Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Spend Less, Give More and Experience More of What Really Matters this Christmas

"I’m participating in the Spend-Less Holidays: Saving While Savoring the Season Blog Carnival, hosted by The Frugal Fil-Am and Dainty Mom. We’ll be sharing our tips on how to spend less this holiday season, so that we can have a more meaningful Christmas. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.”

Photo source here.

Are you now experiencing what is commonly known as the Christmas rush?  It seems that everyone is rushing more than ever around Christmas time.  Rushing to buy Christmas decors.  Rushing to decorate houses, offices, malls and streets.  Rushing to by new clothes and toys/gadgets.  Rushing to go to different places and events amid the traffic.  Rushing to finish their Christmas shopping.  With all the rush and all the spending, I wonder if each one of us would have the chance to savor what is truly of value.  I wonder if in the rush of buying gifts or finishing our Christmas shopping list, we would be able to give gifts that really matter to those we give gifts to.  You might be wondering, "Is it possible to spend less and still end up giving more?" 
It is!  Let me share simple ways which can help you spend less and still give more this Christmas and experience more of the Christmas spirit.
  1. Give the gift of your time. - Busyness has become a way of life for many even outside of the holiday season.  So many people are tied to their jobs for one reason or another.  The sad reality is that there are spouses who are so busy with work and many other things that they no longer have time to talk (heart-to-heart talks or otherwise) to their spouses.  There are parents who are so busy with work and many other things that they are not able to spend quality time with their kids anymore to get to know them or to simply play with them.  It really needs a lot of effort and commitment these days to make time for someone or something. My number one suggestion therefore is to give the gift of your precious time to show someone that you value them or that they are important to you.  As the famous saying goes, "Time is gold."  Our time is so precious because once given or shared, we can't bring it back again.  We can't earn it again unlike the money that we spend in buying gifts.  Let me ask you?  When was the last time you sincerely and unhurriedly listened to someone's story/ies?  When was the last time you were really focused on what someone was telling you or sharing with you?  Take time to listen -- to your spouse, to your child, to your aging parent/s, or to a friend.  Schedule or plan a playdate or some quality time with your inaanak or godchild instead of buying toys.  Spend quality time with someone important to you or with someone who needs to feel loved and important, not necessarily a family member or a friend of yours.  You can go to charitable institutions, too, like a home for the aged or elderly, an orphanage, a hospital with terminally ill patients, a prison, etc.
  3. Give the gift of your talent. - You can also use your special skill or talent to come up with a personalized gift or as your gift itself.  That would definitely be of greater value than store-bought presents because not only does it require your time and/or presence, it involved your unique or special skill.  For example, if you have a talent in singing or playing a musical instrument, you can serenade someone as your gift or record a song or a number of songs.  You can cook your specialty or bake your favorite cake or pastry.  You can paint, compose a poem, write a story or a song if you have the talent to do these things.
    Photo source here.
    Give the gift of faith and hope in CHRIST. - The first Sunday of Advent is just a few days away.  It would be good to remind ourselves of the REAL REASON for the celebration of CHRISTmas.  I believe that giving the gift of faith and hope in JESUS, the Savior, who came into the world to save us would be the greatest gift we could give to someone this Christmas season. You might be wondering how.  Let me share some ideas.  You can simply share a story where you have experienced God's help or goodness as a result of having faith or hope in Him.  You can share about a special favor you received this season as you prayed to Jesus Christ and how He did not disappoint you as you placed your hope in Him.  You can still buy store-bought gifts but you can choose gifts that can inspire others to have faith and hope or to grow in these areas.  Some examples of these are devotionals like Didache (where I am a contributing writer), Companion or Sabbath by Shepherd's Voice Publication, other kinds of devotionals which are Scripture-based and help people pray and meditate on the Word of God or they can also be books that will inspire people to have faith in God's promises like my book When My Bridegroom Comes.  They can also be home decor, apparrel or other items that remind people about the REAL REASON why we celebrate and get busy with many things this Christmas.  With these simple gifts or your simple sharing of your story of faith, who knows you might be able to make a big impact or difference in someone's life?

