so good in listening that we sometimes play name the next song. It was also through this activity that I have discovered that my son is music-smart.

5. Dancing – With music in the background, dancing is not far behind. Yanthy loves to dance and jump whenever he hears fast tunes. Then, we do the actions while singing when we hear action songs. This is one of the things I love doing with Yanthy the most. It also serves as one of the ways I exercise.

6. Playing Make Believe – I noticed that Yanthy has good imagination when he was still a baby playing alone on his crib. These days, he gets to articulate his imagination because he can already talk and he shares with me what he imagines. Yesterday, he turned his clothes hamper into a boat. He dumped his toys inside and he sat inside it. Then, I asked him where he’s bringing his boat. He said, “California!” Sometimes, he plays with his car or airplane and he says he will go to Surigao to visit his grandparents. There are also times when he gets some of his Dad’s things and he would act as if he’s going to his Dad’s office to work. It’s fun watching him playing pretend.

7. Playing with Building Blocks or Stacking Cups – We started playing this game before he turned one year old and he is still hooked until now. He loves building towers with his blocks and he takes pride whenever he finishes a tower. I saw how he grew in confidence and patience by playing with these toys. These are very simple and inexpensive toys but they can teach a lot to a child.

8. Reading or Storytelling – A day never passed that we did not read at least one book. He likes to sit on my lap while listening to me. I read the Bible with him when he’s already awake during my morning prayer time. During the day, we read storybooks or books on the alphabet, numbers, shapes or colors. Sometimes, we read his songbook while listening to music or while singing nursery songs. At other times, I use finger puppets or hand puppets while telling him a story. Reading and storytelling has helped a lot in instilling the love for books in our son. When he’s not busy running or climbing something at home, he’s usually busy reading a book or listening to me read him a book. He loves hearing stories so much. He has actually memorized some of his books including his book that we read to him at bedtime. He has also memorized some of the lines of the characters in the story like in the story of the three little pigs. Yanthy also learned to tell his own stories through these activities. You can ask him a story about one of the books we have read or a movie that we saw and he would tell you what happened in the story. With my son’s love for books at an early age, I’m confident that he will grow to be a learner and that he would find much inspiration growing up.

9. Swimming – Most kids love to play in the water and Yanthy is no exception. We exposed him early to swimming even before he turned one year old and he learned to swim without formal lessons before he turned two. This is one of his bonding activities with his Dad because my husband is the one who teaches him how to swim. My role here is cheerleader since I have not learned how to swim until now. This also serves as my husband’s exercise whenever he swims with Yanthy. We plan to enrol him next summer for formal swimming lessons.

10. Drawing or Coloring – I like this activity very much because I love to draw. Actually, I love anything related to the arts. In the beginning, Yanthy just loves to watch me draw. Then, he started to doodle. Now, he loves crayons and he loves using them not just on paper but even on different surfaces (like our walls, floor, and furniture including his high chair).One thing that I noticed and which was also pointed out by the pediatrician in the magazine is that kids spend more time playing with something or they complete an activity when parents take an active part in the activity. I’ve observed this in my own son. When he knows that I’m beside him while he’s doing something like coloring, doodling or building towers, he spends more time on the activity. But when he sees me doing something else, he gets impatient easily or he stops what he’s doing and he goes to me.

I’ve realized that these simple activities that we do together send positive messages to my son or teaches him valuable life lessons. Like when he’s trying to build a tower and the blocks fall and crash the entire structure he has built, he knows that I am there to comfort or encourage him or to help him rebuild it if he wants me to help him. He can bring this principle with him as he grows and starts to set goals for himself. He would know that his parents will be there to help him or give him emotional support. Pretend play can also lay the foundation for him to weave dreams for himself that’s why I encourage him to imagine. It also teaches him resourcefulness and thinking out-of-the-box. In life, he will not have everything he wants but resourcefulness and thinking out-of-the-box would enable him to make the most of what he has and use them to bring him to where he wants to go. And as we enjoy other activities, he can learn that he has family members who share his joys and supports him in discovering and developing his gifts.

I thank God for this opportunity to be reminded that the best gift I can give my son is my time and undivided attention. It can be very challenging especially for working moms but it’s possible. We simply need to be committed in making quality time with our families a priority and to be reminded of this commitment from time to time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Celebrating All Saints’ Day Meaningfully and Establishing a New Family Tradition

It’s another long weekend because of the celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. We, Catholics, commemorate and honor all the saints, both known (recognized by the Church) and unknown (those who are already in heaven but were not canonized by the Church) on November 1. On November 2, we honor the memory of our faithful departed. Here in the Philippines, it has been the custom of most families to go to the cemetery and visit the remains of their departed relatives on November 1 instead of November 2 probably because most of us believe that our departed relatives are now in heaven with God together with all the saints in heaven.

Celebrating Halloween or All Hallows Evening, which is the day before All Saints’ Day, has become very popular also. It is sad however that the way by which many modern day Catholics or Christians celebrate it today tend to distort the real purpose and meaning of this Holy Day. Donning costumes of ghosts, monsters, the devil, cartoon characters, superheroes, etc. has become popular and widespread. This makes me wonder every time Halloween approaches if we really understand why we celebrate the occasion. This day was reserved to honor holy men and women who have triumphantly overcome their sinfulness and have given us inspiration because of the lives they lived. Why dress up children as enemies of God when they can be dressed up as friends of God just like our beloved Saints? Why choose characters from a movie which are make believe anyway when there are real heroes that our children can emulate? There is such a great cloud of witnesses that has gone ahead of us whose lives have set many hearts ablaze by the example that they gave. I have nothing against costume parties done to celebrate Halloween. I like costume parties actually. But I believe that these costume parties should help us remember the real reasons for the celebration – the saints. A Halloween party organized without honouring the saints in mind is like organizing an awards night wherein the awardees were not invited. It’s like having a Christmas party without Christ in mind. If I am to organize a Halloween party for kids, I would ask the kids to dress up like the Saints they like or in the profession for which their favourite Saint was known for or a patron of. You may click on the following links to get more ideas:'s_Costumes.htm and In this way, kids are taught to value their faith and look up to the Saints as role models.

