Friday, May 14, 2021

Mama of littles, you can blink, you can breathe

Possibly one of the best pieces of advice given to me when I was a new mommy more than a decade ago was, "Don't blink." 

It was also one of the worst. 


The advice was meant well. Don't blink. All this is fleeting. You won't want to miss anything. Your kids will never be this small again. Stay present. Don't blink.

And I really really tried hard not to blink. Even when I had yayas, I couldn't let my guard down. I didn't want to miss anything. I didn't sleep for 8 years! So when despite all that, when the boys' first words and first steps were witnessed by their Papa or their yayas, instead of me celebrating the milestone, I anguished over the guilt of not being the one to see it first. Because I was their mother. I'm supposed to be the one to see it all happen. I'm the front and center. I'm the hands-on, must-be-there mama. To miss anything means I was a bad mom.

Well, fuck that. All that pressure was the one making me a bad mom!


I finally realized I'm not just their mother. I am more than their mother. And even if motherhood is probably the most important thing I'll ever do in my life, I'm not going to be a good mother if I don't sleep and if I don't let other people help me.

So I blinked. In fact, I slept. I trusted my husband to be a parent, too. I trusted my kids to be on their own and to do things on their own. And I found that I could finally breathe, free from the pressure to be forever present, to never blink.

Listen, young mama. It's true. All this is fleeting. Tomorrow, your not-talking baby will suddenly say, "Dada." Tomorrow, your crawling baby will stand up on wobbly chubby legs and walk. Tomorrow, your child won't need you to spoon-feed him, or wash his butt, or dress him. He'll want to talk to his friends instead of you. He'll close his bedroom door. He'll forget to kiss you goodnight. 

And that's okay. I love Facebook Memories because I get to be reminded of how adorable my kids were. What those pictures fail to show is how desperately exhausted I was from keeping my eyes wide open all the time. I know now it's not healthy to obsess about missing any of it. I had to look away from them and look at me, look at my husband, look at the rest of my life, and also take care of those aspects of myself. And when the other parts of me were flourishing, my kids looked at me, too, and saw more than just a mama. That's important, too.

People told me all the time back when I was going insane with the sleepless nights and the "don't blink!" guilt-inducing comments, "You will miss all this! Just you wait!" Well, almost 11 years later, I am happy to say I don't miss it at all. I'm relieved. I'm glad it's over. I'm happy I'm no longer stressed out with the constant vigilance. I'm healthier because I sleep now. I did it. I succeeded. I survived. And while I will always love my boys' baby and toddler years, I am so happy that part of my life is done. 


Next: pre-teens, then the teenage years. I'm going into this next chapter blind but also determined that we, all of us, will survive it, too. I'll just tell myself that while all this is fleeting, I need to take a step back once in a while, relax more, trust more. Breathe.

That said, this song remains one of my favorites. It's about making the memories last but also letting go. It's okay. Let go. That's what parenting is all about anyway.



Friday, May 07, 2021

7 reasons why I'm happy to be an old mom

I'm 44 and mommy to little boys. If I had gotten pregnant at 22, I'd have a kid in college now! Since more and more women are delaying marriage and motherhood, I'm in pretty good company. In Europe, the average age of first-time mothers is 29.9 years old (source). In Japan, it's 30.7, in South Korea, it's 31.4 (source). But the older generation, specifically my father, had insisted I should've had my kids early, like when I was 22. When I turned 27 and was still unmarried and child-free, my Papa told me to get pregnant already to force Vince to marry me. That was sad because I think he started telling me to guard my virginity since I was 7 (parents, please stop tying your daughter's value to her virginity!) and then 20 years later, that integrity was thrown out the window all because Filipinos believe only motherhood is the point of women's lives.

Considering that I absolutely love motherhood (most days haha), I ought to agree, right? Nope. I am oh so glad I delayed having babies for as long as I could. But to answer the question, well, if I had known it would be this ridiculously amazing, well... I still wouldn't have done it. I know who I am and the mid-20s Frances would never have appreciated motherhood the way mid-40s Frances is being blown away by it every day. 

(I'm also being battered by it. Maybe if I had been a young mom, I'd have had more energy?)
 

