Friday, February 27, 2015

Our Lenten Journey (2015)

Lent has started! It's almost the second Sunday of Lent and I praise and thank God for the wisdom and grace He has given me and my family to continue our Lenten family traditions and to start new ones.
I consider this is a miracle because I have a newborn baby whom I breastfeed on demand. I thank God for sustaining me and giving me energy to lead our devotions and activities. I thank God also that it seems that my two older boys are enjoying our activities.
Let me share what we have started so far. 
Ash Wednesday was a full day in our home.
We changed the curtains and throw pillow cases changed into lavender. We also changed the cover of our altar into the same color.

My eldest son made Lenten banners.

My two older kids made the Alleluia banner and hid it.

I asked my eldest son to write "From: Jesus" in the gift tag
and on the opposite side of it, "salvation" and "eternal life."
We started using the Lenten calendar I printed the day before. For alternative Lenten Calendar ideas, click here.

Lenten Calendar from Catholic Icing blog.
The kids dropped coins on our alms box (a cereal box turned into a coin box covered with purple paper and with the word ALMS written on it).
I declared that for the entire season of Lent, our family will fast on our favorite dessert: ice cream and chocolates. So on the night before Ash Wednesday, my husband and I had a brief Valentine date at a nearby ice cream store. ;)
We've started observing the abstinence of meat on prescribed days like Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. I put to use the 4-week Cycle Menu Plan for Lent that I made . Click here to go to my post about meatless Fridays of Lent.
And since we love music, we started reviewing and singing songs usually sang during Lent. Last week, my eldest son who can play the piano oido and who is starting to learn how to read notes learned how to play the song Hosea.

We went to Mass on Ash Wednesday and had ashes on our foreheads.

It's our baby's first Ash Wednesday!

As part of our new Lenten tradition, I have started reading the Bible or Bible stories from the kids' Children's Bible over breakfast. Then, I reinforce with a bit of storytelling as well when I read from my Bible.
After our storytelling and Bible reading, I sometimes ask the kids to make a drawing based on the story that they just heard. Sometimes, I ask them to color coloring pages about the stories that I told them. I also ask my eldest son to answer some worksheets related to our topics. Sometimes, he answers word searches, mazes, questions or fill in the blanks worksheets. I search the internet for ideas. I also get some help from the Holy Heroes site for inspiration and activities. I choose only what I think my kids are ready to do at this time/age.
Just like in the past, I reinforce these lessons and stories by letting them watch some videos on our topics/Bible heroes/characters. One of the recent videos I let them watch is about the 10 Commandments.
The kids so far are enjoying these activities. I hear them a lot talking about the Bible characters and stories we have discussed so far. Sometimes, these stories become the theme of their pretend plays. 
We have also resumed our night prayers as a family. For a while we just listen to the kids say their night prayers in the past months after I gave birth then we send them to bed to sleep. This Lent, we started praying again with them after they say their night prayers.
Lent is indeed a season of grace and I thank God for His grace that is new every morning. His grace is what enables us to keep on keeping on in our faith walk. It's what enables us to be faithful even after we fall and make mistakes along the way. It's His grace that reminds us of His unconditional and steadfast love. It's His grace that gives me encouragement to continuously strive to be more like Him in all things, especially in parenting my kids.
This year, I do not have a new verse to guide me throughout my Lenten journey. I have decided to stick to the verse that I adapted years ago. I believe that I need to be reminded of this verse a lot so I can grow closer to living it out. My verse for Lent again this year is: "Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
I pray that God would continue to bless the rest of our Lenten journey.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Georg Daniel's Christening at Max's Restaurant (#NinongkosiMax)

Our third baby is now a Christian!
We named him Georg Daniel. Georg was inspired by his Daddy's name but with a slightly different spelling and Daniel was inspired by Daniel of the Old Testament. My prayer is that just like Daniel, he would have strong faith and commitment to God even in the face of threat or danger. I also pray that God would bless him and bestow His favors upon him just like what He did with Daniel.

I initially planned to have our baby baptized towards the end of January but the people in the Philippines got busy during the Papal Visit so we decided to delay it a bit. Moreover, I still felt tired and sleepy a lot of times due to irregular sleep patterns of our baby and me. Organizing and coordinating an event was not very attractive to me at this time. So, the timing is just right. Our baby has just turned 2 months old. It's such a joy to look at him now -- very healthy and filled up. My reward for breastfeeding him exclusively and taking care of him these past 2 months.
Since we had our second son's baptismal reception at Max's Restaurant three years ago and we had been reaping the benefits of their Ninong ko si Max promo, I've decided early on to have our newborn baby's baptismal reception at Max's Restaurant also. We just held it in another branch that is closer to our new home.

