Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Review: "Homeschool Moms at the Feet of Jesus" by Teresa Gumap-as Dumadag

Our first year of homeschooling is finally done. It was most definitely not a walk in the park. I think we had some days when we yearned for "school school", you know, real school with real teachers who have real education degrees. That said, I'm happy to report that the kids enjoyed homeschooling more than I did. So that's a credit to me, right? Sigh. Let me tell you I may have made their homeschooling experience great but I truly had a hard time enjoying it. I'll tell you more about my conflicting feelings about homeschooling another day. For today, we'll do a book review of Homeschool Moms at the Feet of Jesus by Teresa Gumap-as Dumadag. 


Homeschool Moms at the Feet of Jesus is a 31-day devotional for homeschooling moms. If you're a dad, you'll appreciate it, too. In fact, since all of us are homeschooling anyway (hello, parents of online distance learning kids!), you will need this book. Every day for a month, you get a Bible verse, a little story of encouragement, questions to reflect on, a short prayer, and then a page of worksheet to write down your concerns and what you're grateful for. It's as simple as that!

The devotional is also part memoir since Teresa shares her own homeschooling journey in every entry. It's obvious that she is very happy with homeschooling (unlike me haha). Teresa is really an educator. Her job as a trainer, coach, and consultant is all about teaching so it's easy to see why homeschooling was the most natural decision for her. It was kinda sweet to see how excited she is about teaching her kids and how much joy she got out of that. I guess that's because she dedicated her homeschooling to God and relies on the Holy Spirit to give her wisdom and the right attitude, and she really is grateful for the privilege of being her kids' teacher. (Frances, take note!)



I got an advance copy of this book so I was able to go through a few days of devotions. Homeschool Moms at the Feet of Jesus is a book I'd have appreciated way back in August last year when we chose to homeschool because of the pandemic. It really addresses the fears and worries of a new homeschooling parent and it may have helped me adjust my attitude. 

Then again, I didn't actually fear homeschooling. I used to be a teacher and I have helped my kids with their homework for years. Many times I explained the lessons better than their teachers ever did. So my ability to teach them was not a worry. I'll talk about my struggle with homeschooling in another post! 

What's so good about this devotional is the emphasis on encouragement and the counting of blessings. Because there truly were many wonderful things that happened because I was my kids' teacher. I saw how they think and process information (okay, this is both a good and a bad thing!), I saw what made them bored and interested and so I was able to adjust the lessons. We had fun for many days! But most of all, homeschooling kept us safe from the pandemic. We're healthy, alive, and learning. That's the most important part. The simple exercise of writing down everything great that happened every school day does wonders. That's the habit this devotional wants us parents to cultivate.


Homeschool Moms at the Feet of Jesus by Teresa Gumap-as Dumadag is available for download on Amazon Kindle for only USD 2.99. From now till tomorrow, July 1, it's FREE! It's also free on Kindle Unlimited. Download your copy now.

*photos courtesy of Teresa Gumap-as Dumadag.


Look back on the blog entries every Wednesday of this June for my reviews of books written by Filipino mommies! Support mommies! Support literature! Support local! I'll try to do a review of a local author, a Filipino mom especially, every end of the month. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

My fun mom find! Free educational online games for the kids (and me!)

It's summer for us! We are lazy bums right now, just really enjoying the no-school days until we have to hit the books again in August. That doesn't mean I'm letting the kids' brains go too idle. I kinda tricked them into playing online games at Plays.org. It's a site I found a couple of months ago and it has hundreds of games - many of them educational! - and you can play them all for FREE!!!


So just a brief description of Plays.org: It's really a simple place where hundreds of online games are listed and you simply choose to play the ones you like. It's easy to navigate because the games are in categories. There are arcade classics like Tetris, Pac-Man, space games, and the like. There are simulation games for your kids who want to imagine how to run a restaurant or fly a plane. There are war games, shooter games, sports games... There's a lot so if you're looking for online entertainment that's FREE, I highly recommend Plays.org!

So now that I've told you about the site, let me tell you about the games I'm playing. Yes, I play, too! And of course I started with this classic, which I used to play perfectly on my old phone: Snake!


