Friday, January 29, 2016

The Prayer Jar

     We as a family originally started this Prayer Jar tradition as part of Advent two years ago, and continued it last Christmas. But because prayers are relevant all year round, each day, everyday - we have carried on this tradition to the new year, and past it. This jar contains all of our prayers - not just for us, but for family and friends. Each of us would write prayers in a colored piece of paper and place it inside this glass jar. We read them aloud together, return them in the jar, and pray them again until our prayers are answered.

Our Prayer Jar


Two years ago, we started filling up this jar with our prayers.

This year, we continue to place our prayers in it.

This is Audrey a few days ago writing her prayers - mostly prayers of thanksgiving - reading her prayer and getting another one from the jar.


     I find that this is a good way to involve children in prayer and teach them how to be specific in their prayers, and have expectant hearts that prayers written or lifted up will eventually be answered. It has also made me more diligent in not just praying, but writing my own prayers and setting aside time for this activity because the girls do request for it. I encourage you to try this as well and even make your own traditions as a family, and not just for Christmastime :) 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent: Preparing for Christmas

      Are you familiar with the Advent Season? It usually starts shortly after Thanksgiving and beginning last year, we have started an Advent tradition. I was looking for something meaningful for us to do as a family, and with the busyness of the Christmas season, we can easily forget to do the more important stuff - spend some time as a family with the goal of preparing our hearts for the coming of baby Jesus.
      I honestly wasn't too familiar with Advent so I read up on it first. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and although we started a couple of days late last year, I am still glad that we did so anyway. We didn't have a rigorous or strict schedule, but we tried to carve out some time almost every night to read our Advent devotionals and some Christmas stories. You can make your own traditions if you like, like what we did - we had what we called a Prayer Jar, and will share about that in another post.
     Here are books that I purchased online to read through during Advent. We are reading them again this year (especially since we didn't finish them last year :P). If you are interested in creating your own traditions and are looking for books to read with your family, you might also like these ;)

                                                         

         The Christmas ADVENTure: Advent Devotions and Activities for Celebrating a Christ-centered Season

      What I love about this book is that it has different parts in each reading which it divides into Head, Heart and Hands. It starts with a scripture and then thoughts to ponder (Head), a prayer (Heart), and then a practical application (Hands). It suggests different activities for you to do - with no pressure of course, for you to do them. Just choose what you would like to do (I personally couldn't do all but the suggestions were pretty good and creative, and would also give the kids something to get busy with). We got the idea of having a Prayer Jar from this book - from the idea of the "Joy Jar" - where you write the things you are thankful for every day in a piece of paper and place it in the jar to be read on Christmas Day :)
       

                                                                 
           Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families (English and English Edition)        

       Another favorite book of ours for Advent is this. It has shorter readings and are divided into Think, Pray and Act. This one is good if you have small kids like ours. The readings are simple and the activities suggested are also easy and targets the heart. An example would be that as we get ready for the coming of Jesus, kids can help mom around the house and clean or pick up toys in the room. It also suggests practicing patience, using a soft voice, or obeying when asked to do something. At least when you are out of ideas, you can just take a cue from this book! :)

      Of course there is also the Advent wreath, an activity you can also do as a family. We made our own Advent wreath with candles - but it's not your usual kind. Ours was made of recycled arts and crafts materials, and they're kid friendly! I didn't want to light up any candles because I had two little kids who can easily topple them and cause a fire. Here is what our Advent wreath looked like.

We reused Natalie's birthday party decor last year (the safari leaves), and put them together to create a wreath. 
Our candles were made of colored paper with make believe paper flames (child friendly!). These four candles are supposed to represent Peace, Hope, Love and Joy - and instead of lighting the candles, we would place them into the paper cups. The jar in the middle is our Prayer Jar and we slipped in cutout letters that spell out Jesus to represent him as the center of it all.

Underneath these labeled cups we wrote our names - since there's 4 of us in the family, we assigned one each. We asked Audrey and Natalie to choose for us and it was quite a funny discussion too. They said I needed Joy the most (because I am usually stressed haha!) and daddy needs to give more Love to mommy (because again, I am stressed hahaha!). Hope goes to Audrey because she hopes we will all have a great Christmas and Peace to Natalie so she won't fight with Audrey :D With just trying to assign these cups to each family member alone, we were able to discover what we all needed the most. We also tried to reassign these 4 virtues amongst ourselves on other nights 
so we can all get a dose of each one. And you can imagine how interesting our next rounds of discussions were :)

      Today is the beginning of Advent. We actually already started reading through our books again during Thanksgiving (this time we're early!), and will do so till after Christmas (the Advent calendar extends till then). It is something that I am looking forward to each night, together with reading Christmas stories to the girls. And even if we will most likely miss some nights due to the busy season, this tradition is a good reminder of the most important reason for Christmas - the coming of Jesus.
     

