When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“Aprub!” (approve) was my father’s most favorite answer to almost anything I would ask from him. From toys, clothes, food, school supplies, name it, if he can get it, he will give it to me. It was his way of making me feel loved, apart from the time he spends with me, despite his very busy schedule.

I thought I was never spoiled, since I never really became a brat, who whined and cried when my parents couldn’t get me what I wanted. Although, thinking about it now, I actually cannot recall any specific instance when my father gave me a NO for an answer. Aprub! I remember his line so clearly, until today. 

Since I married Joey, things started to change. I had to learn to surrender to his authority over our family. Out of habit, oftentimes, I get disappointed when he would decide to go against my plans and wishes. It had always been a continuous struggle. 

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Ephesians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

You see, this isn’t about being unfair in a worldly sense. These verses are commanded to us wives, basically for our own good and for the good of the family. But, how? How is it good to submit? Well, God has appointed husbands to be the head of the family for they are given the responsibility to LEAD. Men are created and designed this way as we see in this verse:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Just so you know, God originally didn’t design marriage this way, when he created the world. It only changed the moment Adam and Eve failed to obey God, and committed the very first sin. 

“To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.””

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And because we are fallen beings, born in sinfulness, these things are what we encounter today. This is our struggle in our own marriage. This is our common struggle as women: all of us have that inner desire to get what we want. How many of you can relate? Oh yes, you! Yes, Momma, I see you. You’re just like me, as I am like you. The struggle is real. Very real. 

Submission is an act of obedience through faith. But why do we even have to submit anyway? Simply because God commanded it. That alone should be enough to shake us and make us obey immediately. But God is a good God and and has been gracious in giving us the chance to know why we should submit to those who are in authority over us. 

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭13:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We all know that God blesses us when we obey him. When we are faithful to His commands, he spares us from conflict and difficulties in life. This is why we should strive to sumbit to our husbands, and to our governing authorities. Is there a limitation to this? What if they are unreasonable? Biased? Unfair? We STILL submit. Whoever abuses his authority, God will deal with them in His own perfect time, for He is sovereign above all things. If a person becomes physically abusive though, that is another story. Those people should immediately seek counsel. We also should be wary when we are asked to do unbiblical things, we don’t submit to that either. This is why knowing God’s commands and instructions through reading His Word, is truly vital.

Take note and please do not be mistaken. Our motivation to obey should stem from our thankfulness, for the undeserved grace that He has given us believers, through our Salvation, in Christ Jesus. It can’t be because we want something from God, that means nothing at all. God does not owe us anything! Everything we have is purely by GRACE.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Remember, we have already been blessed, and out of the overflow of our hearts should be that desire which is to give God glory, by pleasing Him, by doing the all the little things that would make Him feel loved and honored. Just take for example how much you value your child’s obedience, it feels good that they trust you, knowing that you know what is best for them doesn’t it?

I am a work in progress in the area of submission. The focal point of our marriage is to bring back to God all the glory. So, when I find myself doubting or questioning Joey’s decisions and choices, I try my best to look at it from a different perspective. That even if it is not what I wanted at that moment, because God is sovereign, it will ultimately be for the best, for my own good. In order for me to do that willingly AND joyfully, I must develop my trust in God’s supreme authority. After all, it is easier to submit when you know to whom you do it for, and that is for God.

Joey and I will still go through a lot of challenges in our marriage. Like I have said, I am still a work in progress. It is my prayer that when I don’t get things my way, I will always be reminded of who I am, what my role is as a wife and a woman, and how God is sovereign above all things. It is also my prayer that Joey will remain as forgiving and patient as he is, for all my mistakes presently, and those that I may still commit in the future. 

All glory unto God alone!

Motherhood Redefined

The holidays last December was an eye opener for me about what it means to actually take care of my family, all by myself. Our househelp, who has been with us for just 6 months, left us for good. What was supposed to be a short vacation turned out to be permanent goodbye. I thought a post must be dedicated for this story alone, but I feel like it’s just a waste of my precious time, so, I did not bother anymore.

I have always been a hands on Mom to Matilda, even before Mileina was born. Losing the househelp did not paralyze us in that area very much. Although, the difference now is that, we have another baby to take care of. For one, I am exclusively breastfeeding, and it takes so much time in a day for feeding sessions. However, this is still good, because it takes away washing and sterilizing bottles as additional chores everyday if we were formula feeding. Another is that, I make sure we have freshly prepared, homecooked meals daily. This is quite meticulous to prepare, considering I do have meat and vegetables each meal. Preparing the ingredients alone is already time-consuming. 

As a wife to Joey on the other hand, it is a whole other set of responsibilities. Joey likes to have food prepared for him to bring to the office for breakfast, snack and lunch. He also wants his clothes ironed really well, shoes regularly shined and scrubbed, and his gym clothes washed right after use. Well, this is apart from the usual night massage requests he asks for as his love language (Hey, I’m not complaining ha? Haha!).

