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Friday, April 8, 2016

Blessings in the Midst of Struggles

A grandmother was talking to me about her granddaughter whom we shall call Sophia. Sophia  who is now 16 grew up quite privileged. Her father was very well-off and happily spoiled his daughter.  Sophia has an older half-sister named Maria. Maria and Sophia have the same mom but have different dads. Maria vividly recounted Christmas in their household when Sophia was much younger. Sophia would be showered with dozens of expensive gifts, she would sit on the floor opening one present looking at it for 10 seconds then literally throwing the present to the side to move on to opening the next present.  Maria said that there was no gratitude in Sophia’s heart because it was nothing special to her anymore….she could get those toys or books or clothes any time she wanted anyway.  At least that was the truth until around 4 years ago.   Sophia’s life took a dramatic turn. 

Her father went bankrupt and their finances plunged and unfortunately Sophia struggled to adjust. Her grandmother said that they had viand that was meant to be shared but that Sophia decided she didn’t want to eat rice and just ate all the viand herself leaving none for her companion.
It was a minor thing. It however spoke volumes about her mindset and point-of-view. I do not blame Sophia at all. How can we expect her to know how to share when she hasn’t  ever been asked to all her life. Money was no object in the past and so she never had to consider someone else when eating.   Sophia grew up sheltered and now ever having to think about the cost of food or consider how consuming something at home could impact another person’s meal.

I couldn’t help but compare the same situation with my daughter Andrea.  You see, my daughter was around 4 when we experienced our lowest point financially.  Andrea was blissfully unaware that we were struggling but she knew about limited resources because we explained it to her. For example, there would be times when the 4 of us (my husband, my daughter, our helper and myself) would share 1 can of SPAM for dinner. The SPAM would be split into 12 slices and each of us would have 3 slices each. I distinctly remember one time when Andrea asked if she could have more. I explained to her that she could get one but that would mean another person would have less.  She decided not to take one. From that point on, every single time we would eat SPAM (please don’t judge, we don’t eat it often but it is a guilty treat we do enjoy every once in a while) my daughter took it upon herself to dutifully divide the SPAM in order to make sure everyone had enough.

Fast forward 5 years later. We were doing a bit better financially (we could actually afford to open more than one can of SPAM for a meal hahaha) but the lesson of those difficult times still remains in our hearts and our daughter’s hearts. I remember just last month when we were eating chicken.  There were 3 people eating and 6 pieces of chicken, my daughter has eaten her two pieces and I wasn’t going to eat mine so I asked her if she would want to eat another piece. She looked at me and said “But mom then you won’t have enough” and I told her I am fine because I preferred to eat more of the veggies than the chicken. She thanked me profusely and got her next piece.

I shared this story to my husband with tears welling up to my eyes. When we were struggling 5 years ago,  our mindset was just survival and relying on Jesus we never thought of life lessons. Now in hindsight those times brought us so many blessings in terms of character development and life lessons.  One blessing is the lesson we were able to impart to our daughter of caring for others and not only considering herself. I know for a fact that despite my good intentions and my training in parenting I would never have thought of teaching this lesson to my daughter. I had to teach her that lesson because we were in the midst of lack. Had we been experiencing abundance then, I wouldn’t have needed to teach her! 

So I ask parents to find blessings in your struggles. Use your struggles as an opportunity to teach your kids life lessons particularly about resilience and faith and empathy. 

(P.S. I just want to make sure to point out to make sure that we share the lessons to our kids without burdening them with our problems. There is a difference.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Beautiful Irony of Giving - A Late Christmas Post

My daughter loves Christmas.  My husband and I try our best to keep the focus on Jesus’ birth but I’d be the first to admit that I have not been as consistent as I should have been. As a mom I get so excited when I see all the cute toys and things that my daughter loves and the delight I know she will get when she receives these things. 

Months before Christmas 2014 I was already excitedly conversing with my daughter about the presents she hopes to receive. She was excited and I was excited to see her excited! We love spending hours in toy stores and we would make imaginary lists of things she’d like to receive. She ended up getting quite a bunch of toys that year and it seemed like what we did was harmless, until…

“Mom, I didn’t receive as many presents I liked this year”

I felt like a pail of cold water was poured on my head. I stared at her in disbelief. This is my daughter who thanked her aunt profusely upon receiving a plastic bag but now she’s complaining that she didn’t get as many presents THAT SHE LIKED? I was aghast. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t respond as well as I should have. I snapped at her. I alluded to her being ungrateful. She apologized and that conversation was soon forgotten by my daughter, but not by me.