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It's Been a While

      Wow, it's been quite some time since I wrote an entry here :o I have been caught up with work, housework, schoolwork, and family life that time just passed by oh so quickly! So many things have happened from then till now, and would really like to share most of our experiences. I will try to do that little by little!

     One thing is for certain - the bigger my kids are getting, the more demand there is for my time - which I thought wasn't the case, but I guess I was wrong. Babies actually give you more breathing time. As soon as they doze off, you have some time on your hands. Not so with preschoolers! They now know how to ask and they won't stop until you give it! When they need your help or attention, the best thing to do is provide it. I have learned that if I wanted "me time" or if I have meetings to attend, I need to schedule it way ahead of time (and enlist the help of family members to watch the girls)... when I have to work at home, I need to do it during unholy hours (very early in the morning or late at night)... when I need to do house chores, I get the kids involved (like putting away dishes, sorting out laundry, packing away toys)... and most importantly, I need to lessen the amount of things that I'm doing! There's just enough hours in my day and by the time 6pm sets in, I admit that I'm already tired! I can't imagine how moms who have to take care of 5 kids, do house chores, and work from home do it! :D I guess enough energy is provided to those who need it! 

      My 3 year old is now climbing my chair as I type... this is my cue. Gotta go for now but will be back!!! ;)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Girl Everyone Loves


    She's unassuming. Beautiful but unaware. She doesn't try too hard to be noticed - but attention seemingly goes to her, without her knowing it.
    She's nice to everyone, and they all like her. They want to be around her. Because she has a good heart. She doesn't crave for attention, in fact she doesn't even want any.
    She's genuine and kind, generous and sweet. Thoughtfulness resides in her being. People are drawn to her because of who she is.
    She's like a sister to her friends, much like how she is to her own sibling. Knowing when to give and share.

    This testimony given by teachers should not come as a surprise to me, her mother. The one who knows her so well. Who sees her at her best and at her worst. And this brings a smile to my heart because wherever she is placed, she exudes character that is truly beautiful. 
    My hope is that the hearts of our children, especially our daughters, will know that true beauty lies within. That character is more valuable than appearances. That girls need not get attention by flaunting their looks and drawing focus on themselves. With beautiful character, this just happens naturally. And it's the kind of attention that is innocent and genuine. Like with these children. 
   I think we can all learn this valuable lesson from them for these young ones seem to know what is truly attractive and truly important.



"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate 
hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should 
be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, 
which is of great worth in God's sight."

                                                                                                                             - 1 Peter 3:3-4

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Local Organic Food Sources

      Healthy eating is not just a trend for me, it's a lifestyle that I want to maintain as much as possible (yes, I still go to buffets and eat sugary sweets but these are treats that I don't intend to take in every single day! once in a while is good enough). I know it's a bit more difficult to source out organic goods and more often than not, you'll have to pay the price. However, I have made my choice and I want my family and I to eat as healthy as possible - with less or no chemicals, msg, high fructose corn syrup and a bunch of other very unhealthy and unsuitable ingredients for our body. 
       I have listed down my go to sources for organic goods below along with their pros and cons.

1. The Green Grocer Manila




    I order from the green grocer online regularly and I can say that I am one satisfied customer. They have a broad range of products and I order naturally raised and grass fed meats, organic salad greens and vegetables, fruits, baking supplies, bottled gourmet products, organic eggs and butter, organic sausages and desserts like suman and ice cream. You will have to check their website on your own to see all of the products that they are carrying. 

Pros:   

  • Convenient online shopping with a new website complete with photos. So easy to use and choose.
  • One stop shopping is possible because they carry a lot of products and is basically complete as compared to other online stores.
  • They always send confirmation emails after every order, another to confirm your total order amount, and text messages to inform you of the estimated time of arrival or any changes in your order (in other words, they are very organized).
  • Their delivery charge is reasonable especially if you meet the minimum, unlike other stores.
  • They have good quality items. If you're not happy with the vegetables, they will gladly take it back and not charge you - but this rarely happens because they choose their items well prior to delivery.

