Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why our family does not participate in the usual trick or treats and halloween costume parties

Halloween is just around the corner and decorations abound wherever we go even in our neighborhood.  As usual, we see a lot of bats, spider webs, witches, and many other scary characters scattered in places that many people frequent.  It's that time of year again when I need to do a lot of expplaining to my very curious little boy why there are a lot of decors like that.  I thank the Lord that our family was able to attend the Mass at SM Cinema 4 last night as part of The Feast Sucat gathering.  It was our second time to attend The Feast in Sucat.  Fr. Larry Faraon gave a very timely homily during the Mass.  His homily affirmed me and my husband in the decision we made years ago of not participating in trick or treats  or Halloween costume parties that do not uphold the real reason for the celebration.   Let me share some of the things/points that Fr. Larry shared/raised in his homily that strengthened my resolve in this issue.
  1. Don't say it's just a harmless costume party to make kids happy and let kids enjoy.  The devil is the father of lies and he is good at deception. That is what he wants us, Christians, to think.  He wants us to think that there is nothing wrong with the practices, costumes, etc. The truth is that he is actually deceiving us believers by making us believe that he is not behind these activities so that we would be lured to participate. Fr. Larry quoted a verse from Holy Scriptures: "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)  The devil has successfully penetrated modern society by destroying this supposedly beautiful celebration.  But we can prevent this from affecting our families with a piece of advice from Fr. Larry which I will put in number two.
  2. Don't give the devil a chance to enter your hearts and your homes.  We need to be more discerning in this time and age as Christians; otherwise, we would be easily lured and conformed to the influences of our surroundings.  Fr. Larry adviced parents against dressing our kids in scary or demonic costumes and decorating our homes with things/items associated with evil spirits and the dark world because it's like inviting the enemy into our homes and our lives.  He warned us that the enemy would happily indulge himself and take our acts of welcome seriously.  He adviced us to ignore the enemy and his presence instead.  After hearing Fr. Larry say these words, I felt affirmed that I had been ignoring the commercialized/unChristian Halloween celebrations that abound during this time of year.  These celebrations have always made me feel uncomfortable and last night God used Fr. Larry to explain why I was feeling that way all along.  Now, I feel more empowered to explain to my little boy  why we do not participate in these parties.  Not that he wants to join these parties, because he actually finds them scary.  Fr. Larry said that instead of celebrating Halloween as modern/western society does, he encouraged us Filipinos to celebrate it by being true to our Catholic faith, by celebrating the beauty of the communion of Saints and by introducing our newest Filipino Saint to our kids, Saint Pedro Calungsod.  He said that by doing this, we are ignoring the enemy/devil and his presence in our society and thus not giving him a chance to enter our lives.  It is also an opportuned time to teach our kids about the beauty of our faith and that there are Saints who can inspire us in our walk with God and whom we should emulate.  This gave me an idea of who to introduce to our eldest son come All Saints' Day next weekend.  We have started a family tradition in the past years of celebrating Halloween or All Saints' Day differently and we intend to do this again this year.  You may click here to read a previous post I made a couple of years ago on how we can celebrate All Saints' Day meaningfully according to our Catholic faith.
  3. The commercialized celebrations of Halloween distracts us Catholics from celebrating and passing on the rich faith heritage that we have in our Church to our children. Instead of teaching our kids about the real reason of the celebration which is the celebration of All Saints Day and our Catholic doctrine of the communion of Saints, our attention and energies are spent following the trends dictated by modern society. 
    