Here are my 7 reasons why I am so relieved and happy I'm an old mom:

1. I became a somebody before I became a wife and a mom.

I don't mean I became famous. I just mean I became my own person - not someone's daughter, not someone's wife, not someone's mother. I became me. I learned who I was and what I wanted in life and was able to achieve all that on my own and without the guilt of choosing between career and my family.

I'm a mommy now and you know what? I will always choose family over career. But sometimes I wonder if I have this conviction only because I had the privilege of having enjoyed a career without having to think of anyone else. I can say easily now that between an important meeting and picking up my kids from school I'd pick my kids. But that's because I've earned the position - I can dictate meetings now, say no, and my career will be fine. If you're 23 with a crying baby and a demanding boss... that sounds horrible. 

2. I'm wiser and vastly more patient.

Less selfish, too. Less drama. More love. More kindness. Not saying that women in their 20s can't be wise, patient, selfless, and kind. I'm talking about ME. The Frances in her 20s wasn't really a nice person. She was all about herself and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I was a kid, I had fun, I had a whole decade just catering to me, me, me. And that was glorious!

But those years also taught me a lot about the world, relationships, family, money, and the fleeting brevity of life. So I was able to make mistakes and learn from them and the only one who was affected was me. I became softer, more humble, kinder, more forgiving, more understanding, and compassionate. So when the babies finally came, they had a mommy whose heart had become tender from all the blows of life.  

3. I'm old enough to know that I'm not missing out.

I met Vince when I was 22 and he was 25 and we had a blast growing up together. We pursued our passions separately, and there were times we didn't see each other for days, even weeks, since we were so busy with our own lives and dreams and careers. And you know what? All that shit was fun but I don't miss any of it. So when I became a mom and was at home for days and days on end, the partying photos of other moms didn't make me feel bad. Been there, done that. 

4. I love my body now.

It's ironic that when my body looked its best (late 20s to early 30s), I didn't like it. I kept comparing it to other bodies. It was always sick. I was too busy to appreciate it. But aging and maturity made me appreciate how my body makes me do the most amazing things. I got pregnant, gave birth, recovered at lightning speed, breastfed three babies continuously, carried heavy babies for hours and hours, ran after little boys, and kept house and home for them all on an average of 4 hours of sleep a night for the last 11 years. How I'm still alive, I do not know! My body keeps going and going. It's my favorite miracle. 

5. I had so much sex!

The thing with having children - though we love them so very much and we will literally die for them if needed - is they're the result of lovemaking and now they prevent us from making love. Cue the sad violin music.

My husband and I miss those days and nights when just one look and we become undone. Now, we just look at each other longingly and nothing happens hahaha Thank goodness we had those pre-parent YEARS when we could make love all day long and all night long!

6. I actually like kids now.

Loyal Readers who have read this blog since 2016 know I never wanted to be a mother. I had many reasons, chief of which I don't really like kids. I don't hate them. I enjoyed my brief career as a preschool teacher, for example. But the best thing about being a teacher/babysitter/auntie is you can enjoy the cuties for a while then return them to their parents. But now, in my old age and because my kids made me fall in love with them and anything that vaguely resembles them in size and shape, I love kids!

7. I met new young friends.

I mentioned that in other countries, women are having kids at a later age. Here in the Philippines, it's still a young 22.8 (source) so many of my mommy friends are younger than me. And while I'm glad I'm an old mommy, I can see that motherhood isn't just for oldies like me. Young moms have so much energy and devotion and creativity! I don't know why! Youth??? 


Sure, being an old mom has its downsides. I don't have the energy I had in my 20s. I'll still be paying for college tuition in my 60s. But those I can brush off. What I'm sad and desperate about is I really really want my kids to marry young so I can dote on my grandkids!!! What the what! Yep. That's the only thing that bothers me about having kids late. If my boys take after us and also get married in their 30s, then I'd be in my 60s before I see my grandkids!

Now, am I saying women should have kids in their 30s? No. I think you should do whatever makes you happy and be a mommy whenever you're ready. That can be 22, that can be 33, that can be 45. In my case, I was 33. To be honest, I didn't think I was ready (is anyone ever ready hahahaha). But I guess I was because I had already lived my selfish, carefree life, have the requisite loving and committed relationship, have the home, and had the money in the bank. So what was I waiting for? Thank goodness I missed a few pills and got pregnant!