Inspirational book for single ladies
waiting for God's best.

Those are just some of the simple ways by which you can spend less money this Christmas yet still give more and experience more of what really matters.  For as you give gifts that are precious to you and that are of lasting/eternal value, you are blessed as well.  My prayer and wish for you, dear reader, is that you will not only get to save on money in the coming holy-days because of reading this post but you will be blessed and inspired as well.

JESUS CHRIST, the reason for the Season.
Photo source here.

Check out the rest of our Spend-less Christmas Carnival Participants!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baby Steps

“One, two, ooopsie!”

“One, two, three!”
“Very good, Mateo!”

“One, two, three… four!
“Come here… Walk some more.”

“You can do it, baby!”

My youngest child was almost seven months old when he started to walk on his own. He started walking around his crib first, holding on to the railings then letting go. Then, he started to walk on our bed. When we saw that he could already walk a number of steps on our bed without holding our hands or fingers, we allowed him to walk on our floor with some rubber puzzle mats on it.  We would count how many steps he would be able to make on his own and we would clap and cheer for him.  Even his older brother, my eldest son who was still three years old at that time, would count with us.  We rejoiced at his every try even when he only made one or two baby steps before falling.  We watched with joyful anticipation every time our baby tried to walk on his own.  We were like spectators in a game keeping score as we count how many additional steps Mateo would be able to make each day.  My eldest son and I would tell my husband every night when he goes home from work the highest number of steps Mateo was able to make each day.  Watching Mateo make his first baby steps had been one of our favorite bonding activities in the past months. It was our joy to watch him make one baby step after another and becoming successful in walking farther on his own.

Last October 31, we watched with delight as we saw Mateo walk untiringly while wearing his Saint Peter costume at our homeschool group’s Halloween party.  We were pleasantly surprised to see him walk around and much farther than before considering that he even had several layers of clothing and with a bunch of keys on one hand.  He was unstoppable!  It was hard to make him sit down that day. He enjoyed walking around!  He was eleven months old then and three weeks away from celebrating his first birthday.

Our baby walked longer distances in the days and weeks that followed. He would walk and walk around the house for hours.  He could already walk fast and sometimes run even before he turned one.

Time flies so fast! Around five months ago, he could barely make a step. Now, we sometimes could not keep up in trying to count his steps because he already walks so fast!

Let me share with you some tips which I think were helpful in enabling our baby to learn how to walk.

1.    Encourage your baby to reach out and walk towards his toys and other objects or persons that he likes.  I noticed that when our baby is looking at something or someone that he’s intent to touch, he would be making more baby steps.  His desire to get a toy or to come to me, his Dad or older brother becomes his focus. In the process, he barely notices that he’s already making a number of steps on his own.  Thus, one of his new favorite games is playing tag, next to playing peek-a-boo.

2.    Show your baby that you are happy and proud with every step he makes.  Make it obvious to your baby that you really liked what he just did so he would be happy and encouraged to keep on doing it.  That’s what we did with Mateo.  We would count out loud, clap and speak words of affirmation to him.  Eventually, we noticed that he would be smiling very wide or laughing as he walks. He would also clap every time he accomplished something aside from walking a number of steps.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we would hear him count on his own as he walks around the house because he kept on hearing it from us daily.

3.    Let baby walk barefoot when at home.  Baby feet have yet to develop arches.  Therefore, it is best to let a baby who is still learning how to walk to walk barefoot when at home.  This would stimulate his feet, help him form or develop arches, and to learn to balance.

4.    Massage baby’s legs and feet at least once a day (after bath or before bed).  Massaging baby’s legs and feet helps improve blood circulation and strengthen leg muscles.  Massaging my baby after bathing him is one of my favorite bonding moments with my baby. I usually massage him using a circular and milking motion on the thighs and legs while counting from one to ten. Then, I press and stroke the soles of his feet using my fingers. My baby loves it! He smiles right away as soon as I start counting the strokes.