Honestly, during the first few days, I was grumbling and irritated that Joey expects that much from me knowing that I still have to look after the two kids. After praying about it though, I realized that it is my repsonsibility, and I have to own up to it. It is my role, first, as a wife, to take care of him, before our children. Yes, babies are demanding of time and attention, but it is a good training for them to learn how to wait and understand the right order of priorities. It is a really good thing so that they do not grow up feeling entitled. It is also a wake-up call for me, because I have depended so much on our househelp in doing these things for us. I would just usually instruct and observe. Now, I am able to do so much more for Joey compared to how it was when I just delegated the chores to our househelp.

On my part though, adjustments had to me made before it came to that. I am now waking up earlier that usual, around 6 to 6:30am to prepare Joey’s packed food and our own breakfast at home, which is usually whatever leftover food we have the day before. And then I go on preparing ingredients for our lunch and dinner. After which, I load the laundry in the washer and come back for it when I have spare time. We eat breakfast, keep Matilda preoccupied with activities while I cook, and then breastfeed and wash soiled cloth diapers in between. I wash the dishes when I can, too! And then we take a bath, have lunch and put the kids to sleep for an afternoon nap. This is the time I get to rest and read my Bible. When they are deep asleep already, this is when I clean the house, wash the remaining dishes, refill water bottles, fold clean clothes and get the clothes from the washer. Whew! Talking about it makes me catch my breath! It is tiring physically, really, most of the time, but relfecting on how I am sustained by God day by day is the most rewarding feeling of all. Seeing that I get to personally take care of my family too, all by myself, is a true gift from God, and for this, I am blessed! 

And because Joey saw how well I am coping with the situation, we have decided to stop looking for a househelp. We just have a stay-out help, who comes in once or twice a week, to handwash delicate clothes, including the kids’ clothes, and to iron them as well. If for whatever reason she would decide to stop coming, we will still manage. 

This is a lot better for all of us. Matilda has become even more independent, and she has learned to be more considerate. She is now more careful with her toys and does not make a mess anymore. She even helps me take care of her little sister. 

Joey on the other hand takes care of the dishes when he is around. He cooks too, when he has the time. And for myself, I have mastered the art of multitasking and time-management at its finest! It is indeed humbling and we are grateful for this change in our household. For what I used to call motherhood was redefined, ultimately for God’s glory alone. 

Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossioans 3:23-24

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 

These verses are great reminders to me on how I should view my daily tasks. I do not only do it for my family, but I must remember that I do it for God. They will see, especially my kids if what I am doing is from my heart, and if I am serving them with joy and delight. I represent my faith to them that is why it is important that I set a good example of what it means to be a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother. My goal is to accomplish the purpose God has set before me, as I wait on the Lord. My rewards will not be from the earth, but is found in heaven when I meet my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So mothers, do not rely on help from anyone. Do what you can, so that if ever they decide to suddenly leave, (well, they usually do!) you won’t have a hard time adjusting. Like many mothers all over the world, with the right amount of prayer, patience commitment, and most of all, grace from God, you can do it too! Let’s be supermoms for our families one day at a time. 

  

Choosing Your Birth Team

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a great birth team to make your dream birthing experience a reality. In my own water birth story, I shared the names of the people behind that unforgettable birth, but I wasn’t able to expound the roles they played in each stage of my pregnancy, and birth. I intentionally did that as I believe they deserve to have their own write-up as well.

Your OB-Gyne

There are so many factors you have to consider in choosing your primary health care provider for your pregnancy. In my first pregnancy with Matilda, we were still based in Davao and I didn’t get the chance to actually choose an OB. We just went with who had an open clinic at the time we went to the hospital.

With my second pregnancy, knowing in my heart I wanted a gentle birthing experience this time around, I made an effort to ask people in my circle, on whom they would recommend. At the top of their list was Dra. Menefrida Reyes, and I am just so blessed I decided to go for her.

Here are some of the major considerations before I chose my OB (and Pediatrician too).

1. She/He had to be a follower of God.

2. With clinic schedule on a Saturday – only time Joey can accompany me.

3. Had to be practicing in a reputable hospital that is Mother and Baby-friendly.

4. With good experiences from previous patients.

5. Low rate of recorded CS

6. With a reasonable Professional Fee.

7. Patiently answers questions during check-ups and does not rush the consultation time.

9. Provides mobile number in case of emergency.

10. Conservative in terms of treatments and medical interventions.

11. Respects the birth plan/preferences of the couple.

12. With a positive outlook, in general.

13. Goes to the clinic on-time.

14. Lastly, one who would be open on having Matilda with us during Labor.

These are just what came to mind as of this writing. Dra. Reyes being able to perform water birth was just a big bonus. I actually didn’t know of it and decided to go through it, until I was already under her care. I was originally set on having a Lamaze Birth.

I have fond memories of my prenatal check-ups with Dra. Reyes. Her very warm personality was what drew my family close to her. We felt secure knowing she waa truly concerned about me and the baby, and not just doing her job for profit. She is really very compassionate.

During my labor and delivery, Dra. Reyes patiently attended to my needs. She was very calm and encouraging and I never felt pressured in any way. It was a great deal that every single detail in my birth plan was perfectly honored as well. She also prayed with me, and for me through the difficult parts. And together, we all rejoiced in the blessing of Tulip Mileina’s life through a successful water birth.