Thursday, May 06, 2021

Pre-order your Not Invisible Experience Kit!

This month, Topaz Horizon is 15 years old. FIFTEEN YEARS OLD! Imagine that!

Last year, when we all thought the quarantine would only be for 30 days, I had planned to celebrate by holding a little party with 15 of my most Loyal Readers. But more than one year later, we're still prevented by the pandemic to see each other. It is what it is and we have to celebrate every day we're alive and healthy... and turning one year older!

Happy birthday, Topaz Horizon! 

So, for this blog's 15th birthday, instead of a party, I just chose to commemorate it by publishing my first ever book, Not Invisible, a collection of the best posts from this blog and from my now-hidden mommy blog Topaz Mommy. Thank you so much to the hundreds of people who enthusiastically supported my debut book! 


I shared on my social the special gift box I created for the media. As a PR professional, I figured it would be a good idea to enlist bloggers and press to amplify my book and blog. Instead of a press kit, I called it an Experience Kit because reading my blog and my book is an experience! Everything in my kit enhances that experience. I was so happy when the mommy bloggers unboxed their kits and loved it!

So many of you asked if the Experience Kit was for sale. Some suggested that it can be my blog anniversary celebratory event. And you know what? I think you guys have the best ideas! So let's make the Topaz Horizon x Not Invisible Experience Kit available to you, my Loyal Readers!

#unboxing


The Experience Kit is just P750! Each box includes one book, one Topaz Horizon scented candle, a nap dress, and a golden bookmark. Plus I'll slip in a surprise beauty product in each kit!


There's a little guide on how to make the contents of the kit enhance your reading pleasure.


I really thought over the contents of this kit super carefully. At first, I wanted to ask my blog sponsors to stock it but then I realized that I wanted everything in it to be just about you, me, and reading. 


The candle smells soooo good! Even unlit, the sweet and feminine scent wafts everywhere. I tried many scents but my husband and kids said that this particular fragrance reminds them of me best. 


The daster, a.k.a. nap dress para sosyal haha, is super soft and comfy. Perfect for settling down in your bed or favorite chair to read my book or my blog! The dress design in each box will be random but they will all have shades of orange.

The Topaz Horizon x Not Invisible Experience Kit is so simple but I lovingly created it for you! So I hope you order a kit! Just fill out this form

Please don't forget to check the box and indicate how many kits you want to preorder! 

I'm accepting orders from now till Sunday, May 9, 2021. So I know how many books to reserve and dresses to order! The Experience Kits will ship out on my blog's 15th anniversary, May 24.

And on that anniversary week, I'll also be inviting everyone who bought my book and the Experience Kit to a virtual book launch where we can talk about the experience of invisibility and how we can deal with it in a constructive manner. I'll email the link to you a few days before the launch.

I'll also have a little Facebook Live on May 24, 9 pm, just to say hello and thank you to all of you in my squeaky voice, and do a giveaway, too! 

Happy 15th birthday to Topaz Horizon - to me and to you! We made all this happen but it's really you who kept me going. Thank you for loving my stories and my family all these years. God bless you! 


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Get a free Acer One 8 T2 tablet with an Acer Swift or Spin laptop!

If you need to buy new gadgets for work or for your kids' school, Acer has a great new promo: #AcerOnePlusJuan promo - get a free Acer One 8 T2 tablet with an Acer Swift or Spin laptop! I'm sharing it here because our new quarantined life means we all need gadgets now.


For example, in my family, we're almost done with homeschooling. Just 5 more weeks to go! We relied a lot on computers this past school year. Three boys with their own gadgets - yes, we're privileged but in a slightly different manner because those gadgets were katas ng blogging. The iPad was a gift from the #StreamTeam campaign for Netflix in 2018, the Acer notebook was a gift from Microsoft when I did their #ModernMomOnTheGo campaign in 2015-2016, while my MacBook was the result of all my projects with Nuffnang back in 2012. 