    
    Photo source here.
         Let me quote from Sacred Scriptures again: "Do not be conformed to this world (this
         age),   [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be
         transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its
         new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable
         and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in
         His sight for you]." (Romans 12:2 AMP)
        Here are other versions to help us further understand the meaning/message in this 
        verse:
        "Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing
         of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing
         and mature." (CEB)
        "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." (ESV)
        "Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you
         inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of
         God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect." (ERV)
    4.  The enemy of the best is the good.  This was one line/lesson Fr. Larry shared and it's
        true once more in how this truth is embodied in today's modern/commercialized
        celebrations of Halloween.  Aside from parties that encourage kids to dress in
        scary/evil/forces of darkness costumes, there are also parties that encourage kids to
        dress up as superheroes.  Superheroes are good people.  They are portrayed as
        superhumans who fight the evil or bad people in society.  But they are not the best
        people that our kids should look up to as role models.  Christ, the Saints and the men
        and women in the Bible who lived out holy lives are still the best role models for our
        kids and us.  Moreover, superheroes are not real people who truly fought both external
        and internal battles and emerged victorious.  The battles that superheroes fight also
        are most of the time limited to this world.  Introducing the Saints and the holy people in
        the Bible enables us parents to share about life eternal to our kids.  This helps them
        see beyond this time and age, beyond this life and teach them that they are actually
        citizens of heaven and are pilgrims only in this earth.  These are essential
        teachings/catechesis that we should be sharing with our children if we are to offer them
        the best. 
Having said that, how do we Catholics/Christians celebrate Halloween in a way that would glorify God and honor the Saints?  There are many ways and suggestions and I encourage you to read these for ideas.  There are many more that you can discover in the internet through blogs of many Catholic/Christian moms. 
Let's bring back the "hallow" in Halloween and honor the Saints on All Saints' Day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A New Mission

I received a new assignment from God while celebrating Mass with my family last Sunday and listening to the priest's homily about the life of Saint Pedro Calungsod
 
Photo source here.
 
I was particularly struck by some lines that he said:
 
"Lahat tayo tinawag para mag-misyon... 'Wag mong sabihing simpleng may-bahay ka lang, simpleng empleyado ka lang, bata ka lang, estudyante ka lang... Basta handang mag-alay, maaaring mag-misyon. Kung saan tayo inilagay, ito ang ating misyon. Doon tayo tinawag." (All of us are called to be on a mission... Don't say that you're just a simple housewife, a simple employee, a child/youth, a student... As long as you are ready to offer your life, you can be on a mission.  Where God has planted/placed you, that is your mission field.  That's where God called you to be on a mission.)
 
I could relate to the homily very much because I have been on mission with God since I was in college.  God planted this seed of being a missionary wherever God puts me in my heart when I was a part of Christ's Youth in Action.  I continued to respond to this call when I was single and was serving actively in Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon Community and in the Light of Jesus Community. Today, I continue to be on mission with God in my home and in every place and circle where I find myself in, doing my best to reflect Jesus in my life, preaching and sharing my life story when needed.
 
As I was listening to the priest give his homily, I was reminded by God of another former community, which at a certain time of my life, I thought would be my community for life - the Carmelite Missionaries.  Yes, I was a former aspirant of the Carmelite Missionaries and I fell in love with their way of life.  I thought I would join them after college.  I even made a movie with them entitled Unseen Devotion, which I heard from them was translated into different dialects and shown at their search-ins throughout the country.  Anyway, God led me to the marriage vocation instead and now I continue to be on mission as a wife, mom, writer/author, HR consultant, etc. (To find out more abut my state of life discernment, you'll have to buy and read a copy of my book When My Bridegroom Comes where I narrated it.)  What I remember though during our search-ins was that there was a talk towards the end of our year long discernment on the different states of life and there were sharers/speakers invited to share their stories of how God led them to their current states of life.  God inspired me during the Mass last Sunday to volunteer to the Carmelite Missionaries to be one of those sharers/speakers for their future search-ins.  I lost touch with my fellow aspirants already.  I also do not know if my former Vocation Directress (Sister Paloma) is still in the Philippines.  But I'm excited to get in touch with the Carmelites again and volunteer my humble service.
 

 
Today, I woke up reminded by God of the new mission He has given me last Sunday through the commentary for today's Gospel:
 
This Gospel asks us to be prepared at all times for whatever God will call us to do. It could be something unexpected — something that we have not planned. If we are serious in doing God’s will, we must be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and where He is leading us. It is not easy to be at the beck and call of the Gospel, but that is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about.
 
 
It's truly unexpected that God would ask me to get in touch with the Carmelites again.  But if that is what is God is calling me to do then I will do it out of obedience.  Whether this service of mine pushes through in the near future or not doesn't matter much to me. I know that my important task right now as God's servant is to do the little thing that is required of me and then He will take care of the rest.  So, I got to go now and will search for the contact number again of the Carmelite Mission House here in Manila. 
 