It’s so easy to simply join the bandwagon since almost everyone is doing it. Many people find it harmless. As for me and my husband, we don’t find it in our hearts to participate in a Halloween celebration where we do not see the real purpose of the Holy Day being upheld. Romans 12:2 serves as our guide: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It was with these thoughts that I chose to come up with a new and meaningful family tradition for our growing family. Traditions are manifestations of the values of the families that practice them. I want our family traditions to communicate to our son that we are a Catholic Filipino family and that we uphold our rich heritage both as Catholics and Filipinos. I want our son to grow up practicing meaningful traditions. That’s why I thought of introducing one to two Saints every year on All Saints’ Day to our son, Yanthy. He’s already two years old this year and I think he’s old enough to be introduced to the heroes of our faith. I brought up the suggestion to my husband and he said that he had the same thing in mind. I’m not surprised I married this man! So, excitedly we went about preparing for our story telling session with our son. We searched for books, videos and possible props. We ended up buying a dvd on the life of St. Paul the Apostle. Back home, I reviewed the life story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and thought of ways to share it with Yanthy.

All Saints’ Day morning came and we began our new family tradition by telling Yanthy what Saints are and that we will be introducing at least one Saint to him each year. We watched the video on the conversion of St. Paul and his ministry together with Yanthy. It was our first time to watch the video. That was a mistake. We should have viewed it first without him. It was too late when we realized that it was not suited for very young children like Yanthy. The material was quite heavy and there were violent scenes like the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen, and that of St, Paul among others. Yanthy didn’t like the video. Lesson learned: screen videos first before showing them to your child even if it is a Christian video. That way, parents like us would know if it is age appropriate. Another lesson that we learned is that story telling with props is a better alternative. With those lessons learned, I introduced St. Therese of the Child Jesus to Yanthy after attending Holy Mass and dinner.

I didn’t use a video or a book. I only used pictures of St. Therese from the internet and everyday things that Yanthy is familiar with. Then, I chose to tell some parts of St. Therese’s life which I think Yanthy could relate to. For example, I told him that St. Therese is also called the Little Flower and I likened her to our orchid which Yanthy and I water every morning. I told him that in the same way that our flower makes me happy every time I see it, St. Therese makes God happy because she is beautiful in God’s eyes. I also told him about St. Therese’s love for the child Jesus. I used his ball this time to relate St. Therese analogy about her relationship to the child Jesus. Yanthy responded much better with our story telling session as compared to the video. I used that opportunity to retell St. Paul’s story using the old fashioned way. I told him that St. Paul rode a big boat and that there were times that his big boat encountered storms at sea and there were lightning and thunder accompanying the storm. But these did not stop him from going to many places to tell people about Jesus. I told him that St. Paul loved Jesus very much that he kept telling people the story of Jesus wherever he went. I was very happy with Yanthy’s response. At the end of our story telling session, Yanthy asked me to kneel down with him and we prayed that we would be good like the Saints and be close friends of Jesus like St. Paul and St. Therese.

Looking back, I realized that I benefitted more from the activity. I have read the life story of St. Therese countless times since I was young girl but I still had new insights yesterday when I reviewed it. It could be because my insights now are related to my new role as a wife and mother. Let me share some of them. First, St. Therese’s Little Way inspired me to do my routine duties as a wife and mother daily with great love not only for my husband and son but more importantly for Jesus. Her example inspired and encouraged me to persevere in doing household chores with joy in my heart even when they are difficult. Once more, she taught me to offer my inconveniences and sacrifices for the purification of my soul and for the conversion of more people. Second, reviewing her story reminded me of the power of prayer to bring hearts and souls to Jesus. I thought of how my fervent prayers for my son would bring him close to the heart of God and I was greatly encouraged to faithfully intercede for my son and for others. Another thing that I found striking in reading St. Therese’s life story is finding out that she had tantrums when she was a little girl and that she was very stubborn. It was cited in her biography that there were instances when she would roll on the floor and cry unceasingly when she didn’t get what she want. I was surprised and at the same time relieved because my little boy is going through the terrible two’s stage. Like St. Therese, he can be very stubborn and throw tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. It was comforting for me to know that although she was once like that, she was able to overcome her temperament eventually. She even became a saint! I shared these insights with my husband and he said that we need to pray not only to St. Therese but also to the parents of St. Therese so that we would be wise parents like them who raised holy children like St. Therese.

I thank God for inspiring me and my husband to start this family tradition. I’m excited to discover new things about the Saints and to learn from their example. I pray that as we carry out this tradition in our family we would grow in our love for God and in Christian character so that one day we would also be triumphant like the saints. Let me close this sharing by quoting Philippians 4:8 (NKJV). “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy––meditate on these things.”