Blogging has really been kind to me because I wouldn't have known what to do if I didn't have all these gifted gadgets when the pandemic struck and we all suddenly had to rely on Zoom and online distance classes. Remember when parents scrambled to get second-hand laptops and smartphones last year? I was so grateful I had my gifted gadgets to see us through this school year. Last year, I lost all my lucrative PR clients (they were all tourism-related) so I didn't have any money at all. I couldn't have been able to buy a gadget each for my boys. So thank you so much, Nuffnang, Microsoft, and Netflix, for your generosity! 

If you need to buy new gadgets, do check out the #AcerOnePlusJuan promo.  


* * * * * * *

PRESS RELEASE - Hit two birds with one stone with #AcerOnePlusJuan promo. You surely wouldn’t want to miss the chance to get a free Acer One 8 T2 tablet when you buy an Acer Swift of Spin laptop from April 8 to May 9, 2021. 

UPDATE: Promo is extended until June 15, 2021!

Working and learning from home will be a breeze with the Acer Swift or Spin laptop. Staying at the highest level of your work or school productivity is made easy with its powerful specs and overall performance. And as an added bonus, you’ll get a free One 8 T2 Tablet worth Php 5,990 when you purchase one.


Acer Philippines General Manager Sue Ong-Lim says, “With everything going digital from school to work, we came up with the idea of sharing an exclusive promo which can help individuals who work from home or study online. For every purchase of participating Acer Swift and Spin laptops, shoppers can get a free tablet. With this, learning or working from home can be much more flexible and convenient.”

Participating Acer Swift and Spin models are:
Swift 3 SF13-53-50TE, Swift SF314-59-51GR, Swift SF314-59-5934, Swift SF314-59-77ZC, Swift 3x SF314-510G-58EW, Swift SF314-510G-75FV, Swift SF314-510G-77HY, Swift 5 SF514-55TA-54J7, and Swift SF514-55TA-71C1
Spin 5 SP513-54N-53X8 and Spin SP513-54N-73ZX

Got your eyes set on this exciting bundle? Avail it at leading Acer stores, authorized retailers, and through Acer online store: https://store.acer.com/en-ph/.

To know more about this promo, you may visit Acer’s Official online platforms: Facebook – @AcerPH, Instagram – @acerph, Twitter – @acerphils, www.acer.com.

 

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

3 Filipino heritage dishes: warek warek, calandracas, and minukmok (with recipes!)

Cooking is one of the essential skills we parents can impart to our children. In fact, I would rest easy once my sons know how to cook because I know they won't ever go hungry if they know their way in the kitchen. Right now, they know how to bake brownies, cook pancakes, and make pizza. My second son is the only one who knows how to cook ulam. Adobo, bistek Tagalog, menudo. 

It's on my To-Do list that all my boys know how to cook Pinoy food. That's why when Lamudi, the leading real estate platform in the Philippines, asked me to share these distinctive Filipino heritage dishes with you from three unique provinces, I said yes! Let's try out these recipes this summer!

* * * * * * *

GUEST POST - The Philippines is known for its rich cultural heritage. One of the things that contribute to the essence of being a Filipino is our food. However, some traditional foods that our ancestors have grown up with are now on the verge of extinction. To make sure that my kids and grandchildren will taste these culinary delights in the future, I selected three Filipino heritage foods to learn with my family.

Warek Warek

Photo screengrabbed from YouTube/Eats My Putahe

This dish from Abra is similar to sisig and dinakdakan in ingredients, preparation, and taste. The difference is that this dish uses the offal of a black pig. Black pigs are often raised in Abra by couples planning to marry. A few days before the marriage ceremony, the black pigs are butchered, and the people check their entrails to determine what their gods have to say regarding the decisions made by the couple that will influence their future.

The preparation:

To cook this traditional dish, combine pork neck and ears in a pot with garlic, ground black pepper, bay leaf, and salt. Add water and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender.

Drain the pork pieces, season it with salt, pepper, and baste it with ¼ cup of calamansi or lemon juice. Broil or torch each side for five minutes or until crispy.

Slice them into small strips and place them in a mixing bowl. Add ginger, onion, pepper, calamansi juice, salt, and mayonnaise or pork brain. Place on a platter, then serve.


Calandracas

Photo via Ang Sarap.net

Now that we have a meat dish, it is best to prepare a vegetable dish to make sure my family has a well-balanced diet. Calandracas is a traditional vegetable dish that originated in Tanza, Cavite, and is still enjoyed by residents of Phirst Park Homes Tanza and other CaviteƱos.