I knew why my response was anger…anger is a topical emotion, there’s always something underneath it that’s more real. You know what was under my anger? Shame. Shame because I knew I did that to her. I knew that I made her focus on the material things that year. I vowed to change that in 2015.

When Christmas season started I did not ever talk to her about gifts she’d want to receive for Christmas that year. Not once.  There was a time when we went to a toy store to get a present for someone else and she said that she’ll be asking for a certain Barbie she saw for Christmas. I told her “You can do that but there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive it. You know how you can be sure to get it? Save for it or work for it yourself.”  

We stopped talking about what she’d want to receive instead we talked to her about the joy of giving. We talked about the happiness we saw in the faces of our relatives when they tried the cookies we gave them last year. This got Andrea excited (she really helped in making those cookies). So this year I asked her what she thinks we should give out. She chose our Oreo Cheesecake Cups. I told her I need her help in making them. She excitedly agreed. From the packaging, the creation, the purchasing of ingredients…she was part of it all. Come Christmas she was so excited to give out her treats to people!  The people appreciated the treats and expressed their gratitude to Andrea. She was beaming! She enjoyed it so much that she wanted to start planning next year’s Christmas treats!

She still ended up receiving gifts she liked from relatives and she was filled with Joy.   Because she didn’t have expectations every single present was a blessing and she was overflowing with gratitude. When we got home from the clan’s Christmas party she was so happy and tired. She was ready to go to bed but my husband and I stopped her. We said “Wait, you haven’t opened your present from us”. It was hilarious because her face was so shocked. She really didn’t think we had a present for her. Our conversation went like this:

Liv: Hon don’t sleep yet you haven’t opened our present for you!
Andrea: Huh? You have a present for me?
Liv: YEAH!
Andrea: (smiling excitedly)
Liv: You really didn’t know we had a present for you?
Andrea: No!
Liv: And you’re still so happy?
Andrea: Yes! I already have so many things I love!

(She received half the number of presents she received last year)

This really touched my heart. I saw firsthand the effect of materialism on our kids. When we make them focus on things and feeding their desires, they end up dissatisfied, discontented and unhappy. But when we shift their attention to serving and giving others they are filled with joy and a feeling of abundance. This is the beautiful irony of giving. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Hundred Million Miracles - The Miracle Mindset Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the abundance of miracles around us. I also talked about how we fail to perceive these miracles when we focus just on the mundane. Today I want to share how I try to instill a miracle mindset in my child.

1. I am intentional in pointing out miracles. 

 When I am at home, I am a walking exclamation point. My language is filled with phrases like “Wow!”, “incredible!”, “Isn’t that amazing?”, “Can you believe that?” and “What are the chances?”. When my child was younger I had to spell things out for her in order for her to see the awesomeness in things. Now, she has internalized this attitude and would often be the one to point out amazing things. One time we were out of the house and she was so thirsty. There was no vendor in sight but I brought an extra water bottle for her so she was able to drink right away and she turned to me and said “Wow mom isn’t it lucky we have water? We didn’t even have to spend money!”

 2. Teaching a point-of-view of abundance vs Want. 

Want, want, want. We live in a culture that celebrates materialism and wanting something newer, better or bigger. The first thing I had to do was unlearn my own mentality of want and boy was that hard. We routinely purge our home for things but I have learned that more than the actual purchasing of things we also have to watch what we say. Do you repeatedly say “I want to buy____” or “I want another_____”. Do you always take your child window shopping? What could that be teaching your child?

How about appreciating what we already have? Instead of talking about wanting to buy a bigger tv
why not talk about how blessed your family is to be able to have a tv set to enjoy together as a family? One time, while playing a board game with my daughter, we discussed how lucky we were to have that board game that has brought us so much happiness. Did my daughter really understand it at that time? To be honest I am not sure. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't -- but doing that is a start towards the direction of making that mindset more automatic for both of us.