TG 110210

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tooth Brushing Made Easy and Fun

Do you struggle with your baby or toddler in brushing his/her teeth? Do you sometimes feel like you’re having a tug of war with your child while holding his/her toothbrush? I’ve been through that experience also. I have introduced the toothbrush to my son even as a baby as soon as his two front teeth began to erupt from his gums. He first used a gum massager before moving to the next recommended toothbrush/massager and finally to the regular toothbrush for his age.

He liked massaging and brushing his teeth on his own. My concern then was that he doesn’t know yet how to clean or brush his teeth properly so I would ask him to let me guide his hand so I can teach him or to let me brush his teeth for him. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t hand me his toothbrush nor let me hold his hand and guide it. He insists on doing it himself. So, it’s like we were having a battle with the toothbrush before. I would ask our maid or my husband to hold my son’s hands and face so I can brush his teeth properly and ensure that they are clean. It was stressful and not fun at all for everybody. My son kept crying because he hates being restrained and he likes to brush his teeth on his own. This kept going until I read an advice from a moms forum. A mom shared how she has made brushing fun for both her child and her and how she was able to ensure that her baby’s teeth are clean. I tried her advice and it worked!

This is what we do now. I brush my teeth with my son. I first hand him his toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste. Next, I show him how to brush the teeth properly by brushing my teeth in front of him. Then, I give him my toothbrush so he can “brush” my teeth. When I do this now, he automatically and eagerly gives me his toothbrush so I can brush his teeth. We no longer play tug of war with his toothbrush. I brush his teeth until they’re clean; then, hand his toothbrush back to him so he can continue brushing. Yanthy, on the other hand, enjoys brushing my teeth. Sometimes though my toothbrush goes to my cheek or chin since he has not mastered his hand movements. But it’s okay. I just need to be more alert so that I can adjust my face and move to prevent my toothbrush from getting into my nose or eye. What’s important is that I’m able to clean his teeth without the fuss. No more battle of the toothbrush!

I’m so grateful I joined that forum because I got valuable advice on how to make brush time fun and stress-free for everyone at home. No more tears for Yanthy and no more frustration for me. And no more dirty teeth. I’m also happy that my son’s pediatrician recommended a toothpaste (SansFlou) that’s safe to use for kids his age. It contains no fluoride which makes it very safe to use by babies and children who do not know how to spit out the toothpaste yet. Too much fluoride can harm the development of permanent teeth, cause tooth discoloration, brittle bones and for some, over prolonged use, bone cancer. It also has nice flavours like orange and strawberry. It’s recommended for use of babies and children under 6 years of age.

Tooth brushing has now become one of our fun and bonding activities. Yanthy is happy because he has a chance to brush his teeth on his own and brush my teeth as well. I’m also very happy that Yanthy’s teeth are protected from cavities by regular brushing and he enjoys the activity now. So, if you are still having a difficulty brushing your baby or toddler’s teeth, I suggest that you try what we do. Your child might also like it this way.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Handy Helper for My Baby’s Laundry

I have just finished doing the laundry. We still do not have a maid so I had to do my son’s laundry. We send the rest of our laundry to the laundry shop except for his clothes and bed linen because we use a mild laundry detergent safe for babies for them. We’ve been using Cycles since he was born and we’re very satisfied especially since my baby’s skin is extra sensitive just like his Dad’s. It’s hypoallergenic and phosphate free. It does not contain harsh chemicals like fabric softeners, optical brighteners, bleach, dyes or enzymes which can be harmful to my baby’s sensitive skin. That’s why it’s recommended by pediatricians. But being safe on my baby’s skin is not the only reason that I like this laundry detergent a lot.

Here are my others reasons:

1. It’s budget-friendly. - A 1 kg box costs only Php264.00 and it lasts for at least a month. You only use ¾ to 1 scoop for a light load; 1 ½ to 1 ¾ scoops for a medium load and 2 to 2 ½ scoops for a heavy load. The dirt and stains are easily removed once clothes are soaked on the detergent solution which makes it easy to use if you decide to hand wash your baby’s clothes. Lately, I’ve been using the washing machine to wash my baby’s clothes because my hands get damaged easily even with mild laundry detergents which brings me to reason number two.

2. You can use it both to hand wash clothes or wash them in the washing machine. – This is very important to me now that I don’t have a maid. I need to do a lot of multitasking. I usually wash my son’s clothes while he’s sleeping. But on rare occasions like this afternoon wherein he woke up earlier than usual, it helps that we have a washing machine that enable me to wash his clothes and play with him at the same time. In between, washing, rinsing and drying cycles, I get to play and dance with my little boy.

3. It’s very effective. – As I’ve said earlier, it cleans dirt very effectively. You just have to soak stained clothes for 30 minutes before washing. But if your baby’s clothes get stained while you’re out of the house, Cycles has another product that works really wonders on our baby’s clothes – Cycles Stain Pretreater Pen. I use this usually on his bibs. Just remove the stained piece of clothing from your baby and use the pen to soak the stain while outside the house. Then, use another Cycles product – Stain Soaker – or the regular Cycles mild detergent to soak and wash the stained clothing at home. I only use the Cycles Stain Soaker for very stubborn stains on my baby’s clothes.