Cons:  

  • Deliveries are scheduled every Wed, Thur and Sat and you have to meet the 12nn cutoff every Monday and Thursday in order to make it (or pay a fee - fair enough but just try to make sure you make the cutoff anyway). I just wish they delivered more than 3x a week ;)
  • Some items are more expensive compared to other online shops such as meat, but this is also because they are not the direct source - they also source out their goods from farmers and suppliers so naturally, additional fees apply.
  • You can't pay with a credit card directly, but only through PayPal so I just pay Cash Upon Delivery to avoid PayPal fees.
     
2. Holy Carabao



    I ordered online from Holy Carabao because I wanted to try their products and saw that they carried meats as well. I was disappointed to find out that the organic and naturally raised meats were from Down To Earth (and not directly from them) and were priced so much more! I could've just ordered directly from their source, had I known then. Their organic veggies though are pretty good and I'm glad that as an option, they are now selling their products in S&R.

Pros:      

  • Organic vegetable products are now available for purchase at S&R.
  • I like the quality of their veggies and glad that they also carry Malagos unsweetened chocolate and cheese!
  • You can pay for your order with a check if you don't have cash on hand.

Cons:   

  • Online ordering through Holy Carabao is quite backward - they still have not updated their website (and the old one wasn't so great) - they will make you email your orders through a word document that you have to fill out, and you compute your own total amount (which is not even final because as we know, these items need to be measured first for final amount to be determined), and then you have to text them. Too much work if you ask me, haha (I order online to lessen the hassle of shopping but it's not the case with HC).
  • Delivery charge is quite expensive for the South area and because of this, I have stopped ordering online. Their staff also isn't so organized and the delivery people aren't so knowledgeable either (unlike the delivery staff of The Green Grocer who seem to be updated on what's going on and actually know about their items).

3. Down To Earth




       Down to earth was the answer to my search for organic and preservative free bacon and a number of grass fed meats from local farmers. You can tell the difference once you cook the meat - they are tender and tasty. Best of all, I know they are free from chemicals and feeding them to my family reassures me that we are lessening intake of unnatural ingredients and increasing nutrients in our bodies. Locally sourced also means that we are helping the Filipino farmers that are part of the direct suppliers to Down to Earth - they actually provide the names and locations of these farmers if you'd like to check where the meat is coming from.
        I've also tried their raw cow's milk and it really beats boxed/uht milk when it comes to freshness and taste! Besides the vitamins that one can get from drinking raw milk, lactose intolerance is also avoided because enzymes aren't destroyed by pasteurization. I have given this kind of milk to both my girls, from when Natalie was one and a half and Audrey was 3. Although we don't regularly consume raw milk, we do from time to time and this was my only source so far (Holy Carabao gets theirs from here as well). 
        Although they carry mostly meats, they also offer dairy, grass fed butter, organic and biodynamically grown herbs and greens, heirloom tomatoes and chicken and beef broth. I am quite happy with their products and will be a faithful customer as long as their quality stays the same.

Pros:    
  • You can buy their products at the Salcedo Market.
  • Meats are of good quality and reasonably priced since they source them directly from the local farmers.
  • You can easily place orders online and they will send you an email confirmation and text you if in case some items are not available.
  • You can pay for your orders online with a credit card.


Cons:   
  • Delivery is done through a courier so there is a corresponding shipping charge which isn't exactly cheap. What I do is I order by bulk to maximize this fee.
  • As with most suppliers of fresh meats and veggies, some items on the website are not always available.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our Favorite Baby Products

     If you are about to become a new parent and are not sure of what items to buy for your little one, here are some baby items that have always been my favorites. I have used every single item on this list for both of my kids and they've proven to be very useful, extremely helpful and long-lasting.


1. Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper

                                                
                                Arm's Reach Ideal Arc Original Co-Sleeper Bedside Bassinet, Natural

      We bought the Arm's Reach co-sleeper back in 2010 for our firstborn and it proved to be a very good investment. I had a C-Section then and having the co-sleeper right beside our bed where I could get my baby easily to breastfeed her was very convenient. We also didn't have to worry about squishing our very small baby while we were asleep because she had her own bed to sleep on while keeping a close distance to us.


2. Baby Bjorn

                                                          
                                            BABYBJORN Baby Carrier One - Black, Cotton Mix

       Although I had several types of baby carriers, this one remains to be a constant favorite. The Baby Bjorn was recommended by my sister in law and it is our go-to carrier when traveling. It's so easy to put together and so safe. And it also makes baby carrying look cool for daddy ;)
         You can check other types of Baby Carriers that I love, here.