 3. Counting the miracles we have. 

 A lot of people practice keeping gratitude journals and this would be a great place to count miracles. My daughter and I personally do this during prayer. 2 nights ago, Andrea’s grandfather invited her to Kidzania (a place she loved so much) part of our prayer was “We are amazed once again by how many people you put around us that love us and bless us Dear Lord. Thank you for Wowo and thank you for impressing in him the desire to bless Andrea with a trip to Kidzania.”

4. Restedness in God’s Wisdom and Provision as our Father. 

One thing that’s sometimes hard for kids to understand is how a good father like God would ignore the fervent desires of His people. I told Andrea that God only gives us what’s best for us, and sometimes the things we think would make us happy are not really the best for us.

My daughter particularly loves it when I talk about how I initially wanted to have a son and not a daughter. However, God didn’t bless me with a son and instead I had her. I talk about how lucky I am that God didn’t give me what I thought I wanted and how much happier I am now with what God gave me. We then talk about how sometimes God loves us so much that he can’t give us the things we think we want because they won’t really make us happy.

 5. Shifting away from the selfishness towards others. 

 Lastly, we try to shift her focus away from herself and her wants to the wants of others. This is still a work in progress but there are things we do like routinely giving away her toys and her books. Or when we go to parties and receive a lot of prizes we split them and share them with other kids. One of my happiest (and proudest) moment was during the birthday of one of Andrea’s friends. We bought a present that I knew Andrea would also enjoy *. On the way to the party Andrea exclaimed “I’m so happy for _______. He’s going to love this toy so much.” Isn’t that a great attitude?

 (*NOTE: whenever we buy presents for other kids it’s so tempting to buy Andrea a toy as well but we realize we are robbing her the joy of giving to others. When she was younger she would look enviously at the toys she is giving away but that has since changed)

All in all, these steps are great in helping our kids develop a miracle mindset but ultimately the best way to teach our kids is for us to model that mindset ourselves!

A Hundred Million Miracles - The Miracle Mindset Part 1

 The Way We Think 

I have spent the last week reviewing for a critical exam I will be taking for 2 weekends. This exam will determine if I can move on with my masteral degree and it means having to go back and review all the courses I have taken. One of the things I had to relearn was Cognitive Psychology. Cognitive Psychology is basically the study of how we think. I had to study the way we perceive things, how we pay attention, memory, thinking, making decisions, creativity, etc. The more I learn of the intricacies of our mind the more convinced I am that this can’t be an accident. The mere act of seeing and recognizing something involves so many processes that the fact that we are able to do it at all is nothing short of a Miracle!

A Hundred Million Miracles 

One of my favorite songs from a musical is this little-known song called A Hundred Million Miracles from the musical Flower Drum Song. The song goes:

“A hundred million miracles
Are happ’ning ev’ry day
And those who say
 They don’t agree
Are those Who do not hear or see…” 

The song talks about the multitude of miracles we encounter every day should we only notice them. The mere fact that our planet balances perfectly due to the pull of the planets and the gravity of the sun is already an inexplicable wonder, and that is just one of a million miracles we can point out. The song brings to light an important fact, these miracles are everywhere, they are happening! However, not everyone perceives them because, as the song suggests those who don’t agree that there are miracles are those who fail to hear or see those miracles.

 But, you may ask, how can one not see things if they are so miraculous? Aren’t we sure to see something if it were indeed miraculous? You know the answer to that? It’s because we have stopped looking! We perceive things when we are looking at them and we shut out everything else! This is an
interesting phenomenon in Cognitive Psychology called inattention blindness. Inattention blindness is this phenomenon where people fail to see things that they are not paying attention to. One experiment that showcases this phenomenon is the Gorilla experiment. Participants were asked to watch a video where the actors were busy with Basketball drills, the participants were then given the task of watching the video closely and counting the number of times the basketball was passed from one member to another. Unbeknownst to the participants who were watching the video, there is also a man in a gorilla costume that will be appearing and dancing around all over the basketball court as the people were busy performing basketball drills. At the end of the experiment none of the participants reported seeing the dancing gorilla. NOT ONE! How can nobody notice a dancing gorilla wearing a basketball uniform? Because, as with miracles, no one was looking! We have become so caught up, so focused on our lives that we are desensitized and fail to perceive the wonders and miracles all around us!