Let's continue to pray for courage to respond daily to God's call to us to be on mission for Him and the Gospel!  As Pope Benedict said last Sunday, "May the example and courageous witness of Pedro Calungsod inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the kingdom bravely and to win souls for God!”  
 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Counting on God to Fulfill My Dreams

I prayed the song I'm Counting On God last Thursday night before I started working on one of my articles.  I was pressed for time because my article was due the following day.  I've been trying to work the whole week but I found it very difficult because we only have one maid now and we have two kids to take care of aside from the house chores that need to be done.  I was somehow in panic mode and getting worried over my deadlines -- articles for magazines and the deliverables for my current HR project (job descriptions, company policies and training program).  I was also thinking of how we'll settle the balance for our townhouse which is due at the end of the month.  (You may click here and here to know the story behind this move we made out of faith in God.) Aside from these, I have started working on book projects that God inspired me to work on together with some friends.  With all these concerns in my mind, I chose to stop and simply told God that I can in no way do all or finish the things that I need to do without His help and grace.  I knew deep inside that I can count on God to empower me to do all that He has called me to do at this time of my life.  I was confident in God's strength and power to deliver me and my family from our worries and troubles.  I was confident in His provisions even though I do not have the amount I need yet in my pockets.  I let my soul soak in the message of the song as I listened to it repeatedly while reading some materials and while working on my article.
 
The following day, I read this message in my desk calendar:
"Test me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows..." - Malachi 3:10 (NASB)
 
It was very timely.  The temptation not to tithe regularly is strong when we experience financial challenges.  But through this verse, God reminded me that as I give to Him faithfulfully, acknowledging that all good things come from Him, He will provide for my needs and that of our family.
 
I continued to work on my article.  I wanted to go to Mass that day and I prayed that I'd be able to submit my article early so I can make it to the Mass at Feast Sucat and listen to the talk on Unlimited Earthly Rewards.  I could not explain why I had a strong prompting last Friday to attend Feast Sucat at SM Sucat.  My family and I normally attend The Feast at PICC on Sundays.  We missed the talk last Sunday because we celebrated my eldest son's birthday.  I finished it by afternoon of Friday.  I yielded to the Holy Spirit's leading and went to SM Sucat with my kids.  We met my husband there since he came from work.  It was our first time to attend there.
 
I felt happy when I heard the song Shout to the Lord being played while waiting for the Mass to start.  God usually used that song  in my past experiences to assure me of a victory or to usher in the unfolding of a miracle or prophecy to be fulfilled.  I participated in the Mass with joyful anticipation.
 
Then, the worship started.  I was pleasantly surprised when the first song sang was the very same song I had been singing in my time of prayer -- I'm Counting on God!  I danced and sang my heart out during the worship.  I felt that God has honored my prayer and is telling me that I have done the right thing to count on Him to provide for my needs and fulfill my dreams.
  
   



The second worship song sang moved me to tears.  The song was Who You Are.  It was a spirit-filled and powerful worship.  Listen to the song here and you'll know why. :)




The talk started and I was amazed at how perfect the talk was for me and my family's situation.  After the talk, it was very clear to me why God allowed us to miss the talk in PICC.  He wanted us to listen to Rissa Singson-Kawpeng give the talk because the anecdotes she will share will be perfect for our concerns.  She shared about her parents' challenge before to finish building their house and how God provided for their need.  She also talked about tithing and the lessons that we can learn from the farm.  Guess what verse she highlighted during her talk?

 "Test me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows..." - Malachi 3:10 (NASB)

Isn't that amazing?  Perfect timing again!  Only God can orchestrate these things!  She shared some more stories and her testimony on how God has shown His faithfulness to her through the years.  I could not help but be encouraged and affirmed since like her, I have sowed in the past years since I was a teenager when I committed my life to the Lord as a college student.  Now, I continue to sow and plant and I feel that God is encouraging me to keep on doing so and expect great rewards even here on earth because He cannot be outdone in generosity and goodness.
 
Here's another passage that was quoted as part of the talk:
 “I promise you,” returned Jesus, “nobody leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property for my sake and the Gospel’s without getting back a hundred times over, now in this present life, homes and brothers and sisters, mothers and children and land—though not without persecution—and in the next world eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30 emphasis mine)

It was an empowering and inspiring talk!  God knew what I needed to hear and He moved heaven and earth to pave the way for me to be there last Friday night.  My heart was filled with thanksgiving and joy.