It's called Neon Snake here and it sure is a lot prettier than the black pixels on my old Nokia. Sound effects are better, too. But aside from those, it's still pretty much the same old Snake.
   

Another classic is Tetris! Here it's called Super Tetris and I love it! Tetris has always been my favorite game. I like pattern games. But this game's blocks are all glowy and the music is so relaxing. I play this one on my phone all the time!

Okay, as a homeschooling mom, what I found really fantabulous about Plays.org is the number of educational games for kids. This site lets me meet two important goals: I want my kids to have fun learning, and I want them to do something educational while I go take a nap hahaha

Here are just a few games you can let your kids play. No-guilt involved because your kids will be learning as they play: 

Logic games

Math games

Music games

I even used some of these games when we were homeschooling and I had to meet a work deadline. Everyone's happy!

There you go! My happy #momfind! Try out Plays.org, too!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Review: "Abi Nako, or So I Thought" by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz

I can't stop thinking about Abi Nako, or So I Thought by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz. Her memoir is so full of life and death, love and loss, horror and humor that I thought this more than once as I read her book, "This should be made into a movie!" But to say that seems like I'm reducing Joy's life into mere entertainment. It's not. It's profound and very sad. It's also very funny. It's a life so alive! It's a really good book!


Okay, I've gotten ahead of myself! This week's book review is Abi Nako, or So I Thought by Palanca awardee and creative writing professor Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz. Well, she'll always be Joy to me because I met her at the 1999 U.P. National Writers Workshop in Baguio, the same workshop where I met my husband. She is wildly funny and deeply serious all at the same time. But that was all I knew of Joy and nothing about her life until Facebook happened. And until Abi Nako. And oh wow what a life!

Abi Nako, or So I Thought is a collection of essays Joy wrote about love - her pursuit of love from men and women, her love for her children, her love for this country, her pained love story with her mother, her love for words and their meanings. It's a series of raw and brutally honest confessionals. It's quite the page-turner, but there were chapters that were so heavy and sad for me that I had to put it down. 

Yes, as with all of us, Joy suffered heartbreak many times over, but unlike most of us, Joy is so brave and relentless to wrestle with her demons and learn from them and then write about it with no fear of judgment. Joy writes about the Cebuano phrase "abi nako." In Tagalog, it means "akala ko", and diba there's a saying, "Maraming namamatay sa maling akala"? "Akala ko" is never a good thing. Joy writes, "The Binisaya dictionary tells us that 'abi' means 'to misconstrue, misread,' while 'nako' means 'mine.' In this language, my misconceptions are not only my own, I must also own them. Thus, I am not just misreading it; it is my own misreading."


Joy's book is all about her experiences of hoping for a better life and then getting her hopes dashed again and again. This is the man for me, or so I thought. Marriage will settle me, or so I thought. Moving to Davao for my lover is romantic, or so I thought. Abi. And then because Joy writes about all these hurts without whine or blame, she also takes responsibility for them. Nako

But it's not all gloom and doom. If there was bleakness to Joy's life story, it's swept away by her persistence to believe in new beginnings even if it means beginning again and again and again. It's her refusal to give up that makes this book so inspiring. It is full of hope. It is full of forgiveness. 

Please get a copy! The language is beautiful. I love words and this book was a love affair with words. 

Abi Nako, or So I Thought by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is only P450 and may be ordered from press.up.edu.ph. It's also available in the UP Press shops on Shopee and Lazada.

*Visit the blog every Wednesday night this June for my reviews of books written by Filipino mommies! Support mommies! Support literature! Support local! 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The man behind the scenes

I wasn't able to take a proper Father's Day photo of Vince and our boys today. That's because they got excited about the gift we got him (a Dungeons & Dragons Castle Ravenloft board game!). While there are no pictures, I'm glad to report that today was a very happy day for my husband.

So on Facebook and Instagram, everyone's posting their Father's Day appreciation essays and of course I had to join because I had to show proof my kids have a father hahahaha My husband is very private and so I only get to show him off maybe twice a year - Christmas and Father's Day. He doesn't forbid me, but I know the spotlight makes him uncomfortable. It's Father's Day today, though, and he had a wonderful day so maybe we can celebrate him today!