I really have nothing but nice words to say about Dra. Reyes, and if you’d still ask if I would recommend her? Of course, it’s a BIG YES!

Your Baby’s Pediatrician

Matilda being born in Davao also had to switch Peditricians when we moved back here in Manila. Her current Pedia is practicing at Cardinal Santos Medical Center and could not cross over to St. Luke’s for the birth of our second child.

I have a really high standard in choosing my child’s doctor. It had to be someone I could completely entrust my child’s well-being. This also means that we have the same views when it comes to child care which includes the most important aspect of all, that is breastfeeding.

Nearing my expected date of delivery, I still haven’t chosen a Pediatrician. Ideally, you’d want to meet him/her at least once before you give birth. This is to discuss your preferences on how your baby will be taken care of after the birth. Some of which include Unang Yakap, Delayed Cord Clamping, Breastfeeding, Immunizations, Newborn Screening, and all other tests.

Upon meeting Dra. Reyes on my 38th week, I asked her recommendation for a Pediatrician. She only gave me one name, it was Dra. Maria Luisa Manlapaz. I haven’t heard of her before, but Dra. Reyes said she is good. Because I trust Dra. Reyes, I scheduled a meeting with her. Her clinic schedule for that week was already full so I settled to have it on my 39th week instead.

On the day I was supposed to meet her for the first time, my labor has finally started. I was thinking of just informing her secretary about it but Dra. Reyes gave me her personal number so I can contact her directly. Without thinking twice, I sent her a message informing her of my current situation and that I would really appreicate if she can be present for the birth of my child. I wasn’t expecting a reply at all but I was so surprised, she immediately answered back with a, “Yes, of course, I will be there”. I was so happy and I felt relieved knowing that we’ll have her present during the birth of Mileina.

While on the tub, I think I was around 8cm at that time, I met Dra. Manlapaz for the first time. Like Dra. Reyes, she too had a very warm personality and a follower of God as well. She stayed with us through that very difficult part of labor and personally took care of my baby after she came out of the water. She was the one making sure that baby is dry and warm enough to be with me while we wait for the cord to stop pulsating.

After cutting the cord, she borrowed our baby and checked on her in the room, while I deliver the placenta and clean myself up. It was just 5-10 minutes when she came back to remind us we had to move quickly as baby is already rooting, a cue that she already wanted to breastfeed. This made me really happy that she was very concerned about a good start in breastfeeding. Kudos to Dra. Manlapaz!

She gave me a go signal to go home the next day as long as baby is okay. She also allowed all vaccines to be given 12hrs after the birth, as it was my personal request to delay everything concerning tests and vaccines, if possible. She, too, was very happy about us using cloth diapers and told me this is a great way to monitor the baby’s urine output. Isn’t she the BEST?? I just love her! We are really aligned with everything! I am very thankful that Dra. Reyes recommended her to us.

Your Doula

If it’s your first time to hear the word Doula, let me give you a brief explanation about her.

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. – DONA International

There are so many reasons why every mother should get a doula. I would like to share with you my own personal reasons, for you to have an idea.

1. I wanted to have a Lamaze Birth the first time, but I failed due to so many external factors. I needed more evidence-based information, and a one on one prenatal session with a doula can provide me with that.

2. My birth plan wasn’t followed because I had no strength physically and emotionally to fight for it. A doula will act as your voice, your protector, who will try her best to ensure that your birth wishes, as long as it is safe, will be honored.

3. A strong physical and emotional support is vital to achieve a natural birth. Though Joey was with me, I needed someone else who understood and knew how to cope with the pain. A doula is the perfect person to encourage you and guide you through it.

4. Admittedly, I have a very low tolerance for pain. With the help of a doula, she can coach you how to use that pain to your advantage, to bring about a better (and quicker!) birthing experience.

5. To have a natural childbirth wasn’t an option for me, but a necessity. Having a doula around would remind me of this, during times I feel like giving up.

6. I find comfort in knowledge but, good birthing books are expensive and hard to find. If you are bookworm like me, your doula would normally give you free access to her library, as part of her services.

Ms. Velvet Roxas, is someone I admire and respect in a whole other level. She was the person who opened my eyes to the reality of infant and child-care, specifically, breastfeeding. I learned so much as I had my training, and it changed our perspective and whole lives, as a family ever since. Like her, I have taken breastfeeding as an advocacy, which I also share frequently here in my blog.

Because I know her personally, her beliefs and stand on many areas involving mother and child, it was so easy for me to decide on getting her as my doula. In fact, I informed her of my desire to get her services even before I had my first prenatal check-up! That is proof enough on how badly I wanted a natural birth right from the start.