I came out of SM Sucat's Cinema 4 with a stronger resolve to give to the Lord what is due Him and not to cheat Him by giving less than 10 percent of what we earned this past month/days.  It will be another leap of faith but I'm confident that God will pour out blessing upon blessing upon my family and He can multiply what we have given and are about to give a hundredfold!  And if it is His will, my family would be spending and celebrating Christmas this year in our new house (one of my dreams). :)

I continue to count on God for my many dreams to be fulfilled!  My God is much greater than any of my needs or dreams.  He only needs to will them and my dreams will be fulfilled.  Let me end with a verse I love and used as inspiration when I reserved the new house we got (which sister Rissa quoted during her talk as well): "According to your faith will it be done to you." (Matthew 9:29)
 
UPDATE: In less than 3 weeks after I wrote this post, we found a buyer for one of the condominium units we were selling.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tips to help your child develop early literacy and love for reading

I read a number of articles and papers on early childhood development and the importance of parenting and reading in the development and well being of children yesterday as I prepared to write my article on the topic for POC's Wellness channel.  Most of the articles and papers I read were long but I found them very interesting and helpful.  In fact, I felt blessed to have read them yesterday (until early this morning). 
 
Why did I feel blessed?  I felt blessed because I was given the opportunity to take an active role in the early childhood development of my children.  I felt blessed to be this hands on in nurturing and raising them.  Through the scientific studies and findings, I understood why my kids are quite advanced or fast in hitting their developmental milestones, be it physical, emotional or in the area of reading.
 
Earlier this morning, as I spent time with my second child, I witnessed once more some of these milestones.  Today happens to be my second child's eleventh (11th) month.  Yet, he can already do many things that are expected of children older than him.  One of them is his ability to communicate.  I actually noticed early on that he started cooing and babbling early.  He can now speak a number of words that we can understand.  He can hold books and turn pages of his board books properly.  He can point at some pictures in his book when we ask him to.  He can perform one-step commands.  He can imitate actions to some action songs and sometimes, I hear him hum the tunes.  These are just some of his "impressive achievements" at 11 months old.
 
Later in the day, I was reminded again of another big blessing in our family, my eldest son.  He is such a bookworm at four years old! (like me!)  One of our challenges with him is to get him to stop reading when it's time to nap or go to bed at night.  He started reading words at two years old.  Now, he reads like a gradeschooler.  He can already decode words and he gets to learn/read new words fast.  He used to read with his finger tracking the words in the story.  But he has stopped last year as we noticed him experiencing a growth spurt in reading.  My new challenge now with him is to read aloud more slowly so he can enunciate the words.  I noticed that he has been reading mentally/silently a lot lately.
 
So how did my eldest son grow to be literate at an early age and develop a passion for books and reading?  Let me share some tips which I (and my husband) employed in the past years.
 
 
Helpful tips to help your child develop early literacy and love for reading:
·     Establish a daily reading schedule or routine.  I learned from the study I read last night that the brains of children develop better when exposed to consistent, repetitive experiences in the context of nurturing and secure relationships.  Now, I know the scientific explanation for this highly recommended practice/ritual.  I've been reading to my kids everyday since I gave birth to them.  I read to them at least twice a day, usually upon waking up and before sleeping.  I used to read more often during the day with my eldest child but since he learned to read on his own, I usually read to him now around three or four times a day.  On days when I'm very busy with projects, I make sure I read to him twice a day.  The positive results of this habit/ritual with my eldest son encouraged me to do the same with my second child.
 

·     Read aloud to your kids. Reading aloud gives parents the opportunity to teach their children how to read words, how to read effectively, and how to pronunce words correctly.  Click here to learn more on why reading aloud to your kids is important and beneficial. 
 
·     Practice lap reading.  My eldest son still loves to be read to and to sit on my lap even though he can already read on his own.  I think he loves the warmth and the cuddling that goes with our reading experience.  Neuroscientists said that the benefits of this emotional experience to the child are long term.  Because of this experience and practice also, the child develops positive feelings and memories about reading, books and learning. 
 