Here are the perks of having Max as your child's Ninong. ;) 
  1. Christmas Gift - This is given every year until the 7th birthday of the child. So far, based on our experience, it was usually a whole fried chicken.
  2. Birthday Gift - This is also given every year until the 7th birthday of the child. Our second child received a whole fried chicken also in the past years.
  3. Free Max's Corner Bakery product for every store visit with a minimum purchase of P200.
  4. 15% discount on the child's 1st and 7th birthday celebration at any Max's Restaurant nationwide.  
To claim all these, you need to present your child's Ninong ko si Max card.

There are two available themes for the baptismal package: Noah's Ark and Blessed Baby. I chose Blessed Baby this time because we already chose Noah's Ark three years ago for our second child.

I also believe that our baby is very blessed to have as one of his godparents our priest-friend, Fr. Jonathan "Jojo" Letada, SVD. He was also the one who baptized Geordan.

Georg Daniel wore the same Barong Tagalog baptismal attire
used by his two older brothers.

Georg Daniel wears a white crochet bonnet made by my mom. 

Two of his Ninongs didn't make it last Sunday. But we are still very happy to have them as our baby's godparents. One of them is a fellow author and speaker and the Director for our community's (Light of Jesus) Campus Ministry/Missions, JC Libiran. The other one is one of my former co-servants in my previous community for single professionals, Rommel Escoto. He also owns a Kumon Center so in case Geordan needs help in Math (that his Dad and I could not solve), he can ask the help of his Ninong Rommel. ;) Thankfully, his Ninong Ryan was present last Sunday. He's one of our good friends from LOJ since my husband and I were still single. Geordan can learn a lot from his Ninong Ryan about finances since he is a RFP and entrepreneur also.

With Georg Daniel's Ninongs and Ninangs

Geordan's Ninangs include Christine Bellen and Sha Nacino who are both authors. Christine is an award-winning children's book author and playwright. Sha is a prolific author whom my mentor Bo Sanchez calls as an Ebook Queen. ;) She's also a speaker who advocates that people make their passions their professions. This is something that I also advocate. I hope that Geordan would be inspired follow in my footsteps and his Ninang Sha's footsteps of making his passion his profession. His other Ninang is a friend of mine who is also a leader in the Focolare Movement. I admire and love her passion in sharing the Word of God to families. I hope that our son would be inspired by her life and devotion as well. Geordan's fourth Ninang is one of our friends in our parish. She is actually one of the catechists and lectors/commentators in our church. I'm confident that my husband and I can count on her help in passing on our Catholic faith to our son. I also pray that her life of service in the church would inspire our son. 
I find Max's Christening Package budget-friendly and very convenient. Aside from the use of their venue (for 2 hours), the restaurant will take care of the food and drinks, decors (balloons, centerpieces and tarpaulin banner), invitations, cake, sound system, souvenirs and guest book. They also give a gift to the baby which is a chicken stuffed toy and a blanket. Basically, the family will just go to the venue and everything will be taken care of by the restaurant staff.

Here are some pictures at the reception.

I would suggest, however, that you assign a family member, close friend or relative to check for you if the restaurant staff has provided all that was included in the package. I forgot to do this plus I was too busy during the reception that I didn't notice or didn't get to check if everything is in order. Based on our experience last Sunday, one main thing you need to check is if all the food in the menu that you chose has been served to your guests and that they were served on time. I learned from my mom that in their table, they were not served the appetizer. The viands didn't get served promptly also. Although, I gave verbal instructions to the staff assigned to us, I didn't have time to check per table. I just assumed that since I gave instructions already, the staff will carry them out. I suggest you ask someone else to do this for you since the mom and dad are usually busy with the baby or talking to guests. I also noticed that the gifts table was not covered with cloth just like in the brochure.

The shade of blue used for the balloons was also different from what I expected and from what was showed in the brochure. They used bright blue balloons instead of light blue balloons last Sunday. They also did not provide a pen for the guest book. My husband and I had to look for a pen at the last minute. These are minor glitches anyway aside from the food issue. They could be prevented if there's a specific person who will coordinate with the restaurant staff on the day of the event. Maybe, you can also call the restaurant and ask how many staff or waiters would be assigned in your event to make sure that your guests would be served promptly.

I just looked for a photographer who will cover the event. I looked for one who included the photo album (32-paged 8x6 inches) in the package. Fortunately, I found one who fits my allocated budget. For P6,000, two photographers took photos of our baby from preparation at home to the church and then the reception.

It's your big day, baby!

These were the same attire and shoes that his Kuya Mateo
wore three years ago.

The church provided plain white candles only.
So I bought these pale blue cup cake liners
that were both decorative and useful.

Then, we also bought a nice notebook (from National Bookstore) where we asked our guests to write blessings or prayers for our baby boy because guests can only write their names in the guest book.