There are very few doulas here in the Philippines, and Ms. Velvet, who I jokingly call “Madam V”, (others call her “Diva Velvet”) who has a very bubbly, BUT strict personality, is the only one who is DONA Certified. She is also the very first mother who have given birth in the water at Asian Hospital, 8 years ago. (Asian Hospital has no waterbirth facility anymore). It’s not because of her great credentials that I got her as my doula. It was mainly because I know she has a big heart and that her life revolves around mothering other mothers. I understand her and I believe we get along really well that’s why it wasn’t a difficult decision to have her on my side. I actually needed her (very) “strict” side to guide me through those difficult moments, because she can actually scare me at times! Side note and trivia: On my 5th month, we attended a seminar and there were so much food at the venue. She was checking on me if I was eating sweets!! She was my food police! (Madam V, please don’t get mad at me for this! I love you! Haha!) Which I truly appreciate as I know she only wants what is best for me.

I owe Ms. Velvet a big part on the success of my water birth because she armed me with so much information, and she was with me the entire time. She also patiently answered all my questions and checked up on me once in a while. During my actual labor, she stood beside me, fed me, took care of me, bathe me, and literally carried me throughout the toughest times. God used her mightily as an extension of His blessing.

Your Birth Photographer

I love taking photos in general, and the birth, for me, is a celebration of life that needs to be captured in the lenses of a camera. Originally, I had planned to get professional services from trained birth photographers/videographers, however, I found their rates quite too high and we just could not afford it. It was a blessing that Dra. Raissa Paje-Bayawa, a new Pediatrician friend through Ms. Velvet, who just actually wanted to be there to observe the birth, offered to capture the photos. And the result? Well, just like a PRO! Thanks again Dra. Raissa!

I believe that all these people were divinely appointed by God, so that I could experience the birth He has planned and designed perfectly for me. Truly, by His grace, He gave me the chance to meet them all so that together, we can glorify Him alone. Indeed, this birth was orchestrated beautifully, not for my personal benefit, but for Him! All Glory and Praises to our King!

My Birth Team

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Left to right: Myself an hour after the birth, Dra. Maria Luisa Manlapaz, Ms. Velvet Roxas, Dra. Menefrida Reyes, and Dra. Raissa Paje-Bayawa.

The Lord is My Healer

I believe it is only fitting that I blog about the recent developments of my pregnancy. By the time I make this post public, I’ll be on my 6th month mark. Oh how time flies! As most of you mommies know, right around this time, your Obstetrician would already request for you take your Oral Glucose Tolerance Test – OGTT test. This is a procedure wherein you will be asked to fast for 6-8 hours, have your blood drawn for it and then you will be asked to take an orange glucose drink, and have another extraction 2 hours thereafter. Normally, it usually takes 4 extractions which includes the fasting, 1st hour, 2nd hour and 3rd hour to have more accurate results, but because I already have a history of Gestational Diabetes in my past pregnancy, this procedure with fewer extractions, was done to me instead.

In my pregnancy with Matilda, it came out as a shock that I got a positive result for this test. Sure, I am fond of sweets, but I have my blood tests done annually to make sure all is well with my health. This is actually one of the things my parents do for their own health and has passed it on to me and my brother, just to know how we are all doing. So, you can just imagine my reaction upon seeing the result of my OGTT test. I was so confused and I felt as if my body has betrayed me.

I was asked by my OB to meet with an Endocrinologist, a specialist in this area, to check on me and help me manage my sugar level. She asked me to get a Glucometer, a small, battery-operated device to check my sugar 2 hours after each meal, and record it in a notebook. She also asked me to meet with a Nutritionist-Dietitian to try having my blood sugar controlled naturally, through exercise and by following a strict calorie count diet, before we decide if I’ll be needing insulin injections or not.

As I was going through this process, pricking my finger 3x a day, eating ZERO sugar and having portion controlled meals, my pregnancy on my 5th month then have become very depressing. I couldn’t enjoy eating whatever I wanted and I felt deprived each time. I was also worried for the health of my baby and just prayed that I’d be able to endure this difficult time.

Apart from that, this condition was also financially challenging as the glucometer strips were very costly and we had to go to 2 different doctors each check-up, plus the fact that we had to revamp our grocery shopping list to much healthier alternatives. This is also because this condition is also linked with Pre-Eclampsia, which is high-blood during the pregnancy, that I had to really watch my food intake and minimize using salt and oil in cooking. How sad is that? No sugar, less salt and almost zero oil in cooking. Just imagine how many times I had to say no to my cravings!

But… With all the difficulty, I am still so blessed that I was able to deliver a healthy, normal and full-term baby. Maybe it was just God’s way of reminding me that He is in control and that through that time, He was trying to bring me closer to Him.

Now on this second pregnancy, I became more aware of my food intake. I tried my best to stay healthy and ate whole food. I switched to red rice, and also increased my vegetable and fruit intake. I also removed the maternity milk, which all the while I thought was necessary-ended up being the trigger for having Gestational Diabetes, because of its high sugar content! So please, never ever take those and just stick to natural and fresh food. Those of which are readily absorbed by the body like indigenous vegetables and fruits. I also continued to breastfeed, which I talked about on my previous post. Breastfeeding helps regulate blood sugar levels, that’s why I made it a point to nurse Matilda up to the time she decided to wean on her own.