·     Expose kids to books as early as possible to spark interest and help them grow in appreciation of them.  I allowed my kids to play with books and explore them since the time that they are strong enough to hold one.  I let them gaze at the books, chew on them, lick them, pull the pages, whatever they wished to do with the book when they were still babies.  Then, as they grew older, I slowly taught them by modelling to them how to hold the book properly, how to use them and how to take care of them.  They grew up comfortable with books and familiar with them.  Here's a video of my eldest son pretending to read when he was a newborn baby around a month old.


 
·     Make books available and accessible around the house.  There are many kinds of books "scattered" around our house.  Our kids have lots of books.  In fact, I think they have more books than toys. 
 
·     Use your finger to track words as you read.  There was a time when I felt that it was useless to point at words using my fingers as I read to my child since he looks at many things while we are reading.  Last night, I learned and understood the reason why we are encouraged to do this when reading to children.  It helps them learn even as they passivly see or observe you do this repeatedly every time you read.  Eventually they realize and learn to read from left to right, word for word, from top to bottom.  It's amazing how our brains work and how i witnessed my son learn this skill even as he sometimes walks around the room while I'm not yet finished reading a story.  I could still remember one time when I asked him if he still wants me to continue reading.  I was somehow irritated and annoyed that he was walking around and no longer looking at me or the book I was reading.  I was surprised when he aske dme to continue and when he was able to answer my questions about the story correctly as I tested his listening and comprehension skills.  
 
·     Point at pictures and name them as you read or turn the pages of the book.  My firstborn son could already identify the letters of the alphabet even as a baby who could not articulate or say his letters yet.  He would point to them or tap at the page of the book whenever I asked him.  My second son shows signs as well of early recognition of pictures and objects around him.  It's amazing how observant and attentive kids/babies are!
 
·     Let your children see you reading.  Readers raise readers.  Children like to imitate.  Their brains are wired to learn that way.  They learn by copying.  That's another thing I learned last night.  So, let your kids catch you reading.  They'll do the same even when they do not know how to read on their own yet.  Our eldest son used to pretend he was reading his books before.  Either he would recite the stories he already memorized or make up his own words while turning the pages of his book or any book he lays his hands on as he sees me and my husband read at home.
 
·     Give your children books as gifts. I like buying books.  I used to spend much of my salary buying books when I was single. Now that I'm a mom, I spend most of my "little income" buying books for my kids.  I buy them books more often than I buy toys because I know based on experience that the benefits and joys that a book can bring lasts longer than what toys bring.
 
·     Engage the child while reading by asking questions about the pictures or illustrations in the book or about the story (i.e. the characters, the sequence of events, possible reasons behind the actions of the characters, etc.).  This practice helps develop your child's language and communication skills further.
 
·     Let your child ask questions about the story as well.  Don't rush to finish reading the story or to end your reading time.  Test his understanding and listening skills.
 
There is so much I want to share but I need to stop now. :) Let me end by sharing a quote from one of the materials I read on this topic.
 
"Parenting is the primary influence on children's development" according to the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  "Parenting practices such as reading to children, using complex language, responsiveness, and warmth in interactions are all associated with better developmental outcomes."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Celebrating Life, Celebrating Without a Birthday Party


God gave me and my husband a miracle four years ago.  We fondly call our miracle YANTHY.  He came unexpectedly.  He came and God used him powerfully to teach me and my husband that He is in control and that everything happens at a time He chooses.  Through him, God showed us that as we put God first in our family and obey God's commands, God will provide for our needs and show us His graciousness. 

Yanthy at the nursery right after birth.
It has been four years already.  But I continue to be amazed and feel so loved everytime I ponder on this miracle that God has blessed us with.  I thank the Lord for giving me this child.  I thank God for each day in this child's life that He has allowed me to witness and have an active part.  I thank God for the many lessons He has taught me through the years as I took care of him.  Caring for him and raising him is a privilege I will always cherish.  May God continue to direct my steps and empower me so I could be the best mom my son could ever have.

 
Yanthy's first birthday party at Congo Grille, El Pueblo.
We celebrated Yanthy's birthday this year differently.  No birthday party just like in the past three years.  But we're celebrating it for the entire month.  I planned to buy him a toy he likes every week and some books that he likes and needs.  During the first week, I bought him a doctor play set which he can use for his pretend plays.  The next toy I will buy him on the third week of the month is a grocery push cart and some plastic grocery items, fruits and vegetables.  One of his favorite pretend plays is playing store/grocery.