Pediatricians recommend its use from baby’s birth until your baby turns 3 years old. Yanthy has just turned 2 years old so we have one more year before we stop using this product but I don’t really mind. This line of products is so great that I recommend it to other moms like me. They’ve helped me deal with the dirty stuff without sacrificing my baby’s sensitive skin. Try it!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How to Win Over Breastfeeding Challenges

I have just achieved my personal goal of successfully breastfeeding my son during his first two years of life around a week ago and I have also successfully weaned him the day after he turned two years old. I feel so good and grateful to God for enabling me to win over my many challenges in the past two years. This is a big milestone in my life as a mom. I initially thought and felt that it was a daunting goal to breastfeed for two straight years. I’m glad I persisted for the rewards are indeed countless and precious. That is why I’ve decided to write this article. I’d like to share with other moms – pregnant, first-time-moms, moms for the nth time, breastfeeding moms – my experience of how I won over breastfeeding challenges in the past two years. I’d like to encourage you all and exhort you to keep on so you too can achieve your goal of giving your babies the best milk they can ever have in their lifetime and ensure that your babies get a head start in so many ways.

Let me begin by saying that winning over your breastfeeding challenges begins in winning over them in your mind and in your heart. Before you can successfully breastfeed with your body, you need to win in your inner battles first.

First, you need to be completely convinced of the benefits breastfeeding will bring to your child and to yourself. You need to convince yourself first before you can successfully command your body to produce milk. If there is any doubt in your mind that you can supply the milk that your baby needs, your body will sense it. But if you are fully convinced that you will produce milk and that you would be able to achieve this goal, you can definitely pull through with it by God’s grace. When you are fully convinced of its benefits, you will be strong enough to endure ALL the hardships and challenges that will come your way in your breastfeeding journey. You only need to call these benefits to mind and you will have renewed strength and will power to go on. You need to be your own champion so you can rally the people around you (especially your spouse) to support you in your goal to breastfeed your child.

I could say this with confidence and conviction now because I have experienced this personally. When I read literature about breastfeeding and its benefits while I was still pregnant, I made it one of my goals as a mother to breastfeed my son for at least a year. After successfully achieving that goal on my son’s first birthday, I reviewed its benefits and decided to extend it for one more year. I was so convinced of its benefits. Actually, it was easier to make the decision to extend one more year because by then I was already reaping the rewards. And I wanted to reap more. When we were just starting, I did not make it one of our options. It was the only way to go. I was resolute in achieving my goal.

Second, you need to strongly desire to breastfeed your child. If you are half-hearted, chances are you would easily give up when challenges come your way. And there are innumerable challenges you can encounter. So if the desire to breastfeed your baby has not yet won in your heart, your win physically would be unsure. You may be able to breastfeed for a short time but it will not enable you to breastfeed long term. My knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding to me and to my baby fuelled my passion to breastfeed my baby for a long period. I did not only desire it. I desired it passionately, fiercely. My strong desire for it enabled me to overcome ALL the obstacles my son and I encountered along the way. All the challenges we faced were blurred because my eyes were so focused on my goal and its rewards.

Once you win in these inner battles, it will be much easier to win physically.

Here are some more tips I’d like to share that can help you breastfeed successfully.

1. Be Disciplined. – Breastfeeding entails a lot of discipline on the part of the mother. The mother needs to eat healthy foods so that she can provide good nutrition to her baby. She needs to be vigilant in ensuring that she eats right and that she avoids the food that would be bad for her child because whatever she takes in can be ingested also by her baby through her breast milk. And discipline is something you build over time. You can’t be disciplined today and not tomorrow. There are consequences and these could be costly. It can cost your baby’s health. There were countless times when my discipline was tested in the past two years. What enabled me to win over my challenges and temptations was constantly reminding myself of the possible consequences of my indiscipline to my baby. That was enough for me to resist unhealthy food/drinks or food/drinks that should be avoided. Examples of which are coffee, tea and soft drinks/soda, alcoholic drinks, nuts, peanut butter, shrimp paste (bagoong), seafood or fish with high toxicity and mercury content, and food that cause gas among others.

2. Be Willing to Make Sacrifices. – I believe that making sacrifices for your child is an integral part of motherhood. Embracing that concept or principle was easy. Living that out was the difficult part. Again, what made it easier for me to make the sacrifice was the knowledge that I’m sacrificing for a greater purpose. For example, I stopped taking my medicines for my pimples since I got pregnant and while breastfeeding. It was a big sacrifice because that meant enduring skin breakouts for two long years. I was told by the dermatologist that I can only start taking my medications again when I’m no longer breastfeeding my child. But I loved my baby more than my vanity and outside beauty. I focused on the truth instead that I’m growing more beautiful in the inside because I’m learning more and more to choose others over myself. In short, the sacrifice isn’t that bad because not only does it bring good to my baby, it also helps me to grow in character. Now, that my baby has been weaned from the breast, I’m excited to see the dermatologist again! I can be beautiful inside and out again. Hurray!

3. Always Have a Positive Attitude/Mindset. – There are many people and circumstances or things that can discourage you while taking on this challenge of breastfeeding your baby. Don’t let yourself be discouraged. Don’t let them get into you and stop you from achieving a noble goal. Choose to be positive at all times even when everything around you says otherwise. Like what Stephen Covey says, “Carry your own weather.” Be positive. Feed your mind with encouraging thoughts and a mental picture of you happily and successfully breastfeeding your baby. Surround yourself with people who support you and build up your positive disposition and your commitment to breastfeed your child. Win over your thoughts by filtering negative thoughts and nipping unhelpful thoughts in the bud. Your attitude will greatly determine your long term success in breastfeeding your child. If you feel good about what you are doing, chances are you will keep doing it. So find joy in breastfeeding your child even when your nipples are cracked or bleeding or your breasts are engorged with milk. Remember that there is reason for rejoicing even in the most painful moments.

