Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Practical Mom’s Money-saving Strategies (Part 1)

They say that tough times do not last but tough people do. Well, I say that tough moms like me make use of money-saving strategies during tough times to creatively make the most of what we have. I’m proud and happy to say that ever since I became a mom, I have grown to become more practical. Moreover, I have learned to live simply and find joy in simple pleasures. Let me share with you some of my strategies.

1. Make a monthly budget. Making a monthly budget enables me to plan our expenses so that we live only within our means. I make a list of all the things that we need to spend on and pay for in the coming months. If we have extra, then that’s the time that I check our list of other things that we need to pay or spend on. The last list I consult is the list of things that are nice to have or spend on. Then, I present our options to my husband and we decide what we think would be the best use of our resources. It’s so tempting to rush to the malls every pay day and just shop without making any plans or careful study of our finances. But this can lead to disastrous results. We may end up using hard-earned money on not so important things. So I diligently make a monthly household budget and do my best to stick to it. We are not always able to exactly follow our monthly budget but at least we don’t deviate too far from it. It’s like aiming for the stars so that if you miss them, at least you land on the roof.

2. Plan your menu and make a grocery list. Menu planning is one of my favorite duties as a wife. It’s one way by which I exercise my creativity to stretch the value of our money. Once the grocery budget has been set, I take on the challenge of planning meals to ensure that our diet is healthy and balanced. Planning the menu for at least a week enables me to have better view of what goes into our plates and what comes out of our pocket for groceries. I have actually designed a four- week cycle menu which I update every now and then. Having a menu plan enables me to make sure that we have variety in the food that we eat. It also makes it easier for me to make a grocery list. A grocery list on one hand helps me and my husband to save time going around the grocery store and to stick to our grocery budget.

3. Prepare packed lunches and snacks. I’m blessed to have a husband who doesn’t mind bringing his own lunch and snacks to the office. It not only saves us money but it’s also one way for me to ensure that my husband eats on time and healthy even when outside the home. I remember one time when he wasn’t able to bring packed lunch and he had a meeting that lasted up to past noon. He went to their cafeteria and found out that there’s no more food being sold. Since the fast food outlets are quite far, he simply called and ordered a sandwich to be delivered to him. But it took some time before he got his order. If he had his packed lunch then, he could have eaten lunch earlier and he would have a healthier meal.

4. Read a lot of baby and toddler books and literature. I learn a lot from the books and magazines that I read. I acknowledge that there’s a lot that I need to learn being a first time parent. Reading increases my awareness and knowledge which in turn equips and empowers me in taking care of my baby. I firmly believe that knowledge is indeed power. The lessons that I learned from the books and magazines I’ve read taught me to approach unfamiliar situations with confidence and peace. These books empowered me to personally take care of my baby instead of getting a yaya. These books provided me with helpful guidelines on what to feed my baby to prevent allergies or sickness or to simply keep him safe. Because I educated myself, I didn’t have to panic and rush to the pediatrician or hospital whenever something’s going on with my baby.

5. Breastfeed. I breastfed my baby since day 1. Thanks be to God and to my breastfeeding support group – my husband, my mom, breastfeeding consultant/coach and friends who were also breastfeeding moms – I have been successfully breastfeeding for 18 months now. Not only was I able to provide the best milk for my baby but we were also able to save thousands of pesos on formula milk. My son still breastfeeds from me at least twice a day (upon waking up in the morning and before bed at night) although he now eats solid food and is supplemented by formula milk. We were also able to save on medical costs because my son hardly got sick during his first year of life because of the antibodies he got from breastfeeding. He has also grown to be very intelligent and healthy. (For more information about breastfeeding, you may click and read my previous blog entry entitled In Giving, We receive – The Wonders of Breastfeeding.)

These are just some of the strategies I employ as a practical mom. Hope you learned something from this article. I will share more strategies next time. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email if you have questions on the topics or strategies I discussed above. I would gladly answer them and partner with you in your resolve to be one tough mom for your family.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Celebrating My Baby’s Milestones

I first heard Yanthy say a two-word phrase more than a month ago when he imitated me and said “my baby.” Around a week ago, he was able to say “ice cream.” This morning, my husband and I heard him use a two-word phrase again when he said “car key.” We were both delighted. He said it so clearly! And he kept saying it while holding our car key in his hand and going around the bedroom.