My husband and I agreed that we will not organize a birthday party anymore for our eldest son this year.  We instead had a simple birthday lunch with his grandparents (my parents) and my brother last Sunday, the day before his birthday.  A couple of months ago, I asked my son where he'd like to celebrate his birthday and he said that he wants to spend it in San Mateo with my parents and brother.  So we granted his request.  We also spent the afternoon that same day shopping for the things that he needs and likes.  Instead of spending our money on a birthday party, we spent our alloted budget for his birthday celebration on clothes, toys, books and other things that he needs and likes at this time.  This is also timely since his younger brother will be celebrating his first birthday next month.
 
Family lunch at Max's Restaurant, San Mateo, Rizal on the day before Yanthy's 4th birthday.
  
The following day, on the day of his birthday, he woke up with me, his Dad and his baby brother singing the birthday song to him.  We had late breakfast as a family after the birthday boy had some time to open and enjoy his gifts and new toys.  We then had late lunch at Congo Grille.  It's the same restaurant where we celebrated his first birthday but not the same branch.  I would have wanted to bring him to the branch where we had it three years ago but it's quite far from where we live right now and we woke up late that day so we simply went to the branch nearest our place.  I think it was a blessing in disguise that we were near this branch because it was like we reserved the place.  There was only one table occupied when we ate at the restaurant.  We shared with Yanthy that we had his first birthday party at Congo Grille also but in a different branch.  It made him happy and he said that next time/next year, he wants to eat in the branch where we had his first birthday party.  We had our pictures taken inside the restaurant and outside. 

Family lunch at Congo Grille, Walter Mart, Sucat on Yanthy's birthday.



Then, we proceeded to The Fort to grant another wish of our birthday celebrator.



  
Yanthy loves playing at play centers.  He enjoys playing, running, bouncing and sliding in these play areas for hours.  We decided that he will have hours of playtime at Active Fun (The Fort branch) on his birthday.  We got him an unlimited play ticket and allowed him to play for the afternoon.  He started playing at around 3:30 PM.  By 6 PM, his Dad called him and asked him to go out already.  He stayed for a few more minutes before finally going out.  I think it was already 6:15 PM when he finally stopped playing.  The last time we were there, he played until closing time!  
 
While Yanthy was playing at Active Fun, I went around (together with Mateo in our Ergobaby carrier) the Toys R Us branch in the same building.  I bought him a toy he liked so much -- a trumpet!  I had it gift-wrapped.  Later after he played, we told him it's his baby brother's birthday gift for him. 

Yanthy at 1 year old
and his birthday cake.
We went to Mass at 7 PM at the Greenbelt chapel.  This is one of our family traditions during birthdays, going to Mass as a family. 

We had dinner at Red Ribbon, SM Sucat where Yanthy got to blow candles on his birthday cake (another tradition we started or our kids' birthdays) before going home.
 
4 year old Yanthy blowing the candles on his cake.

 
Yanthy opened Mateo's gift when we got home.  He tried it right away!
  
Yanthy shows off Mateo's gift to him.
 
Let me summarize and enumerate some ideas for a simple but fun birthday celebration minus the birthday party:
 
1. Celebrate with a simple family lunch or dinner.  You can also choose to have your lunch or dinner at the same restaurant where your child had his/her first birthday or baptismal reception. You can relive the memories by telling stories to your child of what happened during his/her first birthday party.
 
2. Involve your child in planning the family activities on his/her special day.  Let the child choose from among parent-approved choices. ;)  In our case, we let our son play at Active Fun and visit my parents and brother in san Mateo.
 
3. Use part of your budget for your child's birthday celebration to buy things that he/she likes. Some parents let their kids choose between having a party and letting the child spend a budget on things the child wants to buy.  Of course, we limit our kid's choices to those toys which are within our budget and those that we think are age-appropriate.  From there, we let him choose.
 
4. Buy things that the child needs as gifts.  An example of this is the new water bottle we bought our son with Cars design.  His old bottle has plenty of scratches already.  We retired it a few months back but did not replace right away to teach him a lesson on taking care of his things.  We wanted to reinforce the lesson that he should take care of his things so that he can use them longer. Thus, when his bottle got broken, we delayed buying him a new one.  We also bought him new shirts and socks to replace those he outgrew.  The other things we will buy for him this month are the books that he needs and we will use in homeschooling him.
 