4. Be Persistent. – Last but not the least is persistence. Just keep at it. Whether you feel like doing it or not. Keep on keeping on. That’s how you build discipline. That’s how you build character. That’s how you achieve small successes which will eventually become a big success that will earn you and your baby big rewards. When you make mistakes and when you suffer setbacks, persist. When you see/feel that your milk supply is running low, persist. Just keep on bringing your baby to your breast. Pumping can also help a lot to increase your milk supply. Eat food which help increase milk production like malunggay leaves. Just keep on adding something to that fire within so that it does not completely goes out. Every little thing you do to persist will bring you forward. I remember when I was just starting. There were a number of times when my son was not able to latch correctly. This caused my nipples to crack and bleed. There were times when I cried while breastfeeding my baby. It was really very painful. My husband asked me several times if we would give our baby the bottle, but I said NO. I chose to be persistent and endured the pain because Yanthy was only a few weeks old. I wanted him to get used to my breast before being introduced to a bottle. Then, I discovered silicon nipple shields through a friend. I chose to use them while my nipples were hurting so that I can continue breastfeeding with lesser pain. Those nipple shields helped me survive. They helped a lot. But what helped me the most was my resolve to persist. I am most thankful to God for the grace for I believe that without His grace I would not be able to persist for a long time and achieve my goal.

So there, I hope I have helped other moms out there with this sharing. Let me end by saying: Have faith in God and have faith in yourself. We, mothers, are wonderfully made by God. He created us in a very unique way. Let’s use our unique gift to nourish and bless our children!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching My Toddler Manners

Kids, especially toddlers, are like sponges. They absorb so many new skills and knowledge amazingly fast. I’ve been teaching my son so many things since he was a baby and it never fails to amaze me whenever he starts saying or doing what I have taught him. It could be because I’m a first-time mom. But then again, I suppose it goes beyond that. Raising kids, I believe, is one glorious task. Many times challenging; but nonetheless, glorious and fulfilling as a whole.

My son has brought us so much joy when he first recognized the letters of the alphabet and when he started counting. Today, at 23 months old, he has already mastered counting from 1 to 10 and he can count really fast. He’s now ventured into counting from 11 to 20. And judging by the pace by which he learns, I wouldn’t be surprised if he learns to count up to 20 on or before his second birthday which is less than a month from today. He already knows the alphabet. He recognizes all the letters and knows a number of words that begin with each letter. He has yet to master its correct sequence but he has begun a new pursuit... spelling! He started with his first name (GIAN) then he spelled the word BIG. Talk about setting BIG goals at a young age. It’s truly rewarding for a parent to see progress in his/her son’s learning and development. But the joys of seeing your child learn and take on good manners that you have just recently taught are much more fulfilling.

I was pleasantly caught by surprise when slowly my toddler son began doing the things that my husband and I had been teaching him in the past months. He first learned to cover his mouth when coughing or sneezing. He wipes his mouth with his bib after eating or drinking. He also covers his mouth at times when laughing. He now knows how to say “thank you” and “excuse me.” He knows how to take the hand of his parents and elders to ask for blessing. He knows how to say his prayers before meals and before going to bed. He knows how to show reverence for the images of Jesus and Mary. He sometimes says “please” and returns things when you ask him. He cleans up the floor or the table whenever he spilled something on it. He also greets people “good morning” or “good night” wherever he sees them – be they strangers that he just saw or family members he know. He also says “goodbye” even to security guards and elevator operators when he’s about to leave. He knows how to share his food or drink not only with family members but even to people he doesn’t know. Lately, he has been slowly learning how to use the quiet voice which would prove to be very helpful when we are in church.

I used to wonder before if it’s possible to teach a toddler manners. Now, I know it can be done. I have learned from my experience of teaching my son that parents can sometimes underestimate their children’s capabilities and that it would help to always take some time to pay close attention on their progress to gauge if we are setting the bar too low. I also believe that it’s good to start teaching manners and values while they are young so that they would form a good habit of practicing them. I have also learned firsthand that kids learn not only by telling them what to say and do but also by having role models around them whom they can emulate. Repetition and frequent reminders are also vital. Today, I‘m happy to witness my toddler slowly form good habits of practicing good manners. These accomplishments encourage me to be persistent and patient in continuously molding his character. He may still have a lot to learn but his current achievements inspire me to aim to be the best teacher I can be both in words and in action. May God’s wisdom direct me and His grace sustain me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mommy’s Me Time

The house is finally quite... with only the sound of the electric fan near the couch and the keyboard as I type my thoughts. I’m done cleaning the house, washing the dishes, bathing the baby and putting him to sleep.

Moms like me -- especially those who do not have maids or who do not have nannies – can be so wrapped up with countless tasks at home that we may sometimes forget to save some “me” time for ourselves. As I grow in experience as a full time mom, I have learned how important it is to carve out a “me” time for myself every now and then. I try to squeeze in something I like into my busy schedule everyday... something that renews me or invigorates me after the many tiring stuff I do at home. It can be as simple as browsing through my favourite magazines on parenting or interior design. It can be a quick shower or nap. Then, when our schedule permits, I try to do something that would require longer periods of time at least once a week. It also helps to have a spouse or a mom who pitches in every once in a while so that I can take some time to recharge.

Looking back, I have realized that no matter how simple or short a “me” time was, it always gave me greater strength to do more for my family. It gave me a greater sense of joy and peace. It restores me not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It empowers me to be more loving and caring. Oh, the wonders that a “me” time can do!