5.    Make sure that you buy the right kind of shoes for your baby that he can use when he walks outside the house. How do you know if you are choosing the right shoes for your baby? Let me share some of the things you need to check before buying shoes for your baby. 
The very active and happy birthday boy.

a.    The soles of the shoes should be flexible enough to follow the natural movements of baby’s feet. You can check this by bending the sole. You should be able to bend it easily and it should not be too thick and hard. It should be thin enough to be bent even with your fingers.

b.    The soles of the shoes should also be slip-proof since baby is just learning how to balance.
c.    Make sure that the shoes are not too tight and that there is enough room for baby to wiggle or move his toes inside his shoes. Rounded shoes are best.
d.    The shoes should be made of light material that will not easily tire baby’s feet and legs from walking. Heavy shoes would discourage baby from walking because movement would be more difficult. The best shoes are those that are light and comfortable that makes baby feel like he’s not wearing any shoes t all.  But the shoes should be sturdy enough to protect baby feet from bumps or from other rough surfaces that can hurt his feet.

e.    Lastly, choose shoes with insoles that provide stimulation to the soles of the feet. 

Mateo wearing Elle shoes and Yanthy wearing Chicco
shoes at Mateo's 1st birthday party.
Elle and Chicco shoes for babies and toddlers are examples of good shoes for babies because they satisfy these criteria that I enumerated.
“One, two, three, four, five, six… seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve!”

My baby Mateo has just turned twelve months old a few days ago and I’m delighted to see him happily taking baby steps, walking around, and exploring his environment with or without his shoes on.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes of Mateo's Farm-themed First Birthday Party

My baby turned one year old last Monday, November 19, but we had his farm-themed birthday party last Sunday (November 18) so that most of our guests would be able to come.  I've been planning his party in the past months. In fact, I've been brainstorming on possible themes since he was six months old. Then, when he was around seven months old, my husband and I finally decided on the theme - farm or barnyard.  At first my husband wanted Happy Feet to be his party theme because Mateo liked to dance every time he hears music being played.  I liked it, too.  But I noticed that Mateo enjoys reading books about the farm and listening to the sound that farm animals make as well.  I also felt that planning a farm-themed party is easier; thus, I convinced my husband to choose the farm theme instead. ;-)

Shakey's Pizza, El Pueblo Branch
I started scouting for potential venues as soon as we finalized the party theme.  You may click here to read my previous post/article on what farm-themed party venues we considered.  I checked and considered more venues aside from those I mentioned in my previous article. The restaurants that have farm-themed kiddie parties are very few; so, I also checked other restaurants with a native or homey feel and look. Among them were Cabalen, Barrio Fiesta, Mang Inasal and Shakey's. I checked out Shakey's because I learned before (when I was still planning for my eldest son's first birthday party) that they had a country-themed kiddie party.  I found out a few months ago however that they no longer have that theme.  Good thing that they still allow a farm-themed kiddie party. I checked the rates for the food packages and computed the other party-related costs (i.e. cake, photo and video coverage, decors, party favors, etc.).  I was working on a tight budget because my husband challenged me to work within the same budget we had when our eldest had his first birthday party. And that was four years ago! It was already challenging then.  (Click here if you want to read how I planned my eldest son's Jungle-themed first birthday party.) Therefore, it was extra challenging now.  Well, I took the challenge since I understand that we have a bigger priority now (like spending wisely so we can move asap to our new house).  I reminded myself as well that the important thing is that we get to celebrate our second child's first birthday in a fun and memorable way.  Thus, my battlecry as I planned and prepared for Mateo's first birthday party was to keep it simple without sacrificing quality or what I considered essentials or must-haves like good food, nice cake, simple but nice farm-themed decor, farm-related give aways and program/games, photo and video coverage, etc. I think that our chosen theme - farm/barnyard - fits the criteria of simplicity very well.  We also planned for an intimate party, limiting our guests to immediate family members, close relatives, ninongs and ninangs (godparents) and their families, and a few close friends with small kids like us.  We targetted 50 to 60 guests.  We also chose the 2 to 4 pm time slot so that it will just be merienda/snack instead of dinner.  Shakey's Monster Meal Deal and their minimum requirement (P10,000 consumable for use of venue if you will not get any of their in-house party theme) for a kiddie party helped me stay within our budget.  I just ordered additional chocolate ice creams from them for the dessert.  The next step was to choose the best/right Shakey's branch for our party.
Eating time!
I read a number of reviews from various forums and decided to check out the Shakey's branch at El Pueblo at Julia Vargas avenue in Ortigas.  I liked their location because of its accessibility, especially since our guests are coming from the East, North and South.  Another thing that I liked about this branch is that they have a tv monitor that can be hooked to a laptop and used to show an audio visual presentation (avp) about Mateo during the party. That saved us a few thousand pesos for we need not pay for a (lcd) projector.  On top of that, they only required P2,000 reservation fee to reserve our chosen date.