Last Friday, he had another milestone. He nodded his head for the first time to say yes. It’s been quite a while that Yanthy has been shaking his head to both say yes and no. I remember when I would ask him if he wants more biscuit and he would shake his head and smile. But he would reach for my hand to ask for another one. So, I understood that he means yes. Then, he learned to say “eat.” This time, Yanthy would say eat instead of saying yes when I ask him if he wants to eat some more. I’ve been teaching him to nod to say yes in the past months every time I feed him. I nod my head and say yes then I shake my head and say no to help him distinguish between the two. I did the same thing last Friday when I was feeding him bread sticks and he surprised me when he suddenly nodded after I asked him if he wants more. At last! My efforts paid off. I believe that this new milestone is a big development in my son’s communication skills. With this new learning, we would be able to understand him better. It excites me even more to communicate with him.

Yanthy is really growing fast. Noticing developments in his language skills is just one of them. Lately, we noticed that Yanthy does a lot of pretend play also. I first noticed this when he was still confined in his crib most of the time. I would see him playing on his own as if flying an airplane. Now, I would see him pretend that he’s talking to someone on the phone, reading, eating, drinking, bathing, driving and of course flying an airplane. It’s so much fun watching him do these things.

Yanthy has also shown interest in writing and drawing. He likes to practice using a pencil and writing on paper. I’ve been teaching him how to write his name, trace his toys, his hands and feet on paper and he has been imitating me since the first time I showed him how. He grabs my pen whenever he sees me write. Sometimes, he takes the initiative to get a paper and pen on his own from our study area. He doesn’t know yet how to write his name or draw geometric shapes but at least he can already draw lines and he’s getting better in holding a pen. I simply encourage him and praise him whatever his doodle looks like. At this point, it’s more important for me that he’s interested to learn how to write and draw and that he’s having fun learning. I’m sure he’ll learn soon.

There are also other things that Yanthy can already do now. He can already solve 2 to 3 piece puzzles. He can jump in place without falling. He can climb up the slide and slide down it on his own. He can drink from his glass on his own. He has been successful in going to his potty once. He can say his nickname (Yanthy) although not yet very clearly. He can brush his teeth with some supervision. He can build a tower of six cups. He knows how to wash and dry his hands. He knows how to scrub himself when taking a bath. He can remember some of the actions for the nursery rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Little Teapot. He can finish his 10-piece shape sorter without asking any help from me or his Dad. He can identify the owners of pieces of clothing, like one time he pointed to his Dad’s shirt and said Daddy. Another time, he pointed to my jacket and said Mommy. That really impressed me because I hardly wear that jacket so I was wondering how he remembered that it was mine. He can now climb stairs on his own although he’s still slow and we stay close to him just in case he slips to prevent a fall. These are just some of his milestones and I can’t help but be proud of my baby’s accomplishments. I guess every Mom or parent is like that. We’re eager to see our baby’s development and we celebrate even the littlest accomplishments.

I know that Yanthy still has a lot to learn and that he will continue to amaze me as I watch him learn new things. I on my part also have a lot to learn as a parent and I’m excited to learn new skills as well to grow to be a better Mom to my son. In the meantime, let me close this sharing by saying “Cheers! To Yanthy and to all that he has achieved so far.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Precious Moments with Yanthy

Every moment with my son is precious to me but there are instances and moments which are extra precious because they do not always happen... and when they do, I try to capture them through a camera or video. Most of the time though, I can only commit them to my memory.

Today, I had my share once more of precious moments with my son. We played hide and seek and ran around the house, laughing and giggling out loud. Sometimes he would even shout and squeal out of excitement. Then, he asked me to turn on the stereo so we can play some music. I thought he simply wants to dance. So I sat down after turning the stereo on. I was surprised when he was suddenly tugging me from sitting comfortably on the couch. I realized that he wanted me to dance with him. I thought I could take some time to rest... I was wrong. But never mind because I like dancing anyway. I taught him some dance moves. He tried to imitate me but I guess my moves are still quite advance for him. So I just clapped and swayed and stepped sideways every now and then. We were both sweating by the time Yanthy lost interest dancing.

Next, we played with his stacking cups. I noticed that he can now stack six cups consecutively without help. He has grown to control his movements more. I’m so proud of his accomplishment. Wasn’t it just yesterday when I was still guiding him and helping him so that the cups won’t fall? Now, he can do it on his own and he has picked up some speed. Ah! My baby has grown and he’s growing fast!