3. Medela Harmony Manual Pump

                                               
                                                        Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump


        As a breastfeeding mom, I cannot live without this manual pump! And yes, this brand in particular. It's the best one according to my mommy friends, especially those who have tried other brands so this is what I got. I personally did not try any other brand - but I am very happy because of the Medela harmony's efficiency. Although I've used their double electric pump as well, I still would say that this manual one is my essential one to have, simply because you can take it with you anywhere (the car, your bed, the kitchen, walking around, traveling, etc.), you can control the pressure, it doesn't require batteries, and it gets the job done! (not to mention cheaper too).
       You can check my other Breastfeeding Essentials here as well.


4. Safety First Grooming Kit

                                                  
                                    Safety 1st Deluxe Healthcare and Grooming Kit, Dupont Circle


        I have 2 sets of this grooming kit in 2 different colors. One for Audrey and another for Natalie. It's my favorite because it has all the essentials and comes in a nicely designed case. I like the nail cutter in particular because it makes cutting small nails really easy and safe. 


5. Chicco Sterilizer

                                             
                                          Chicco Electric Steam Sterilizer in Purple/White
        
      Even breastfeeding moms need sterilizers. I needed one for all my breastmilk storage cups, breast pump parts and bottles (for those times when I had to leave a little longer than my baby could wait for the breast to come back! Can't let baby go hungry). I liked this brand because it was easy and simple to use.


6. Exergen Digital Thermometer

                                                                         
                                                      Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer

      Now this! This forehead thermometer is a MAJOR essential for me. My pedia uses this type of thermometer because it's easy to get a child's temp with it and it's accurate. Our doctor got it from the US and so I searched Amazon and voila! My sis and I bought one each through amazon.com and she brought it home with her during a trip. Whenever my kids would feel warmer than usual, this is what I use to check for a fever and it's so hassle free. I don't have to stick anything in their mouth, armpit or (gasp!) butt! :o There's hardly any struggle when using this one and they can be asleep and not know that I'm checking up on their temperature. Super duper good investment! And up until now (5 years later!), it still works very well and has not run out of battery! 


7. Baby Bag

                                             
                                        Skip Hop Swift Changing Station Diaper Bag, Black


       Now of course, what parent can leave home without a baby bag when going out with baby?! none! (unless you're super forgetful or like to take risks! haha).  I love our Skip Hop messenger bag because: 1) It carries everything we need from diapers, a changing mat, sippy cups, wipes, clothes, etc and 2) I love the design - it doesn't really look like a baby bag so my husband doesn't mind carrying it, plus 3) It's durable. 

     These are my Top 7 for Parents' Essentials for Baby! These items are actually used more by a baby's caregivers to make life easier and more convenient. These sure helped me a lot and hope they will help you and your baby too :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Audrey's 5th: The Birthday Events

      Audrey's birthday fell on a Sunday and we really didn't plan for a big party. Instead we ended up with a 3-day celebration over the weekend which left us, the parents, all partied out! :o  Haha! Not really complaining but if you're a parent, I think you already know that even small gatherings can tire you out easily when it's done on 3 consecutive days! Both Audrey and Natalie had lots of fun, and of course so did we so no regrets! We super enjoyed as well! :)


The morning before her celebration in school :)

Audrey and her classmates had a blast in her simple pizza party!
Who knew preschoolers could eat so much pizza?! They kept
going back for seconds and thirds! :D

The next day, it was time for Audrey's Birthday Brunch at our bro/sis in laws' house!
They just had a baby and my sis in law was recovering from an operation
so we brought the party to them! Had so much fun cooking brunch with a bit
of Natalie's help hehe, and everyone else's! The brunch buffet was a good idea!

Natalie seems to love the pancakes we prepared!
Complete with rainbow sprinkles :)

The birthday girl opening her gifts!

Up, up and away!
Natalie pretending to be carried away by the balloons! :)

Family photo ;)
                     
Cake star decor turned lollipop!

The girls spent the day eating, playing and enjoying the company of their baby cousins!

Time to blow out 5 colorful candles!

All smiles!

This fondant covered butter cake was superb!

On Audrey's actual birthday, we went out of town with ze grandparents.
It was a relaxing afternoon at the playground and the pool!

Birthday photo with dad and sis :)

Another year has passed and
my little girl is growing up so fast.
Sigh!