In the olden times, this soup dish was made out of the livestock, vegetables, and spices offered as tribute to the departed during burials. These ingredients are chopped and cooked together in a simmering kawa with a chicken soup stock. Ingredients often included in this traditional dish are string beans, eggplant, banana bell (or banana blossom), sweet potato, and sotanghon (a transparent bean noodle). This satisfying dish is served to the family and other guests who are present at the burial.

The process:

Saute onions, then add chicken and shrimp stock.
Add sotanghon.
Add all the vegetables.
Toss in toasted garlic and fish sauce.
Let it simmer until all vegetables are half cooked and then serve.


Minukmok

Photo via Facebook/Food Holidays

It is always ideal to end a good meal with a dessert. Minukmok is a traditional delicacy from Majayjay, Quezon Province. It is sometimes made out of boiled sweet potato but is often made with boiled saba. Other ingredients include sugar and butter or margarine. You can also add grated coconut, peanut butter, and condensed milk.

This delicacy is often prepared by potential lovers giving them enough time to spend time together while their parents watch them. The end product is also believed to determine the state of their feelings for each other. Males would be the ones to pound the boiled saba, and the females would mix the banana to make sure all are mushy. Once this is done, she adds in the other ingredients, and he will pound it repeatedly until all is well blended.

The process:

In a big mortar, add in boiled bananas and brown sugar. Make sure that the banana is mushy and everything is mixed well together.

Add in other ingredients and pound it again until all is mixed together.

Coat a small bowl with butter or margarine. Place the minukmok mixture. Turn it upside down on a plate. Add grated coconut and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Serve.

The ingredients to all these dishes are easy to find, and these are all easy to prepare. Learning how to make these Filipino heritage dishes allows us to teach our kids the skill of cooking. This is also an opportunity to preserve traditional dishes and make sure the future generations still enjoy them.

Interested in buying property like houses in Abra, townhouses in Tanza, and farmland in Majayjay? Go to Lamudi to check out the thousands of real estate for sale all over the Philippines.


*This is a guest post, with my edits. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com for my rates. Food photos courtesy of Lamudi.



Sunday, May 02, 2021

Mother's Day gift suggestions: 10 tokens of love from Pinoy-owned brands

One week from now and it's OUR day, mamas! Happy Mother's Day to all of us. I have no plans yet. We're still in quarantine and I haven't decided if I'll order in or cook for the kids. I also haven't decided what I want as a gift. The boys usually make me colorful cards but I teased them that since they have money, they might want to buy something for their old lady haha And I have a list of Mother's Day gifts from Pinoy-owned brands for them!

Here are my suggestions for a Mother's Day gift. It's more special because these are all my friends' businesses, most of them mommies, too. I hope you can pick a favorite from this list! 

1. Beachborn 3 Kings shampoo bars

This local brand offers 7 shampoo bars in their roster of hair care products. Shampoo bars are just as effective as liquid shampoo, but because they're solid, their paper packaging is more environment-friendly. Choose from the 7 variants according to your mom's specific hair needs and get them in a bundle.    


2. Mirth & Yift Belinda rose quartz drop earrings

Meticulously handcrafted, these pretty drop earrings are so feminine and flattering. Grab a pair for yourself and gift another for your mommy. 




Since we're all at home, why not give your mommy friends these cute shirt-and-shorts sets in pastels? Comfy enough for lounging at home but spiffy enough for a sudden Zoom/Facetime call!


4. Meadow scented wax tablets

Made from luxurious wax to capture perfume, these pretty wax tablets with dried flowers can be displayed on a tray on your desk so you can catch the fragrant whiffs as you work. You can also place it in a pouch made of muslin or lace and slip it into your closet for OOTDs tinged with perfume. 


5. Gentle Hour scented candles 

So in love with the attitude of these empowering candles! The luxe scents, the unapologetically feminine, and sassy candle names are definitely going to uplift and inspire you and all the moms in your life!