5. Give your child the gift of your time and undivided attention.  Our days can be so hurried everyday.  It could happen that there are days when parents hardly have time to listen to their children's stories, play with them or eat/share meals with them.  We can take this opportunities to make our children feel loved and important by setting aside this day, their birthday, to celebrate God's gift of life to them.
 
 
Birthday celebrations need not be expensive all the time.  I believe that what is important is that we are able to give thanks as a family for God's gift of life.  Simple birthday celebrations teach our kids (and remind us parents) to be thankful for our blessings, big and small alike.  They also teach us that quality time spent with our families are far more important than big and expensive parties (where we usually spend only a few minutes with our guests and kids because there are so many guests to entertain) and toys.  Lastly, these can be opportunities to teach our kids about money and how to wisely spend it.  To read more on how to teach kids to be thankful, I recommend that you click here.
 
Happy Birthday once more to my dearest Yanthy!  I'm glad that you were very happy on your birthday and in the past days even though you did not have a birthday party this year.
 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just Keep on Asking

I enumerated to God all my family’s needs.  I fervently prayed for our wants and dreams as well.  At some point I thought, “There’s a lot that I’m asking for.”  But then again I thought, “If I’m enumerating all these prayer intentions to a human like me, I wouldn’t be surprised if that person would feel overwhelmed.  But I’m not just sharing this to an ordinary person.  I am lifting up my prayers to the God of the universe, the source of all riches, the source of all power and might.”  I reminded myself that I’m praying to my Father in heaven who loves me immensely and unconditionally.  I don’t need to deserve what I ask for.  I don’t need to bribe Him.  I don’t need to make long explanations to Him why I’m asking for all these things.  He knows my heart.  He knows why.  He knows what’s best or good for me.
 

I continued my morning prayer by reading the devotionals I use.  This was the first thing that I read.

NOTHING too TRIVIAL

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive...” – Luke 11:9
 

I was faced with a pressing problem. How was I supposed to retrieve all the telephone numbers stored in my busted cell phone? In my desperation, I turned to God. Like a little child, I begged Him to let my phone function even for just a short time so I could copy the numbers to the SIM card and transfer it to my new phone.

Would God answer such a trivial request? I tried to stay positive and hopeful. I believed that even if my concern was about technical matters, He could do something about it. For two days, I didn’t turn my phone on but I continued to pray for my concern. On the third day, my phone “resurrected.” After I copied all the numbers to the SIM card and transferred it to my new phone, my old cellphone “rested in peace.”

I believe that when Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive,” He is open to any kind of request. If it is God’s will, He will definitely answer our prayer — but according to His terms.

Do you need something from God but feel that your request is trivial? Believe me, He does listen and answer every prayer… in His time. Judith Concepcion (svp_jmc@yahoo.com)
 

It was a beautiful and timely reflection written by my friend, Judith.  I felt God affirming me that there is no limit to what I can ask for in prayer and that He will grant my prayers, big and small alike, as long as they are for my good.
 

Then, I went on to read Companion.  I was struck by a line in the commentary for the Gospel for today.  It says, The power of a life of prayer cannot be underestimated even when it seems that nothing is happening.”  Wow!  It’s been almost six months now but it seems that nothing is happening if I will just look at our situation with my physical eyes because until now, we have not found a buyer/s for the condominium units we are selling.  But deep within me, I know that God is working and making a way.  Deep within me there is that stubborn confidence in my heavenly Father’s love and faithful provision. 

I went on to read the Gospel.  These lines made a big impact on me once more.


“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  Luke 11:9-13
 

It was God speaking clearly again to my heart.  ASK.  You will receive what you ask for.  SEEK.  You will find what you need.  KNOCK.  You will find doors opening to let you in.  Why would I refuse to give you something you truly need?  Something that is good not only for you but for those whom you want to help and bless?
 

I sometimes ask myself if it is still right for me to keep on asking God for the many things I’ve been asking of Him for months or years now.  I sometimes pause and ask if I should stop asking for them thinking that they might not be God’s will for me and my family.  What keeps me from keeping on though is that certainty I feel inside but can’t explain.  Today, as I read my devotionals, I found the words to explain my reason for praying continuously.
 