Here are some “me” time activities I do daily or weekly that enable me to be the superwife/mom that my family knows me to be.:) Hope my list inspires you to come up with your own list and to set aside time for yourself.

1. Reading the Bible and a devotional.
2. Having a quick, relaxing shower.
3. Listening to relaxing music.
4. Reading a book or magazine.
5. Writing.
6. Getting in touch with friends through phone or the internet.
7. Taking a nap.
8. Meditation.
9. Listing my to-do’s in my planner.
10. Planning family times.
11. Going to the salon for a haircut or pedicure.
12. Enjoying a home-cooked meal.
13. Doing an arts and crafts project.
14. Window shopping.
15. Shopping for small things that we need.
16. Reviewing my personal dreams and goals.
17. Meeting up with friends.
18. Watching a tv show I like.
19. Whipping up a fruit shake on a warm day/evening and enjoying every sip of it.
20. Planning home improvements for our condo and sketching my ideas.

Let’s take time to take care of ourselves so that we can do a better job taking care of those we love! Enjoy your “me” time, moms!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reading, Repetition and Finally Recitation!

I’ve been reading to my son, Yanthy, since he was a baby. I love reading and I would love to pass on this passion to him. I think I have been successful. Reading has become part of our daily routine. We read the Bible and a devotional (Didache) every morning. We read books throughout the day. We read a book before bed. Sometimes, when we have already turned off the light, I or my husband simply recites the lines from his book entitled The Going to Bed Book.

Last Friday night, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Yanthy has almost memorized the lines from his copy of The Going to Bed Book. It happened by accident. I forgot what to say next while reciting the lines from the book. Yanthy finished the next lines for me. I was amazed! I felt so proud and fulfilled to know that he has followed and understood the story we’ve been reading to him since he was small. And he already knows most of the lines. I’ve seen and heard him do this before (like a month earlier) with his Level 1 Cars book entitled Old, New, Red, Blue. Since the book is for Level 1 readers, the lines or sentences are very short. Yanthy was able to memorize them easily. Sometimes, he would recite the lines even without looking at the pages of his book. We were already impressed when we witnessed him do that. We were impressed even more when he recited longer lines from his bedtime book. I guess it wasn’t really accident that I discovered Yanthy’s new skill. I think it was God’s way of rewarding me after a long and tiring week running the household and caring for my child.

And yet the surprise did not end there; for while in the car last Saturday, Yanthy amazed and amused me by singing nursery songs such as the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It was the first time I heard him sing these songs with him leading me in the singing. I purposely delayed singing the next lines to test if he knows what will come next. He knew! He has almost memorized the Alphabet song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Then it dawned on me that repetition has helped us a lot. We’ve been playing nursery songs to him since he was a baby every morning. We did it to help him become familiarized with the songs. I must have underestimated my son’s ability because it surprised me last week when I discovered that not only does he memorized some of the lines of the nursery songs, he also knows the stories in each of them. Amazing!

Moreover, I realized at the children’s party we attended last Saturday that Yanthy is truly more gifted in music than me. He can easily identify the songs by simply listening to the first few notes or the introduction. During the game where I was one of the contestants last Saturday, I had to wait until the chorus or refrain to identify the songs. No wonder, my team lost!

It was another action-packed weekend but fun-filled nonetheless. I thank God for the many pleasant surprises He gave me. Yanthy’s accomplishments and milestones were my biggest blessings. They gave me great joy. Motherhood, parenting and teaching a child basic skills can be challenging. But last weekend, God showed me how rewarding it can also be when you start reaping the fruits of your labor.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What a day!

Day 2 without a maid: another busy and exhausting day at home. I had to juggle between domestic concerns and business concerns. At a certain point, I had to chase Yanthy as he goes around grabbing different objects unfit for his clumsy hands and at the same time talk to Powerbook’s Accounting staff on the phone about remaining stocks and number of books sold. Sigh. And my list of to-do’s seems endless even at this time of night (9 o’clock). But I’m not frantic or sad. In fact, I’m happy and at peace.

I’m happy because I know I have served my family well. I made mistakes along the way... like I forgot to add cheese cubes to the Italian sausage and macaroni soup I prepared for George’s packed lunch. I hit Yanthy’s hand back when he hit my hand while he was having another tantrum. I shouted at Yanthy when I was having a hard time getting him out of the bathroom after giving him a bath out of fear that I might drop him on the floor. And I guess there are still some more that I could not remember now.

In spite of all the mistakes I’ve made today, I’m still at peace for I know that I have done the most important things required of me today. I know that God sees my heart and He knows how much I’m trying to follow Mama Mary’s example in being a good wife and mom. I admit that I’m still far from being as gentle and loving as she is but I don’t lose hope. I’m confident that with each new day full of challenges comes God’s immeasurable grace. I will simply keep on availing His grace and hope that one day I would serve my family as lovingly as Mama Mary did.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Terrible (Not Yet) Two

I have just read a number of articles about the Terrible Twos stage and I thank God I took the time tonight to sit down and learn more about this stage. Yanthy is a month and a half away from his second birthday. If I have not chosen to read the articles I read tonight, I wouldn’t know that the Terrible Twos stage can start as early as 18 months or right after a child’s first birthday. Now, I understand better where my little one is coming from.

My son, Yanthy, is terribly cute and adorable most of the time. He’s been one source of joy and pride for me and my husband. I love it when he smiles, calls me “Mommy,” hugs and kisses me without a reason, tries to help me with my chores, sits on my lap and asks me to read to him, prays with me, plays with me and so much more.