During my 1st trimester, we had to check how I was doing, and praise God, my blood sugar was normal. My OB advised that I will be having another test at around 5 and a half months and that too came out normal. Just when I had fully accepted the fact that I most likely have Gestational Diabetes again, all my test results came back negative! God is soooo good! He has healed me! I believe He allowed me to go through that ordeal so that I would fully depend on Him, and not on myself, neither what I can do. This chapter of my life was planned perfectly to make it a testimony of His faithfulness. Thank you, Lord!
And because of that great news, I celebrated by eating some churros with chocolate dip! Finally, I can now eat whatever I want, but of course, still in moderation. 🙂

To summarize, the things that I learned from this are:

1. Health is something you cannot, EVER, be in control of. Only God is in control.

2. Despite God being in control, you also have to do your part in being healthy. Your physical body is your responsibility. It is God’s gift to you, and you have to take care of it and not abuse it.

3. Nothing is impossible with God. He will  give you trials to mold you and make you stronger, but He promises that He will be with you through it all.

Psalm 103: 2-5

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

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Homeschooling Part 2: Getting Started

As a continuation of my first post, today I will talk about our other activities. It gets quite challenging as a baby grows, to get their focus and to keep their attention. A lot of creativity and patience is needed to make sure your baby will love the idea of learning.

One must understand that Homeschooling is not limited to the confines of the home, just like learning. Books and materials are all good supplements for learning, but the more the child is exposed to the reality of the world, the better they become at understanding concepts. With Matilda, we make it a point to communicate with her, in every opportunity. We never get tired of explaining the reasons why a certain thing needs to be done, the consequence for each and every action, and the hard, but reality of the truth. No matter how complicated something might be for her to grasp, we never lie to her, we just patiently explain and ask for her respect and obedience. When a child is brought up knowing you have only pure interests at heart and their welfare is all you think about, it wouldn’t be very hard to instruct and teach your child. They will instantly develop love for learning, and this will become your lifestyle.
Whenever we are at home, we always try to make certain activities to be able to spend our time wisely. One of the things we started with, apart from those that I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, is coloring books.

Crayons and Coloring Books/Sketch Pads – this is an activity I personally loved while growing up. Because I have seen Matilda’s interest in writing through copying me by holding my pens, it was then I realized, she is ready. We started to introduce crayons and pencils just a few months after she turned a year old. After I showed her how these were used, I just allowed her to doodle, color however way she wanted, and just observed. There were times I’d sit beside her and color with her. She would watch and copy what I was doing and sometimes would ask for my help, I’d remind her how it is done and she’ll go back to doing it on her own.

I also used crayons to teach her colors by writing the alphabet and numbers on a sketch pad. I would also draw certain objects and would name them one by one. This helped in building her imagination as well as her vocabulary. Indeed, a lot of things can be taught through this activity. You just have to learn to be creative. 🙂

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Another thing we love to do is build things with play-doh.

Play-Doh – this is a good exercise for fine motor skills. The molding process is a good means for them to gain control and make their own shapes. Also a good way for them to develop in the area of art and crafts. To make it more fun, we sometimes use her toys and include some pretend-play, like a tea-party for her dolls. She enjoys this activity a lot and it pays really, as she gets to be imaginative in her play. Just be careful not to leave your child unattended with this as this is a choking hazard.

Educational Posters – I think this is a must in every home. These posters are what your child will get to see everyday and that is one of the best ways for them to memorize different things such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes, parts of the body, animals, opposites (big and small, short and tall, open and close, long and short etc.) It is really cheap and readily available at any local bookstores.

Another approach for learning is through Montessori-Inspired Materials. Because I came from a Monterssori school, I am familiar with the type of materials used when we were still in CASA (Nursery level). I incorporated these materials in our play-based learning in order to cover certain areas that are quite difficult for a small child to understand.

Ring Stacker – this would teach them colors and the concept of size recognition and differentiation. This is also a good activity for hand and eye coordination as they stack the rings to the rod.

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Nesting and Stacking Blocks – this teaches them the importance of balance and it’s relation to various sizes. Also a great activity for building whatever they like.

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Spindle Box – this is quite hard to find, if there is any. I made my own by using an illustration board with printed numbers and number words and bought a set of wooden sticks. This is a great material in teaching a child how to count and associate the numbers with actual counting objects, such as the wooden sticks. I would just show her how it is used and she watched me until she was able to get it. She now knows how to properly count because of this.

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Basic Skills Toy -this toy is for practical life skills. This will help your child in teaching them independence when it comes to tying their shoe lace, buttoning their shirt, snapping and unsnapping probably their clothes as well, opening and closing zippers, and fastening or buckling belts. You can also make your own and all you will need is an old shirt, a frame (optional-as this is Montessori-inspired ), and add whatever activity you’d like for them to master.

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Pizza Party – this toy or any other toy that has a similar concept will be a great tool in teaching them how to count as well as the concept of same and different. The different toppings on the pizza is useful in identifying which go together (alike) and which do not (different). This toy is also a great way to introduce fractions later on. It is a really good investment and even I enjoy playing with it!

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Puzzles – this helps in introducing the alphabet sounds or phonics. Getting them acquainted with the pictures and their corresponding names will enable them to identify which letter they begin with. A good activity you can practice to prepare them for reading.