Decors and Party Favors
I wanted to go the DIY route initially for all the decors.  I was planning to make the backdrop and centerpieces myself.  I even considered buying generic balloons and inflate them at the venue using my friend's pump.  But I got busy with a number of projects (writing/book and human resource projects) in the past months so my husband suggested that we just have a tarpaulin with a farm design printed.  I also realized that there is much to be prepared and done even on the day of the party since we did not get a party planner to help us.  It was a big blessing that Shakey's referred one of their balloon supppliers to me and I found out that they also print tarpaulins. I just gave them a farm photo/image that I liked, a photo of Mateo pretending to be a farmer harvesting vegetables, and showed them how I want the the photos put together.  I ordered 50 balloons from them (that is their minimum order). We chose four colors - red, blue, white and yellow. Shakey's assured me that they will assign some of their staff to help out in putting up the decors and setting up the place.

Our birthday boy with the cake and loot bags table and backdrop behind him.
So, I hunted for a ready-made birthday banner. Good thing I found a farm-themed birthday banner at a Japan Surplus store in a mall near our place.  It was also in the same store that I bought the farm-themed paper plates, cups, party hats, plastic loot bags, and invitations. I also bought a "birthday boy" ribbon there for Mateo to wear on the day of his party. I was very happy that I found what I was looking for and that they fit my budget. :)

The farm-themed paper plates, cups and party hats we used
lined up near the crafts table and registration table.
I used farm-themed plastic toys as part of the decor. Some of them anyway were also prizes and props for the games. I also used real mangoes as prize for one of the games.
Later on, I realized Shakey's was indeed perfect for our farm-themed party because I was able to borrow baskets from them where I placed the game prizes.

Then, we brought my eldest son's cow seat (a gift to him during his first birthday) as well. It was used by Mateo as his seat and doubled as decor. 

Mateo on his big brother's cow seat.
Since red is one of our party colors, I thought of using red apples for our table centerpieces. Then, to further reinforce the farm theme, I made farm animal cut outs with barbeque sticks and stuck them to the red apples. 

One of our centerpieces, cow cut-out stuck to a bbq stick and red apple.
These centerpieces were connected to the registration process of our guests. At the registration table, each family/guest is to pick a small piece of paper with a farm animal's sound printed on it. That will help them find their table.

For example, a family got a piece of paper with the word quack printed on it. That means, they will be seated at the table with a duck centerpiece. They will also receive a duck coloring page that their family will color and use to write their greetings for our birthday boy.  I've decided to print various farm coloring pages for the different farm animals we used as centerpieces.  We actually had 12 tables and we used 6 kinds of animals (duck, cow, pig, rooster, horse, sheep).  

Here is the link to one of the websites where I got some of the coloring pages we used.

The guests from the horse table with their matching horse coloring page/greeting page.

My mom and I made 2 sets of animal cut outs for the centerpieces.  I got this inspiration from some of the blogs I read as I searched the internet for ideas for a farm-themed birthday party. Click here, here and here to see some of them.
I wanted to design and make my own party invitations but I was pressed for time and I realized that I will most likely send email invites to our guests so I decided to simply personalize our farm-themed store-bought invite a bit. Then, I emailed it to our guests. Here's how it looked.
Originally, I was thinking of using smaller versions of farm animal cut outs for the kids' name tags but I realized that cutting these shapes took much of our time so I asked my husband to print rectangular name tags instead on sticker paper with some gingham design. Then, we can just write the names of the kids using pentel pen when they arrive at the registration table.
Next, I mindstormed on potential give-aways and loot bag fillers. Since, our family loved books including Mateo, I decided to give a farm book to each kid in the party. Some of the farm books we gave away were the farm-related stories from the Phonics-in-Reading Series.  You may click here to read my review of this fantastic books. 