6. Prana Movement Studio virtual signature sessions

You don't have to go to the gym to stay fit. Gift yourself and your mom a Pilates workout! You can tone, stretch and strengthen your bodies together but virtually. If you're a group, the classes get more affordable! So gift these virtual fitness classes to your mommy barkada!


7. In the Beloved Love Notes from God 

I love these little cards of love. It's a small box with 25 illustrated Bible verses and sometimes I pick one out and that's my meditation for the day. I also slip some cards into gifts for family and friends. It's a really nice gift to inspire and bless mommies.


8. Solenn Manila Mother's Day bundle 

Oh, this is so yummy! The special Bibingka MNL bibingka bites are topped with queso de bola and glazed ham. The soft and moist pastry together with the chewy ham and cheese, the mix of sweet and salty - so good! The Nanay Luisa's Truffle Queso de Bola spread is soooo good, they really ought to sell that in a huge jar because we finished ours quickly!

9. Quirks So Many Books bookends  

For the book lover mommies who also love a quirky shelfie, you have got to give them these bookends! It will make her bookshelf look clever - just like her!


10. Not Invisible: A Memoir 

Of course, this list won't be complete without my book on marriage and motherhood! Hundreds of copies have been bought and many mommies have written to me saying they loved it. I just know you'll love it, too. Dearest Loyal Readers, please support my debut book and gift it to all the moms in your life! Thank you! 

I hope you like my list of Mother's Day gifts from Pinoy-owned brands. Please buy local and show your mommy (or yourself) some love!



Saturday, May 01, 2021

Putting together my Covid Care Kit thanks to Watsons 3-Day Vitamin Super Saver Sale

 With the pandemic showing no signs of abating, we'll really have to make sure our bodies are stronger and healthier so we can resist the COVID-19 virus. I wrote a list on what I would do just in case but it never occurred to me to make a special home care kit until VP Leni launched her COVID Care Kit. And this weekend is the perfect time to complete the kit because of the Watsons Vitamin Super Saver Sale!


Get as much as 50% OFF on your vitamins from Watsons 3-Day Vitamin Super Saver Sale on April 30-May 2, 2021. Only the vitamins and minerals are on sale so I'm stocking up on Vitamin C + Zinc and Vitamin D. But as long as I'm on the Watsons website, I might as well buy the medicines on this list (care of the OVP):

1. Phenylpropanolamine Hydrochloride/Chlorphenamine Maleate 325g – For colds accompanied with nasal congestion
2. Paracetamol – For fever and pain relief
3. Carbocisteine – For coughs with phlegm
4. Cetirizine – For allergies and itching
5. Butamirate – For dry coughs (without phlegm)
6. Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) – To help prevent dehydration
7. Hexetidine Gargle – To help relieve sore throats
8. Vitamin C + Zinc, Calcium + Vitamin D3 – Supplements for recovery

I also need these medical tools in the kit:
1. Digital thermometer – To monitor temperature every 4-8 hours
2. Face mask – To prevent the spread of the virus
3. Pulse oximeter – To monitor oxygen levels
4. Disinfectant – To sanitize surfaces
5. Rubbing alcohol – For disinfection and hand hygiene
6. Trash bag – to dispose separately items used by the patient

The OVP also says to have a monitoring sheet to note down temperature, medication, and symptoms. I like this one created by Jel Directo of Verses: COVID monitoring sheet

So anyway, shop this weekend, mamas! Watsons Vitamin Super Saver Sale is a great chance to stock up on vitamins from Watsons, Potencee, Enervon, Centrum, Conzace, Pedzinc, Neurobion, and more because of the savings of up to 50% we can get!  I added this to my cart:


Okay, one last word from Watsons (and me!): 

"Watsons wants to remind Filipinos to continue taking precautionary measures such as wearing of face mask, washing of hands regularly, and to continue with their healthy lifestyle such as eating right and sleeping well to stay healthy and protected against the virus. Along with these, taking vitamins regularly can help boost our immune system, and help us stay healthy and protected against the virus."

Take advantage of this sale happening for 3 days only. Shop now in any of Watsons 800+ stores nationwide (https://www.watsons.com.ph/store-finder), online via http://watsons.com.ph or mobile app (http://bit.ly/WatsonsMobileApp) or via call & delivery service (https://www.watsons.com.ph/call-and-delivery-list-of-stores).