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Practical Life Skills – I cannot thank my parents enough for exposing me to household chores at such an early age. They allowed me to play at the laundry area and wash hankies and socks, at the kitchen to wash the dishes (with help of course!), sweep the floor, polish shoes, wipe the tables to remove dust, and a lot more. These helped me in being responsible for my own room as I grew older, and eventually in our own house as a wife. These are activities which your child will surely enjoy as I did when I was younger.

There are really so many ways to make these materials and lot others are available as well. You don’t have to spend much to achieve the same kind of concepts. All you need is a bit of creativity using ordinary art supplies with your own recyclable things at home, and the internet to get ideas, with that, you are good to go. Try searching for toddler or preschool activities at home and you will be surprised at how much information there is on the web. Some examples are lacing beads for fine motor skills, using buttons or same colored objects to teach colors, painting for art, sorting same and different items, and a whole lot more depending on which area your child needs to improve on or develop.

There is something you have to keep in mind though, in whatever instance, do not pressure your child to sit down and do these activities if he/she is not ready. You don’t want a child getting traumatized with the idea of learning just because you are too eager to teach them or just because you think your child is far behind with what he/she knows. Remember that they develop at their own pace. Some kids develop early and some at a later time, and this doesn’t make them any better nor less smarter than others. As kids, they still love to play and are still very curious about other things. They easily get bored too, and you really have to find ways to motivate them to learn something new each day.

One of the things I noticed with Matilda is, words of affirmation gets her going. Whenever she hears me compliment her for something right she has done, or whenever she accomplished an activity, this gives her a boost to continue on. It really pays to know your child and in this case, it would be great to use that certain characteristic to your advantage when it comes to teaching.

Have you got other suggestions? Leave it in the comment box, so we can try them too! Also, would you happen to be interested in what activities we are up to now? These are more advanced and already include textbooks and workbooks. Just let me know so I can share them to you and make a Part 3 of this series. 🙂

Homeschooling Part 1: Where do I begin?

When I married Joey, I never imagined myself homeschooling our future child. It has entered my mind though, and I thought it was good, but it never really made an impact until I had Matilda. We realized how much children actually learn through their peers and how they can be easily influenced to do almost anything. Honestly, this scared me having gone through that lifestyle myself. The horror of having some random kid bully my child entered my mind as well, so many times – an experience I had that I never want her to EVER encounter. And above all, we wanted to really be intentional in our parenting which led us to the ultimate decision, which is to homeschool.

Homeschooling is something that needs love, patience and passion. What drives me to stay focused is the idea that Matilda will learn from me, first hand. That whatever she learns will be coming from me and the materials we will be using. That’s quite scary, don’t you agree? Being the one responsible for your child’s knowledge and skill is daunting. But you know what? Something else is much more important that all of that – Character. When you have a child focused on God, and you raise him/her with love and fear in the Lord, everything else will follow. Joey and I agreed on this decision, wholeheartedly, knowing this is what is best for our daughter.

Deuteronomy 11: 18-19 New International Version (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Proverbs 22:6 New International Version (NIV)

 6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 6:20-23 New International Version (NIV)

20 My son, keep your father’s command
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
    fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
    when you sleep, they will watch over you;
    when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For this command is a lamp,
    this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
    are the way to life

These verses I cannot stress any better. The truth is, we, as parents, are commanded by God to disciple our own children. To disciple them means to teach them about God, to be intentional in the way we raise them, which is the most important thing of all. To be clear, I have nothing against traditional schooling, it’s just that we want to protect the character of our little girl. We believe that our home is the best place to start, to keep her away from bad influences, and also for her to have a more focused form of learning. We always pray that we will be able to instill values that she will hold on to and practice as she grows. The academic aspect is just a plus for us, we will just feel accomplished, that we have successfully done our part as parents, if we are able to raise a child who knows that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.

On the other hand, the frustrated teacher in me is very happy to be doing this for our Matilda. Even though she isn’t formally enrolled yet to a homeschool provider, which we will eventually do so with TMA, (The Master’s Academy) we have begun long ago in building this dream, one step at a time.

As a hands on mom to my child, I made it a point to observe her individual traits and qualities. Since Matilda was young, I have seen her interest in music, books and educational toys. These are some of the tools we used, to foster learning. I remember, she was still in my tummy when I started collecting books that I wanted to read for her during the day. We started doing this as soon as she was born even if she doesn’t seem to understand anything yet. Looking back, I’m really glad I started early, because good books, award-winning titles at that, are quite hard to find and they can be very pricey too! Plus, because I introduced books at an early age, Matilda is so fond of them and she would personally request her favorites to be read, sometimes, over and over again! Here are some of Matilda’s favorites you might want to get your hands on: Goodnight Moon, Guess How Much I Love You, Goodnight Gorilla, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Runaway Bunny, Mommy Loves, The Going to Bed Book and Counting Kisses, and of course, The Bible.