Losing Sight of Miracles 

I don’t know exactly when my focus started shifting from my child-like wonder to the jaded adults’ mindset. But I realized that I have become a bitter and jaded person when I was an adult and finding it difficult to find happiness in anything. I look at old blog posts from when I was still a food blogger and see someone so full of dissatisfaction! I had complaints about practically every restaurant, every meal and I felt justified in my point-of-view. I was spoiled. I wanted things a certain way and was extremely unhappy when I didn’t get what I expected. And I expected a lot! I felt entitled to things, I deserved it after all…or so I thought. My focus was in acquiring more but when I did get what I thought wanted, I was still unhappy.

Joy in Gratitude 

Thank goodness for the blessing of motherhood. There’s something about being a mom that forces you to focus on the ordinary, the mundane, the day-to-day and see it all from the point-of-view of a child. When you're a mom you have to realize the beauty and wonder in a spider web. You get the blessing of seeing things again like you did the first time you saw them. You then start experiencing things with wonder and you start seeing the miracle in the day-to-day.

There are times though, that motherhood itself is the thing that keeps us from seeing the miracles. How can you appreciate the glorious things around you when you are covered in projectile vomit and poop? I realized though that as a mom I have to be the thermostat and not a thermometer in our home. I have to set the tone and make sure that my child can see and appreciate and therefore experience the hundred million miracles around her.

 There are things I try to do at home that help me with my goal of creating a mindset of miracle in my child. I will share them in my next post. =)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

October Favorites

I am always excited to share things I am loving and so I compiled the things I've been loving since October. Here are the things I've been watching, listening to, eating and using.


I was on a flight back to Manila when I chanced upon an article talking about the show Empire. It got me curious so I got the first was downhill from there. I am enamored with every single aspect of the show. Taraji P. Henson described it as a mixture of Dynasty and Glee. It has drama, fashion, wit and amazing music.


In line with this obsession I have with Empire I have re-discovered my love for old school hip-hop and RnB. This album has kept me company for 2 weeks of very late night working. It's phenomenal! The only track that seems out of place is Courtney Love's track but I just skip over that.


Oh how I curse the day when an Infinitea branch opened around 200m from my house. I initially thought all they had were milk teas but I have been loving all their other drinks. A personal favorite is their Peach Mint Yoghurt Slush with nata de coco. Oh I'm salivating right now!


Let us move on to this wonderful thing I chanced upon in Starbucks. I happened to be at a Starbucks branch at 6 am on the day they were set to release this gorgeous Swarovski studded card and I took the plunge and I'm soooo happy! Look at how pretty it is:


I almost let out a screech when I found out that Pilot released a line called Hi-Tec-C Coleto. It's a pen system that includes an empty barrel that you can fill with any one of their ink cartridges that writes like my favorite Pilot Gtec pen. There are 15 available colors internationally but in the Philippines I only saw dark blue, light blue, pink, orange, green, violet, red and black. The empty barrel can be filled with 3-5 pen colors. 

I would just like to say that I'm a pan of the Pilot brand and I've been using their pens since I was 10. (I still remember my first pencil case with the basic blue, red and black Pilot pens) And the products they recently released in the Philippines truly make me happy. I personally love their Frixion erasable highlighters which work beautifully for marking my Bible and other thin sheets of paper.

Lastly, I am obsessed with the essential oils from Human Heart Nature. I am so in love with it that I even made my own deodorant using two of the available oils! 


I have been working so hard recently and the lack of sleep coupled with the stress has really made my back hurt and thank goodness a decent massage place opened near our home. Ruy treated me to a hot stone massage last week and I just about died and went to heaven. IT WAS AMAZING. The heat helped ease the tension from my muscles allowing the therapist to offer a deep tissue massage that helped alleviate my back pain.  I am a new fan! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Learning Plus

Book and toy hunting/shopping for my daughter has always been a frustrating experience for me. It seems that when I go shopping I encounter any one of these problems:

  • -          Toys or books that I call junk food. They are inexpensive, readily available and take up a lot of our kid’s time but add no value to their mind, character, or life. I would say that around 80% of the toys I see fall into this category.
  • -          Premium toys. Those that stimulate our kid’s brain and add a wealth of value to our child’s life. These toys however cost an arm and a leg! They are also incredibly hard to find.
  • -          Premium yet inexpensive toys.  Like I previously mentioned these are wonderful but are pricey. There are a lot of inexpensive toys but are only available in other countries and would therefore entail going through the process of ordering online and enduring the extended wait for shipping and then crossing all your fingers that you custom doesn’t charge you an exorbitant amount when your package does arrive.