The others were board books of farm-related nursery rhymes and about tractors. 

I also looked for food products that suited our farm theme and our budget for loot bags. :)  Here's what I ended up buying for the give-aways: Moo chocolate drink, Milky Knots pretsels, fruit flavored jellies, Milkita lollipops, Fruitees mango-flavored cookies and marshmallows.   


Cake, cup cakes and mini cupcakes
The cake is usually the centerpiece  or main decor in a kiddie party so I invested time looking at pictures of various cakes in the internet of nice farm-themed cakes.  I found lots of beautiful cakes! Then, I took note of what I wanted to see in Mateo's birthday cake based on my concept for his party. Then, I communicated these to my friend, Lala, (who happens to be my eldest son's godmother or ninang) who is making the cake for Mateo's party. First, there has to be a red barn, some fences, a number one candle, some farm animals and some vegetables.  I specified what animals I wanted to see on the cake as well as the cup cakes.  I told her that the same farm animals used as table centerpieces should be in the cupcakes.   I asked her to make 12 cup cakes with farm animal faces and 20 mini cup cakes that look like a vegetable garden.  Take a look at her wonderful creations! (You may click her name to contact her if you're interested to get her for your cake and cup cake needs.)

Mateo's farm-inspired first birthday cake.

Mateo's farm animal cup cakes.
Mateo's vegetable garden mini cup cakes.

She's a big blessing to us because not only did she give me a discount on the cakes, cup cakes and mini cupcakes, she also helped me set up the cake and loot bags table on the day of the party while I was busy setting up the other tables like the craft table and registration table.
Program and Prizes
We planned for a simple program since we were only given two hours for the use of the party venue.  We did not get a host or entertainer anymore. Just like in my eldest son's first birthday party and previous birthday parties, I acted as host and game facilitator. :) My husband and eldest son, Yanthy, provided the entertainment. :)
After the registration where the guests finds out their table assignment, get their coloring pages which will eventually become part of Mateo's scrapbook and guest book, and kids get their nametags, the kids and parents can make some crafts while waiting for the other guests and the games to start.

That's me giving out a name tag at the registration table.
Yanthy making a cow balloon.
I prepared the materials in a table and printed an instruction sheet. With some help from my eldest son and our reliable maid, we taught the kids and their parents how to make cow and pig balloons. This was one of our previous homeschool activities and I thought that it's appropriate for Mateo's farm-themed party.  You may click here to see how to make this craft. One thing we did differently during Mateo's party was to use googley eyes instead of simply drawing eyes on the balloons using pentel pens.

You may also print farm-themed mazes for kids to answer while waiting for more guests to arrive. Here are two mazes I found that you might want to use -- cow maze and duck maze.

I planned for four games but we only had three games during the actual party due to time constraints.

The first game was to help Farmer Mateo gather his farm animals back to his red barn. I made two red barns from red cartolina for this game and put some strips of bond paper for the white doors and outline.  I printed pictures of the same farm animals we had for our table centerpieces in smaller versions. With the help of one of Shakey's staff, we stuck them on the walls, balloons, tables and chairs in the party venue using masking tape. 

During the game, the kids were instructed to find these animals and stick them to the red barn given to their group.  The kids were grouped according to gender during the party - boys versus girls. :) They were told that the group who can gather the most number of farm animals in their red barn wins the game. The kids had fun looking for the farm animals! Even their parents helped search for Mateo's farm animals to help their kids. ;-)  The girls won the game. They were given plastic animals as prizes and egg-shaped chocolates. The boys got Egg Bites milk cookies as consolation prize.