Another thing I like to do is sing her songs as well. We both love listening to nursery rhymes and children’s worship songs and I try my best to make it fun and interactive by making movements or actions, for her to follow. At around 5-6 months she already began copying some actions, and it felt so rewarding to see how much she was learning. Some of her favorite songs with actions or sounds she can mimic are as follows: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Wheel’s on The Bus, Old MacDonald had a Farm, Incy Wincy Spider, Barney’s Mr. Sun Song, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Father Abraham and Jesus Loves Me.

Constant communication has also given us great benefits. I never underestimated Matilda’s capability to understand. In fact, even when she was a small baby, I’d talk to her like a normal adult. I’d give her instructions, reminders, and affirmation like I would do with an older child. Yes, I cuddle her, show her love and affection like any mother to a child, but it didn’t stop there. I taught her independence as well at a very early age, like in the area of eating, and packing-away her toys. Some simple activities that enhance her self-discipline, and as I have said, independence.

Because we have a no-TV policy at home, this also helped a lot to make sure our time is really well-spent. Joey and I invested in good quality educational toys, mostly made of wood, which Matilda really enjoys until now. The reason why we prefer wooden toys over plastic or battery-operated is that, these toys help a child in using their imagination. A child who is used to playing with battery-operated ones tend to be easily bored, just like those babies who are used to watching TV or videos. Their attention span are shorter and they can’t seem to enjoy quality play-time anymore. We just introduced certain videos, which are also educational, when Matilda turned two years old. Although, people we are close to can actually attest that she would still prefer to play rather than watch videos, as this is what she was accustomed to, since she was a lot younger. We truly praise God for this!

Each child is unique in terms of reaching their development, however, I believe that “play” is the best foundation of learning. Educational Toys will be your best friends when it comes to teaching your child. Some of our favorites when Matilda was around a year old are as follows: Shape Sorters, Wooden Puzzles, Wooden Blocks, Lego Blocks and Musical Instruments. These toys helped me teach her the basics like the Alphabet, Numbers, Colors, Shapes and Animals. I actually never thought she would learn from them until we got to prove it ourselves. Now at 2.5 years old, Matilda has mastered all of them and is already showing signs of readiness to read and write. It is really all by God’s grace. He really amazes me with all of His blessings!

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You may even be surprised upon reading this that you are already doing some sort of informal homeschooling. Congratulations! Isn’t it fun? You get to play and learn at the same time while bonding with your child. Remember, you don’t need to spend much to be able to do all of these. Sometimes, all you need is a little creativity. And don’t forget, that children do not necessarily learn all these things right away. Do not compare as it usually takes some time for others. Just be patient and consistent in doing your daily activities, and again, find it in your heart to enjoy it. 🙂

PS: Watch out for Part 2, as I will talk about in detail our activities from when Matilda was around 18 months, until now that she is about to turn 2 and a half years old. I will share the materials we use as well as my personal strategies and tips to make learning fun and easy. Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this post!

The Biblical Aspect of Discipline

Matilda now at 2 years and 4 months old, has become very much curious in everything. A normal toddler just like her, has the ability to make her parents joyful and disappointed all at the same time. Well, that’s really how raising a child goes, don’t you agree?

Ever since Matilda was still in my tummy, we have always contemplated on how we will be able to raise her as a Godly child. I, myself, for example, wasn’t raised in a Christian home, but Joey on the other hand was. He grew up a fine man, with respect toward authorities, and has been very obedient to rules, whether set by his parents, in school, and now, as a professional. I praise God for how he was brought up to be the man he has become.

I know A LOT of people will take this post negatively. You might think that what I am about to tell you is some form of child abuse. You might even misjudge me for being impatient and worse, a bad parent. But don’t you worry, I have been judged way too many times with how I am raising my child, and honestly, it is just us, her parents, who reap all the benefits that Biblical Discipline has given her. And soon, as she grows up to be the woman she is bound to become, I know she will be grateful for it, just like her Papa is, to his parents.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NASB)

As Christians, we are commanded in the Bible to train and discipline our children. This means, we as parents, are fully responsible in how we will be raising God-fearing, obedient and respectful kids. Ever wondered why your kid suddenly became so disobedient? That even though no one taught them to say no, or do the opposite of what was asked of them, they still grow up doing EXACTLY that? Why do you think children are so entitled thinking they should always have it their way, or else they will give you such a hard time pacifying them? Well, this verse clearly states the reason why.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15 NASB)

What is this “foolishness” the Bible is talking about? Because of The Fall of Man, we have all become sinners in the eyes of our God. We have all been sinful even while we were inside the womb of our mothers. This means, we are to commit these sins even as children. And the most common of these are Disobedience and Disrespect.

Now that Biblically, I am painting this picture for you to understand why discipline is necessary, knowing the basis and background as to why children are really born to be like that, let us now go back to how we enforce this to our Matilda.

On the second part of the verse above, it says, The rod of discipline will remove it (foolishness) far from him. What is this “rod” we are talking about here? The rod is an object we use for spanking. It may actually be anything, but for us, we use the belt.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24 NIV)

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)

We discipline by spanking because we believe that it is what God wants us to do. The Bible’s credibility cannot be questioned because of its infallibility and inerrancy. Did you know that from Genesis to Revelation, there is not even one contradicting statement in the Scripture? It’s one of the many reasons, apart from History, great amount of evidences, fulfilled prophecies and promises, and so on, why we believe it’s true. That it is in fact, the Word of God. And because of our faith in Him, we should obey His Word.