Needless to say, while I espouse and appreciate the benefits of playing and reading to our kids the limited availability of resources can be stressful. Imagine my delight when I found out that TMA Homeschool is opening its very own bookstore called Learning Plus.

Learning Plus

I hurriedly drove over to Fun Ranch where Learning Plus is located just so I could personally see what this store is all about and boy it did not disappoint. It was filled with amazing books and even more awesome educational toys (I am embarrassed to admit that I ended up buying a toy for my daughter and for myself). 

Even though Learning Plus is an offshoot of TMA Homeschool everyone is welcome to drop in and purchase the products for their kids. The books, toys and other educational materials would definitely benefit all students. Learning plus aims to have a venue that will provide kids with as many tools as possible to do better and be better.

Wonderful Offerings

Learning Plus differs from your typical Filipino book store in that every single thing inside it aims to help your child develop in Wisdom and in Character.  I would admit that my daughter and I were giddy as we looked at all the books and educational toys available. Here are some of the products we saw that really sparked our interest:

Learning about Magnets is cool. But you know what's even cooler? Testing out what you've learned by performing some tricks and experiments with this kit!

Mighty Mind and Super Mind are awesome puzzles for kids. It's such a great brain twister for young kids. My daughter has had hers for 3 years and she still enjoys it to this day. It's a great alternative to iPad games.

I am in love with this Magnetic Mighty Mind game. Perfect for long car trips or even air place rides.
Nourish your child's creativity and innovative mind with Zoob Jr!

This wonderful kit would have your child building one of Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions.
There are also books that you can use to supplement your child's textbooks, educational shows (like Magic School bus) and many more!

More to Come

Learning Plus is still at its soft opening so some products are still on their way. I was told that they're going to be selling art materials that are safe for kids! Be still my heart. 

Official Launch

I am thrilled to let people know that Learning Plus will officially open this October 16, 2015 and the launch is going to be filled with so many fun activities for parents and kids:

Hope you all could make it!


If you can't make it to the launch you can still visit the shop during their regular store hours:

Tuesday to Friday from 8:30am - 3:30pm

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Recommended Activity: Penguins on Ice

In my work with kids I often see kids who are adversely affected by constant exposure to technology. I encounter kids who can't sit still, kids who can't identify fact from fiction, kids who are unable to tap into their creativity/imagination, and kids with so many other issues.  Most moms are willing to stop their kids from using tablets and/or watching tv but they are now left with kids who have nothing to do! While I certainly believe that kids would thrive with just pens and papers I do understand that having some educational and fun activities around the house will help lessen the pain of being torn away from their beloved gadgets so I want to feature some activities that I highly recommend AND that my daughter enjoys.

I will begin with a toy/board game called Penguins on Ice. 

One thing I love about this toy is that it's a single player game. This is awesome for parents with only one child.  Your child can spend hours playing different challenges of increasing difficulty. Each pack comes with 60 challenges and that may seem limiting but trust me when I tell you that 60 challenges for this game is plenty.

I also appreciate how the pieces are quite big making it difficult to lose pieces. We parents all know how frustrating it can be to have an expensive toy become useless because of one tiny part gone missing. The game comes with a square plastic container holding 5 pieces or icebergs together making storing it easier.  

As you can see below, the light blue puzzle pieces will be removed from the dark blue square at the start of the game. The child (or adult) will then try to recreate the exact positioning and layout found in the challenge book. 

This may seem too simple I know but wait till you realize that the pieces can be transformed and re-shaped into various shapes making the game a bit more complicated (and more fun!). 

The game has great benefits for our kids! 

- It encourages solo play
- The increasing difficulty promotes the idea that we should always keep challenging ourselves.
- It sharpens spatial ability
- It encourages strategic thinking.
- It improves problem-solving skills.
- It can help you teach your child to compete with himself. (By challenging him to complete more challenging puzzles or do the puzzles faster)

I am just such a fan of this game! I highly recommend it to parents with kids ages 6 and above. (It might be too complex for younger kids) Check out the amazon link below for more information about the game.