But this little boy also upsets me and frustrates me countless times during the day. There are times when he would ignore me when I ask him to do simple things like clean up his mess after he has played and scattered his toys or books on the floor. There are times when he would do the opposite of what I’m telling him like when I tell him not to jump on the bed because he might fall. To my dismay, he would jump repeatedly. And he would even try to jump even after I have removed him from the bed. There are also instances when he would ask for water or a certain food and after I’ve prepared it and about to give it to him, he would suddenly turn his head away and say “No!”

I sometimes wonder, “Where did my sweet little boy go?” whenever he does these things. His behaviour sometimes confuses me and makes me feel helpless especially when he repeatedly makes tantrums. I also sometimes wonder if I’m doing things right in raising him up because he sometimes does not show positive or agreeable behaviour.

I have read books and other materials on disciplining toddlers before but it was only tonight that I felt enlightened and less guilty. I learned that it’s a normal stage that any loving little boy can still go through and that like a lot of terrible (in the negative sense) things in life, it will come to pass.

I guess that the most important lesson I learned from the articles I read tonight is learning to empathize with my son. Like him, I sometimes feel troubled whenever I want to do something that others especially those close to me do not approve of. Like what the author in one of the articles said, my son at this point wants to assert himself and learn to be independent. His personality and character is being formed as he discovers and learns many things and applies these learning in his everyday activities. My role as a parent is to support him as he finds his way through life. He may be too young and too clumsy for his ambitious pursuits right now but the manner by which I respond to him as he deals with his current pursuits can have impact on his long term behaviour.

I also liked one advice from another author. He encouraged parents like me who are dealing with Terrible Twos behaviour in our children to focus more on the good times than on the bad and to make the most of our time together now our children are young. Like most parents who have already passed this stage and who have already raised their kids, he said that children grow very fast. And I couldn’t help but agree. I have chosen to be a full time stay-at-home mom since I got pregnant because I want to witness my baby’s milestones and closely monitor his progress. I want to capture and document as much as I could. But even as a full time mom, there’s so much that escaped my attention. Time really flies so fast and before I knew it, he’s almost two. He has grown to be so tall, strong and intelligent. He has learned and mastered a number of things.

Two things I like about having a terrible (not yet) two in my life right now: first, I’m humbled; second, I’m sharpened like iron. I’m humbled to realize that no matter how educated or informed I am, there’s still a lot I need to learn as a parent. I’m sharpened like iron because a lot of times, my character is tested whenever my son throws a tantrum. And for these two benefits alone, I am most thankful to God. I pray that I would always be open to God’s grace and wisdom so that even when times are challenging, I would be able to handle my son’s behaviour with gentleness and grace.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Encounter with our Merciful God at the Confessional

It has been around three months (I think) since my last confession. Thank God for churches like the Greenbelt chapel wherein there is a regular and long time allotted for confession. I was happy and excited as I fell in line because I’ve been planning to go to confession in the past months but could not find time. I used to go to confession every month or every two weeks when I was still single but now that I’m married and have a child, following this schedule has been quite a challenge.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. The sins I have committed since my last confession are the following...” I enumerated my sins and waited for the priest to give me penance and absolution. But before doing so, the priest spoke words of wisdom and love to me that almost brought me to tears as I was listening. First, he asked me what led or moved me to commit some sins of omission. When I told him some of the factors that led me to commit some of them, he even tried to give me some excuse. Then, he built me up by saying that I have established very good habits and that I should persevere in practicing them to ensure that my faith would always be strong. He encouraged me to be more loving and generous. After he has said those words, he finally gave me my penance and absolution.

I was moved by the words of the priest because I felt God’s mercy through him. I felt God speaking to me words of compassion and understanding. It felt like God Himself was comforting me, dispelling my guilt and pointing out to me that basically I have a good heart and that I just need to be reminded that goodness is my nature because I am His child. The reflection from Didache today echoes this message. “We are all sinners in God’s eyes. But with mercy He sees the goodness in our hearts. There is hope for us in God.”

God’s love and mercy moves me to strive to be more Christ-like. It inspires me to go beyond my challenges, difficulties and weaknesses. It gives me hope because God Himself believes in me. His belief in me empowers me to push beyond my perceived personal limits and to achieve things that sometimes seem impossible or very difficult to do. Yesterday, I thanked God again for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Truly, it was an encounter with our merciful God and Father. I felt so blessed to be His child!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prayerful Yanthy

My son never fails to both amuse and amaze me. Today, he amazed me again while we were waiting for our turn at his pediatrician’s clinic. At first, he was just reading out loud all the letters and numbers he could identify while roaming around the clinic. Then, all of a sudden he asked me and our maid to kneel and pray. I hesitated for a while but eventually gave in. I paused for a second and started praying. “Lord, thank you for bringing us safely here in the hospital for Yanthy’s check up. Please make Yanthy well soon. Amen.” We all stood up and I went back to my seat while Yanthy resumed his tour of the clinic.