Let me quote some parts of the reflection from Sabbath, which by God’s divine plan was written by the priest who officiated my wedding:
 

For all we know, God is already disposed (and more than willing, in fact!) to grant us the graces that we need. As a loving Father, He has already anticipated our wants. Didn’t His son Jesus already assure us? “Ask and you shall receive... For whoever asks, receives...” But maybe our Lord still wants us to voice out and address our needs to His Father. He wants us to make the effort still of asking, seeking and knocking — if only to remind us of our utter helplessness and total dependence on God.

 
Helplessness and total dependence.  Hmmm… That’s a good reminder.  It could be that God wants me to remember this lesson well before He grants my prayers.  So that when He finally answers them, I would not forget to thank Him and give back the praise and glory due His name.
 

Let me quote some more lines: “God does not operate on a mere dole-out basis; He never dispenses cheap grace.  And so, we just have to do our part in entreating God, accompanied by the complete confidence that our efforts will not be in vain.”
 

Our efforts will not be in vain.  Hmmm… Another assuring word from God.  I have to admit that there are days when I could relate with Peter in the Gospel story where Jesus asked him to put out into the deep and lower their nets again.  This Gospel passage and reflection from Sabbath assured me that whatever efforts I exert to find buyer/s for our condominium units would not be in vain.


Through the reflection, God encouraged me to invoke the Holy Spirit’s blessing and power as I work on the things I need to work on today.
 

It ended with this message:
“Let us never falter in asking God. Let us not easily give up on our prayer, should the Lord delay in granting (or even understandably refuse) what we ask for. Whatever it is, let us be persistent and persevering in our prayer.”
 

Be persistent and persevering in prayer.  Do not waiver in confidence and faith.  That’s God’s powerful and clear message to me today.  That’s what I did this morning and throughout the day as I worked on the projects God has entrusted to me and as I carried out my duties at home.
 

God has not yet put the exact amount of money that I need to fully pay the down payment for our townhouse in my pocket right now.  But He has given me an abundance of faith, hope, perseverance, and inspiration since I started praying for this and my other intentions.  I’m confident that His perfect answer to my prayers is on the way.  They may be exactly what I pray for or very far from my expectation.  I honestly don’t know.  But I know and I’m confident that my Father in heaven will grant me my heart’s fervent prayers in the most perfect way.  So, I’ll just keep on asking until something too wonderful for words would unfold before my eyes once more.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Book Review of A Child's First Library of Learning

Here's another article I wrote for Smart Parenting Online's Parent Rated section.  I recommend this set of books to parents who want to invest in their kids’ early education, be they homeschooled or not. It’s a much healthier alternative to watching TV and playing computer games.
 
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I came across A Child’s First Library of Learning at the grand opening of the Active Fun branch at The Fort, and this set of books impressed me right away.
 

 
A Child’s First Library of Learning is composed of twenty four (24) hardcover books covering topics on life, nature, science, and our world. The pages are filled with pictures and illustrations in full color that keep the child interested, thus providing more opportunity for knowledge. What I find most interesting about this set of books is that it features and answers over a thousand questions, many of which our curious, young children are bound to ask.

 
Here are some examples:
• Why does it rain?
• Why does it rain even if the sun is shining?
• Why does lightning flash?
• Why does thunder rumble?
• Why are rabbits’ ears long?
• Do fish have ears?
• Why do stars twinkle?
• Why is the sky blue?
• Do typhoons occur everywhere in the world?
• Why are there deserts in some parts of the world?


The books enable parents to answer their children’s questions whether they really don’t know the answers to these questions or they simply do not know how to answer them in a way that their children can grasp. These books are a big help to parents, especially first-time parents, who are still finding ways to manage their kids’ insatiable, natural curiosity about the things they see and hear around them. Providing answers to kids’ questions also encourages them to be observant and remain curious. By using these books, we are telling them to seek for answers to their questions, which sets the foundations for the love of learning, books and reading.


Click here to read the full article to find out why I recommend this set of books.  I can also help you schedule a presentation if you are interested to find out more about these books.  Just leave a comment or email me.