Later this evening, I tried to put him in his high chair to rest for a while because we’re already sweating. He hugged me tightly and held on to me so I wouldn’t be able to strap him to his chair. Instead of fighting with him, I chose to hug him back and enjoyed the moment.

After we had dinner, he sat on my lap with his feet wrapped around my waist. We were combing his hair when he suddenly gazed at me and started combing my hair as well. I thought that it was sweet. I noticed that Yanthy likes to do to us what we do for him. When I give him bread sticks or biscuits, he offers them to me as well. When I give him a drink, he pauses and tries to share his drink with me or his Dad. He’s such a sweet little boy.

These, and many more -- like cuddling in bed or in the couch, staring into my eyes and saying “Mommy” with a smile, surprising me with a kiss or tickling me especially when I’m lying in bed -- make my days extra special. Tomorrow, we will celebrate my precious one’s 18 month birthday. I’m sure we’d have many more precious moments together celebrating life and the gift of each other.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Our First Visita Iglesias as a Family

It was an exciting time for us! I was the most excited, of course. It has been my practice to do Visita Iglesias during Maundy Thursday when I was still single. And I dreamed of sharing this tradition with my future family when I get married. I had been looking forward to this! It’s our first time to do it as a family this year. I was already pregnant and was on bed rest on our first Holy Week as a married couple. Last year, Yanthy was only 5 months old so we decided to forego with the Visita Iglesias. Now that Yanthy is 1 year and 5 months old, we think that he’s big enough to join us and endure the trip to the different churches.

I packed our bag early -- complete with Yanthy’s toiletries and other needs. I brought change of clothes for my husband and me and some small towels. We brought water bottles and biscuits. We also brought with us the carrot shake I made for my husband and banana shake for me and our maid. With our digital camera fully charged, our prayer book and our itinerary in our bag, we were ready to step out into an adventure!

We left the house after lunch around 1:30 pm. It was hot! But it’s okay because we brought our umbrella. I also made sure that we brought Yanthy’s sunglasses and hat. We’re all set to visit the 14 churches in our itinerary. Our plan is to pray one Station of the Cross in every church. All the churches in our list are located in Sucat only. Our goal is to finish all of them in time for the 6 pm Mass of the Last Supper at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish.

We started our Visita Iglesias at El Shaddai’s House of Prayer in Amvel City, Sucat Road. We usually pass by Amvel City whenever we go to SM Sucat but we haven’t visited it. It was our first time yesterday. It was massive. It was shaped like a cross and the altar area was like Noah’s Ark complete with water surrounding it. We took pictures and started with the Stations of the Cross at the chapel behind the altar. Then, off we went to the next church.

Our next stop was at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Quirino Avenue. It’s also our first time to go to this church so we were watchful for the landmarks shared with us by the parish staff when I called up their office to ask for directions. Turn right at a 7-11 store and go straight until you see the church which is in front of St. Paul College, Parañaque. That was easy. Yanthy was already asleep by the time that we reached the church so we put him on the stroller. It looks like an old church, much like the old churches in Old Manila and Binondo. We prayed the second Station of the Cross then we had picture-taking again inside and outside the church.

The next church on our list was St. Joseph Parish in Tambo, Quirino Avenue. I wasn’t able to contact the church’s parish office that’s why we do not know where it is along Quirino Avenue. We just prayed that we were on the right path. God answered our prayer. We didn’t get lost. The church was closed but they provided an area for the Stations of the Cross beside it. We prayed the third Station of the Cross and took pictures outside the church. Yanthy was still asleep as we left for the fourth church in our list.

Our Lady of the Airways Parish was next. The staff from their parish office said that it’s very near Nayong Pilipino. We missed it the first time we passed by the Airport Road. But we saw it eventually when we were near Nayong Pilipino. So we made a U-turn and headed to the church. We realized that we usually pass by the church on our way home whenever we’re coming from Makati or Quezon City via the Airport Road. It was only now that we noticed it. Yanthy was still asleep. We prayed the fourth Station of the Cross and took pictures. Then, Yanthy woke up while we were walking back to our car.

Our fifth church is Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish at San Antonio Valley 6 in Barangay San Isidro. We saw it already during our dry run but we didn’t go inside the church. So, it was also our first time to go inside the church yesterday. We prayed the fifth Station of the Cross with Yanthy since he was already awake. He was so cute trying to imitate us as we genuflected in front of the Station. We had picture-taking; then, we waited outside the church by the grotto while my husband had a confession. We also took pictures of Yanthy praying to Mama Mary at the grotto. Then, we had one last shot before we finally left for the next church.