The second game was Mateo Went to the Farm. We had the same groupings to save on time. I told the kids that Farmer Mateo needs their help in harvesting his fruits and vegetables and that they need to get as many as they can but they need to put on some things. I asked the kids to line up again while my husband put some chairs where they can go around.  Before the party started, I already set up the plastic toys (fruits and vegetables) in the cover of our native basket/hamper, the red and blue bandanas and the two plastic baskets for the two teams. Actually, some of the kids started playing with the plastic toy fruits and vegetables even before we had the program. :) 

The kids went to the farm with their farmer hats, bandana and baskets.

Farmer Yanthy
helping Mateo harvest.
I explained to the kids that they need to first wear a native hat, tie a bandana around their neck and hold their plastic basket before going around the chairs, pick up or harvest some fruits and veggies in front before going back to their line and passing their props to the next kid in their group.  I asked one parent per group to help the kids out.  The kids and parents had a blast once more! :) This time, the boys won.  They got real ripe mangoes for their prize while the girls got mango-flavored cookies as consolation prize.

The girls counting the fruits and vegetables they
harvested from Mateo's farm.

Prizes for game Mateo Went to the Farm.
The third game was basically Moo-sical chairs or I called it Mateo's animal sounds barn dance. It's like the game Trip to Jerusalem with a lot of twists since it's a farm/baryard party. The first twist is that  the game will be played by  kid and parent pairs.  The second twist is that the kids will sit on their parent's lap when the music stops. The third twist is that there are enough chairs for the participants.  The chairs used in the game had strips of paper with animal sounds on them. To determine which pair will be eliminated from the game, I or my eldest son picked a piece of paper with animal sounds from an envelop.  The pair sitting on the chair with the same animal sound as in the piece of paper we picked will be eliminated.  This goes on until there's only one kid and parent pair left.  The last twist is that we used barn dance music and the kids and parents who joined the game will have to dance the heel and toe polka or barn dance while going around the chairs. Since not everyone are familiar with the barn dance steps, I demonstrated or taught them how. My eldest son helped me by being my partner.

Barndance: heel and toe polka with my eldest son as my partner.

My husband operated the laptop and the sound system.  Here's the link to the barn dance music we used.  The dance is very easy and even our birthday boy learned it days before his party.  The winning pair was Daddy Joel and Zia.  Zia got a small piggy bank and Daddy Joel got a nursery rhyme book.  Consolation prizes were given to the rest of the players.

The winning pair for the moo-sical chairs game.
The next part of the program was a farm song led by my husband, George, and my eldest son, Yanthy.  They modified the song Old MacDonald a bit and changed it to O Mateo had a farm... My husband prepared a Power Point presentation for the modified lyrics which I showed while he and our son sang and played their guitars in front.  Yanthy sang his heart out to the delight of our guests. :)
Then, they led in singing the birthday song for Mateo before the traditional blowing of candle on cake. This was followed by merienda/eating time.  The kids were served by the Shakey's staff while the adults and older kids lined up at the buffet table at the back.

My husband and our eldest son leading the song O Mateo had a Farm.
Yanthy during his special song
number for Mateo.
While our guests were enjoying their food, the avp made by my brother-in-law Bobby (the man behind Irax Videography) for Mateo was shown.  It was a very nice audio visual presentation!  He also made the avp for our eldest son's first birthday party four years ago.  You may contact him here if you are interested to get his services.
The kids had some unstructured play while the the adults were eating before my eldest son remembered that he prepared a special song number for his baby brother. :)  He actually modified the song This Little Piggy months ago into This Little Baby and he loved singing it to his baby brother at home. He also volunteered to sing it at Mateo's birthday party, which he did but sang only half of it during the party because he saw that ice cream was already being served.
We planned for another game called Farm Genio (suggested by my good friend Raquel and one of Mateo's godparents) supposedly for couples; but there was no more time and one of Shakeys staff already reminded me that our two hours is almost finished. Anyway, it's similar to the Pinoy Genio game popularized by a local noontime tv show except that the words to be guessed are all about things that one sees in the farm. I'm sure our guests would love that game too if we still had time to play it.
As soon as I finished most of my food, I started calling on some of our guests per table to join us in front for some picture-taking with the birthday boy. After our picture per family was taken, I gave the kids their loot bags and give aways and thank their family for coming to Mateo's party.
Photo and Video Coverage
One of my essentials for Mateo's first birthday party was to get the services of a professional photographer and videographer to capture this memorable and once in a lifetime event. Thankfully, I found the perfect provider through one of the articles posted at Smart Parenting Online.  I got the P5,000 photo and video package of JV All Events then my husband and I bought a group deal voucher for the photo album. 
Costumes and Birthday Outfit
Farmer Mateo, the birthday boy.
To match our farm theme, we encouraged our guests to dress in plaids and denims.  We dressed in denims and plaid polos as well.  We found the perfect outfit for our birthday boy at SM department store one evening.  We bought him two plaid polo shirts - one from Grizzly and another from Crib Couture.  We found the perfect denim pants for him from Snoopy and the matching blue baby shoes from Elle, all from SM Department store. It was one blessed day for our very busy family because we found all the things we were looking for in one store.  That saved us a lot of time.