This was not the first time Yanthy did this. One time he kneeled and prayed while we were at the Office Warehouse Store buying a new computer table. That time he didn’t ask anyone to join him. He simply kneeled in front of the table and the two men who were checking the parts of the computer table we were about to purchase. At that time, he reminded me to thank God for the blessing of a new computer table. The other time was at David’s Salon while his dad was having a haircut. I just had my haircut and it was his Dad’s turn so I stayed with Yanthy at the reception area of the salon. As usual, he was exploring the salon. Then suddenly, he knelt in front of his stroller and put his hands together. I thought he would pray on his own but he decided to ask me to join him so he pulled my hand and said: “Mommy, kneel. Pray.” With a moment’s hesitation again, I decided to kneel beside Yanthy and said a prayer with him. We prayed: “Thank you, Lord, for our chance to have a haircut today and for the opportunity to have family bonding time. Amen.” Then we stood as if nothing extraordinary happened. I took my seat again and Yanthy resumed walking around the reception area and charming the people there.

I usually have mixed emotions whenever Yanthy does that. I feel happy and proud because my boy knows and loves to pray to Jesus. But I also sometimes feel embarrassed. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to kneel and pray with him in a public place. Most of the time, I’m embarrassed because God had to use Yanthy to remind me to pray a prayer of thanks for a blessing he has just given me or a prayer He has just answered. Today, God reminded me again of a very important lesson through my son: Do not be embarrassed to pray anytime, anywhere.

I guess a lot of people would already consider me prayerful because I pray a number of times during the day – upon waking up, before and after meals, before bed and several times during the day whenever I remember to pray for a specific intention or person. But every time my son asks me to join him as he kneels and prays in public, I feel that I’m being tested. I feel that Jesus is watching me and gently coaxing me to follow my son’s example. Will I be embarrassed to practice my faith? Will I be embarrassed to be identified as Christian? Will I be embarrassed to give thanks for simple blessings?

I thank the Lord for giving me a prayerful son and using him to remind me to be always grateful and to pray unceasingly. Actually, God’s promptings to me to give thanks through Yanthy were very timely. I had been waiting for some time to finally buy a new computer table and to get a haircut then. It was just right that I thank the Lord that He has given me that chance to have those simple prayers answered. And earlier this morning, I was actually silently praying that we’d be safe during our trip to the hospital since we only took the cab going there. I also prayed that Yanthy’s persisting fever was not due to a major illness. When Yanthy asked me to kneel and pray with him at the clinic, God gave me a chance to vocally express what’s in my heart at that time. As I’ve said earlier, I find this experience both amusing and amazing.

And as I end this reflection, I pray that I would not stop being a radical for Jesus and that I would continue to grow in my relationship with God. I pray that I would be bold and confident at all times to live out my faith and be not embarrassed or afraid to be a witness for Christ. Lastly, I pray that my son would continue to be an inspiration to others even as he grows up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mommy TG’s 4-Week Cycle Menu

Here are some strategies in the kitchen that I employ as a practical mom. First and foremost, I try to include as many dishes as possible in the menu that are complete meals in themselves to save on preparation time and money. If the recipe does not include both meat and vegetables, that’s the only time that I include a vegetable dish or side dish. Second, we just have one kind of dish for lunch and dinner since there are only three and a half (Yanthy, my 20 month old son, is the half.) of us in the house. We cook enough food for lunch and dinner so we save on cooking time and energy. We simply heat the food come dinnertime. This gives me and my maid additional time to do other things. Third, I make sure that there is balance in our food intake. I make sure that in a week, we don’t only eat chicken and pork dishes. I include fish and vegetable dishes in the weekly menu. I have actually limited pork dishes to twice a month to make our diet healthier. I've decided to take out my usual seafood recipes to make way for healthier fish and vegetable dishes. I'd probably cook them once a quarter only.

We usually eat a heavy breakfast on weekdays so most of the time we have rice in the morning. We don’t serve and eat hotdogs for breakfast or snacks because it’s very unhealthy and contains a lot of carcinogens. I have included here homemade tocino as a healthier option for breakfast courtesy of a friend who shared her recipe with me. Click here to check it out.  When we notice that we’re gaining weight, we simply replace the planned breakfast/dinner with oatmeal. At least once a week, we eat oatmeal for breakfast. Our usual morning drink is either milk, milk chocolate or juice. All meals are accompanied by fruits in season.

On special occasions, I replace the main dish with a pasta dish. If I have extra time, I whip up a dessert. If not, we just buy ice cream or cake.

For snacks in between, we eat sandwiches or fresh fruits. No junk food.  We are slowly shifting to organic food beginning with the use of brown rice, muscovado sugar and wheat bread. Eventually, we’d be using organic eggs, chicken and vegetables.

This menu cycle is still a work in progress. I intend to include healthier options in the future to replace not so healthy breakfast meals. In the meantime, I continue to search for healthy recipes and experiment in the kitchen in order to come up with healthy meals my family would love.

I hope to be of help somehow to moms like me by sharing this 4-week cycle menu plan with you.

2014 UPDATE!!!

I have made two versions of this 4-Week-Cycle Menu so readers can choose which one suits their lifestyle or preferences best. The first printable summarizes the dishes included in the original 4-Week-Cycle Menu above. The second printable is an updated version which reflects my family's current preferences (This includes my two boys.). I have made these available in PDF so you can print them and post them in your kitchen. I also made a blank Menu Planning Form in PDF in case you'd like to change some of the dishes I have included or change the sequence or combinations in this menu.


My 4-week-cycle menu plan is now in available in 3 versions. Had to revise it again after my husband requested another healthier option. ;) Take your pick, guys!

Sign up below to get your free copy!

Download a free copy of Mommy TG's 4-Week-Cycle Menu (Versions 1 and 2) plus a free template for easier menu planning.

We respect your email privacy
Email Marketing by AWeber