We went to Our Lady of Unity Parish at United Parañaque Subdivision. It was also part of our dry run last weekend so it was easy for us to go to the church yesterday. The landmark given to us was also hard to miss, Puregold store along Sucat Road. We prayed the sixth Station of the Cross and took pictures.

We’re now on our way to the next three churches that are quite near each other. The first two churches are inside BF Homes while the third is inside Tahanan Village. We went to these churches during our dry run but we didn’t go inside. We simply checked them out so that we would easily find them come our actual Visita Iglesias.

We first went to the Presentation of the Child Jesus Parish. We went to the parking area where the Stations of the Cross were located before we had our picture taken. The mass was already about to start that we didn’t stay very long.

The Stations of the Cross at the next church, Parish of the Resurrection, was also at the parking area and grotto. We prayed the eighth Station of the Cross by the grotto then we took pictures before leaving. We didn’t enter the church anymore. The mass was already going on and we were also in a hurry to finish the Stations of the Cross so we can make it on time for the Holy Mass.

Just like in the last two churches, the Stations of the Cross were also in the garden by the grotto. We prayed the ninth Station of the Cross at the garden then we went inside to pray. They have a nice altar area and stained glass design. As usual, we had picture-taking before leaving for the next church.

We’re now on our way to our tenth church, Our Lady of Grace in Ireneville Subdivision. It was our first time to visit the church. We just know that Ireneville Subdivision was across Shopwise and Max’s Restaurant as told by the parish staff when I called to inquire. So we asked the subdivision’s guard for directions as we entered the gate. The mass was also about to start so we proceeded right away with the tenth Station of the Cross and quickly took pictures. It was already past 5 pm. My husband decided that we go to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish now so we could make it on time to the Mass of the Last Supper. It was a good decision because we still had time to eat some biscuits in the car while at the parking lot.

The church was already packed by the time we arrived. It was a good thing that we were able to find vacant seats. The mass was quite long because there was a re-enactment of the washing of the feet. It was tempting to finish the remaining Stations of the Cross here and no longer proceed to the last three churches in our list. We were all tired and hungry. So I prayed for grace that God would sustain us. God heard my prayer again. We were recharged during the Holy Mass. We prayed the eleventh Station of the Cross, took a picture and left for the next church. We didn’t take many pictures anymore because this is where we usually attend Holy Mass on Sundays when we do not attend the Kerygma Feast. But this picture is significant for Yanthy. This is the church where Yanthy was baptized. We’re glad that this church was part of our first Visita Iglesias as a family.

We went to the Ascension of our Lord Parish in Goodwill Subdivision next. It was already dark. Thank God for the landmark shared with us by the parish staff, we were able to find it right away. We were also confident to proceed with the Visita Iglesias even though it’s already dark because we went to the last two churches during our dry run while we’re already familiar with the last church on our list. They were already having the vigil when we arrived at the church. The Stations of the Cross were at the garden. We prayed the twelfth Station of the Cross and took some pictures.

The next church was at Fourth Estate Subdivision in front of Manila Memorial Park. We noticed that it’s quite challenging to find a parking space outside the church when we went there during our dry run. But God had been gracious to us when we went there yesterday. We found one right away. The procession of the Blessed Sacrament was going on when we arrived at the church so we waited for it to finish before praying the thirteenth Station of the Cross. We hurriedly took pictures and excitedly left for the last church in our list.

The last church in our Visita Iglesias was San Antonio de Padua Parish. We sometimes attend Holy Mass there that’s why we were already familiar with it. The vigil was also ongoing when we got there. We prayed the last Station of the Cross and the closing prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Then we had picture-taking again outside the church. It was already 9 pm. We were already hungry but we were also very happy! We finished all 14 churches in spite of some challenges. It was truly an adventure for the whole family. And just like in our Christian life, there will always be challenges along the way. We may even be delayed sometimes in achieving our goals. But in the end, if we hold on to God and ask for His help and grace, we would emerge victorious. It was a great privilege to trace Jesus’ footsteps during His passion, death and resurrection in our own simple way. We trust that as we strive to be one with Him in His passion and death, we would also be one with Him when He rises again.