Clap, clap, clap!
I bought my plaid polo shirt from the department store of a nearby mall (Walter Mart) two days before the party.  My husband found and bought his plaid polo shirt from SM Department store as well.
I asked our maid to buy the red and blue bandanas and farm/straw hats from Baclaran.
The days, weeks and months leading to Mateo's first birthday party were very busy days for our family, especially me. It was stressful and tiring but all these were eventaully replaced with joy and thanksgiving as soon as I saw the fruits of our labor and the happy faces of our guests and of Mateo of course. 

I praise and thank God for the abundance of grace He has poured on me and my family members which enabled us to organize Mateo's party. I thank God for the angels He sent our way like my mom, my brother-in-law Bobby, my friends Lala and Raquel (who gave me many helpful suggestions for the party) and all our party suppliers (Dona of Dona's Balloons, Jun of JV All Events, and Shakey's).  My husband and I were so happy that we were able to have a fun and memorable first birthday celebration for Mateo and stick to our budget. :) Truly, with God on our side and with a lot of creativity and resourcefulness, nothing is impossible!
Happy 1st Birthday, Mateo! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Being an Ordinary Witness

I got my copy yesterday of Kerygma Magazine's December issue.  One could easily say that it's an advance copy since we are still in the month of November.  I think that it's arrival yesterday was perfect timing though. Why? I think it's timing is perfect once more because I needed to "hear" God's message to me through Bo Sanchez's editorial.
Let me quote some lines that Bo shared which had a big impact on me yesterday:
Through this story (referring to the announciation), God is telling you to say yes to Him, too.  Even if you think you're ordinary.
God deals with you not based on your history but on your destiny.  He relates with you not based on who you are now but who you will become.
So even if you think you're ordinary, say yes to Him.
Here's a fact: All new things start with a yes.
A new... project or ministry or service or blessing or miracle doesn't start unless you say yes.
You don't go into a new level in your life unless you say yes.
These words from God through Brother Bo are very timely for me because I have started working on a couple of projects which I realized recently are much bigger than what I originally thought them to be.  I was humbled to think that I'm just an ordinary lady/mom wanting to share the little that I have or the limited skills that I have to bless the world in my own little way.  Thus, upon realizing God's amazing hand in all my current endeavors, I praised and thanked God for choosing an ordinary lady/woman like me to be part of His plans.
Today, I woke up with another inspiring message in my desk calendar placed on top of my computer table in my home office.  It's a verse from Acts 22:15.
"For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard."
It was inspiring but I did not realize it's entire meaning until I started receiving messages in my inbox from people I do not know.  As of this writing, I have already read five messages from five different people thanking me for the reflection I wrote for Didache today (All for Christ).  Amazing!  It was the verse coming alive in my life today! Praise and glory to God!  This has happened before in my previous reflections published through Didache but the timing of these messages today and the verse in my desk calendar make them extra special.
I guess God wants to affirm me and give me confidence in continuously saying yes to Him and all the assignments He sends my way although sometimes I feel I am not worthy or my skills are inadequate for the work or project ahead.  May I keep in mind that God enables those He calls and that I will be working on these projects with the grace and strength of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit guide and inspire me as I witness to people far and near.