Since we realized the gravity that disciplining a child entails, we then started seeking God’s word. We wanted to learn even more from Him, on how we can raise a Godly child in order that we may bring all the Glory back to Him as we raise her. We also got the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart (where most of the principles written here are derived from), which explains our role as parents, and how we can be intentional in molding the heart of our child. It all begins from the heart, the behavior of your child is an overflow of the heart.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (Luke 6:45 NLT)

Discipline is not an easy task. It takes a great amount of patience to be able to get it right. You see, we should never spank in anger. Children will know when you are angry, they will remember this, and it will give a negative effect in the implementation of discipline. In fact, being angry in itself is already sinful. Being angry, usually when we don’t have it our way is considered unholy anger, but to be angry at the sin in itself, knowing that this specific sin is never tolerated by God, and it makes you upset, that is holy anger. Always make sure your heart is on the right place. So, when do we spank? And how do we begin to do it?

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (James 1:19-20)

First of all, for a child to know the concept of obedience, we must instill this to them at a very young age. If I remember correctly, I started talking to Matilda about obedience when she was around 6-7 months old. Around this time, they already show their very distinct behavior. When you observe them play, interact with others, eat, or even during idle time, you will notice their character slowly forming. With Matilda, I began by getting her familiar with the word “obey”. I would always remind her this whenever I attend to her. For example, during diaper changes. Babies can be very irritable especially when you put them down for this. So what I do is, I look her in the eyes and say, “Matilda, you have to stay still and behave, I am going to change your diaper. You have to OBEY Mommy.” I tell her this, every opportunity I get, with a firm voice. It may be during play time as well. Like when she started dropping her toys from the crib to the floor, I would remind her, “Matilda, the floor is dirty, if you want to play with your toys some more, you have to keep them in your crib. You have to OBEY Mommy.” These are just some instances, so you would have an idea. And this advice was something I learned from Deonna Tan-Chi when we attended a Parenting Seminar at CCF, called Counterflow.

You have to understand something, babies are very smart. They can already comprehend even when they can’t talk yet. So, never underestimate their capability to understand and never get tired of explaining to them these things. As for Matilda, we knew she could very well understand us at around 9-10 months. It was the time we started contemplating that it may be good to start spanking. Just so you know, we spank only on two occasions, and that is when she disobeys or disrespects us. The moment she defies our authority, we administer spanking. So here’s how.

Knowing FULL well that Matilda understood that she had to obey and instead she still defied us, we would get her and bring her to a private place (for us it’s our other room where we store our things). I put her on my lap and talk to her. I would remind her of what she did, explain to her why it was wrong and reinforce that she had to obey. I would then tell her that I would need to spank her because it is what God wants me to do in order to discipline her. I’d go on and tell her how many swats she’ll get, (we do just one) and then I proceed by telling her I love her, and that I am doing this for her own good, so that next time, she would learn to OBEY. Next is to put down her pants, and lay her face down on my lap, her bottom exposed. I would get the belt and give one swat. One is enough for us because I do it effectively. It should be hard and painful but not to the point the skin breaks. (With us, her skin usually turns red for a while). And then I immediately put on her pants and hug her tight. I console her from the pain, and then reassure her of my love. When she is already calm and collected, we say a prayer together.

For the first few times we did this, it was very, very difficult. I cried with Matilda at the sight of seeing her in pain. I also had a hard time accepting my responsibility to enforce discipline and have not been consistent at it. Those inconsistencies brought confusion in Matilda and I realized I am making it even more difficult for her, because she couldn’t get the message clearly. Although, remembering all the promises in the Bible gave me peace knowing that what I am doing is God’s will, and His will is always good. Also, knowing the fact that I am just His agent, whom He expects to do his duty, I, myself, am bound to obey. So, I then made it a point to consciously be on the lookout for circumstances wherein discipline should be enforced, and did it consistently this time around.

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.(Ephesians 6:1-3)

I praise God that we are now even more blessed to have Matilda understand the gravity of obedience and respect. She is growing up to be a good little girl who listens and obeys without question, challenge or delay. Sure, there are still moments wherein she fails, and acts differently, but those times are now becoming very rare. As of this moment, I can no longer remember the last time I spanked her. This is the exact validation how we know, we are on the right track. As I have said in the beginning of this post, we do this because we believe that this is our duty as parents. God entrusted us with a child who will someday become of influence to this world. It is a big responsibility to be able to bring her up in the fear of the Lord, so that someday, she will be useful for the glory of His kingdom. Discipline is not easy and without God’s grace, we wouldn’t be able to do it effectively. It is our prayer as parents, that Matilda will remember the principles we are instilling in her young mind, and then hopefully apply it, as she grows.

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:17 ESV)

How is the heart of your child? Have you been diligent in disciplining them? If so, are you happy with the result? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

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