We didn't have a program anymore. My husband simply welcomed our guests and led the prayer before meals. We passed around the guest book and notebook for the blessings and prayers. Then, before we went around from one table to the next for picture-taking, we shared some things about our baby to our guests like how we came to choose his name and some details about his birth. It was a relaxed, intimate party wherein we had time to share updates with our closest relatives and family friends. 



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

7 Valentine Activities You Can Do with Your Kids

Less than a week to go before Valentine's Day! Are you still thinking of activities that you can do with your kids?
Let me share 7 simple but meaningful activities that you can do even with small children. 
1. Valentine's Day Countdown - I got this inspiration from Catholic Icing but I modified it. We started our Valentine countdown last February 1. I chose 14 Bible verses about love (with the help of Google and my own Bible) that I want our family to focus on this month of love. Then, I printed the verses in pink bond paper and my eldest cut the paper into strips, folded them into two and taped them with masking tape to form a chain. Once the 14 strips were made into a long chain, I cut a pink ribbon and attached it to a heart-shaped pink board (that I cut as well). I taped it at the back of the door of our master's bedroom. What we do is get 1 heart from the countdown chain every night after evening Mass, read it and try to memorize it. Then, we stick it on the door. Our goal and challenge this month is to memorize all 14 Bible verses about love. Aside from reading the verse several times and memorizing the verse for the day, my husband and I also try to explain the meaning of the verses to our kids.

These are the verses on love that we have read so far.

John 3:16
1 John 4:7
Mark 12:31
Deuteronomy 6:5
1 John 4:16
John 13:34
Luke 6:35
1 Peter 4:8
1 John 3:13

You can still do this activity starting tonight or Thursday this week.
After this activity, we proceed to our next Valentine activity.
2. Q and A on how we expressed love and felt loved - Every night, we tell each other how we felt loved by the different members of our family. It's a good exercise to teach kids that there are different ways of showing love. Through this activity, our eldest son is slowly learning how to show love in many different ways. I remember one night when he said that one way he showed love to his younger brother was when he accompanied him to the bathroom to wash his hands even though he was annoyed that it takes his younger brother a while before he is done. I praised him for doing that and emphasized that love is doing something good to another even when you don't like it. Our 3-year-old is still a bit challenged by this exercise. His concept of love is still limited to hugs and kisses as of now even though we have explained to him the different love languages. hehe That or he is simply a physical touch person! ;)
3. Love Poster - The boys and I made a love poster inspired by the Bible verse "If you love me, you will obey my commands." They helped glue the pink hearts. My eldest wrote the verse on top of the poster.

I told them that every time they obey me, they can draw a flower inside "my heart" and they can draw a smiling face inside their "Daddy's heart" every time they obey him this month. I thought of this activity to further emphasize the virtue of obedience to my little boys.

4. Valentine Card-Making Activity - This is a yearly tradition in our home. I lead the boys in painting or crafting cards each year. This morning, we finished making cards for their grandparents, for my brother and for our pianist in the church who inspires my boys a lot! First, I cut hearts out of a white board then asked them to paint on them using watercolor. They chose the colors that they wanted to use on their works of heart. ;) After letting them dry, I put some glitter glue on the hearts and glued them to folded papers. Then, my eldest wrote messages on them and signed them. My 3-year-old wrote his name beside his older brother's name. So, that was our arts and crafts project for today with writing and spelling practice.

The Valentine card made by our boys for me and my husband today (February 11).
They each painted a heart. The blue one was painted by my 3-year-old
and the pink and purple one by my 6-year-old.
5. Valentine-themed Worksheets - Since we are a homeschooling family, I incorporated Valentine's Day lessons into our activities. My eldest has just finished answering some Math and English worksheets. My youngest started coloring a Valentine-themed Math worksheet also the other day. There are many that you can find in the internet. Just choose what is appropriate for your kids' current needs and interests. We got some of our worksheets from
6. One-to-One Dates - We will be going out on one-to-one dates this week. There's an ice cream store near our house where I plan to bring each of my boys this week. It's just a few minutes away so perfect for when my newborn baby needs to breastfeed from me. Our maid can just go there and inform me that the baby needs me.

Took this photo during my Valentine date with my eldest son this afternoon (February 11).
We had ice cream at the park then had a light snack here in this place.
My handsome little Valentine today, February 12.

7. Book-Giving - Last but not the least, I will be giving my boys a book as a gift on Valentine's Day since we love books and it's International Book-Giving Day. I have a perfect book in mind already. I hope there is still a copy available in the bookstore of A Little Boy After God's Own Heart. This book was written by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth George. I believe that this book is something they could reread over the years and grow up with. I pray that they would grow up to be boys with hearts burning for love of God.

What activities do you plan to do with your family this week or this month? Feel free to share them with me in the comments. Advance Happy Valentine's Day to you!