Since I didn't have new photos to post, I shared old photos of Vince being a dad. I didn't have many pictures, which says a lot about Vince. Here are the unspoken meanings behind the photos I shared:


#1 He's always the one behind the camera.

Vince is always taking pictures of the kids. I know I'm some sort of mommy blogger but I wouldn't have any pictures to share if it weren't for my husband. He's the one who's endlessly fascinated with our sons and making sure there's a record of how wonderful they are. 


#2 He's the kids' best teacher.

My kids learned tons of stuff from their Papa. From toilet training and cutting their own nails to reading and world history, it's Vince who is their Google, coach, and all-around go-to guy. I'm a pretty good source of information and skills, too, but I can't claim everything. And that's the coolest thing! That my kids are learning so many things from their father simply because he's always there for them, for me!


#3 He's the best in arts and crafts!

Vince never lost his ability to appreciate raw materials. Where I see trash, he sees something he can create with the kids. It's a child-like wonder with cardboard and boxes and sticks and old vacuum tubes and toilet paper rolls. And the boys adore their father because he's forever churning out stuff for them and for me. The kids' creativity is always piqued! 


#4 He's the best daddy stylist.

There's a reason why I'm not a mommy influencer who parades her kids in the latest fashions. I'm simply not stylish! If you see my kids dressed up, that wasn't my doing. I let the kids go out of the house and they'll look like they just rolled out of bed. My husband makes sure their shirts are pressed, their outfits coordinate, and their socks match. 


#5 He's the one who cares for everything we use at home.

All the advertisements say it's the mommy who's pihikan. She's the one who chooses what's best for her family. Not in my house. It's my husband who picks out the best products. He's so very picky! He's the one who tells me what brands to buy when I'm writing down the grocery list, especially when it comes to what his sons eat, drink, and bathe with!

Vince is all these and many more. I'm so glad he loves being a daddy. It makes being a mommy so much easier because he took on many of the things moms are supposed to do. I didn't toilet train my kids. I didn't teach them to read. I don't even give them baths. Supposedly mommy duties, right? I didn't have to. Vince took care of those and more, allowing me to be a more rested, more happy mommy.

Many times, we moms are just so exhausted because we're responsible for too many things. Too many. And we're not supposed to complain because we're moms. We're supposed to be superheroes. We're not. But when the responsibilities are shared - no "mommy duty" or "daddy duty", just "parental duty" - then parenting is so much easier and better. So much better!

Dear Vince, you are the most steady and stable influence in my life and in our boys' life. Because you're such a behind-the-scenes father, there's hardly any photographic proof of you and you're silent on social media, but oh how your presence and influence pervade every pore of our family's being. You have shown me and the boys how valuable it is to have integrity, to know oneself and to be at peace with who you are, and to make all of your decisions based on who you are and what you love. There is no inconsistency with you. There is no fear, no insecurity, no doubt because you are our rock. 

And this year, the past years even, and most probably the future may be hard and uncertain but I am not afraid. When we are together, I am most appreciative of my life. When we are together, I don't feel alone. But it's when we are together with our boys and I see how wonderful a Papa you are to them, that's when I feel most in love with you.

Happy Father's Day, Vince! 



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Review: "Snippets of Sanity" by Kaycee Enerva

Hello, mamas! Feeling like you need to breathe in the middle of this busy week? Well, between juggling the household chores, the job(s), the bills, the friends, the husband, and the kids, we're always hoping for a break so that we don't break. 


That's why this week's book review feature is Snippets of Sanity: On Mental Health and Motherhood by Kaycee Enerva. This is a short book, only 5 chapters long. I finished it in one sitting, so if you're a busy mom, you can definitely find time to squeeze this book in.

Kaycee is the blogger behind The Macho Mom. If you follow her on social media, she posts about her life as a single mom, her fitness routines, and her mental health advocacy. She's very bold and honest and raw in everything she says. That's why I like her. She's real. No lies detected!

Her book, Snippets of Sanity, is all about how her bipolar disorder affects everything in her life - her work, her relationships, most especially how she mothers her only child, Geof. You don't have to be bipolar to relate to Kaycee. As mothers, we are responsible for way too much and do too many things. It's tough. 

Kaycee's book made me realize something, too. Because she's diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she's very aware of her behavior, her emotions, of what she can do. She has to or else she might succumb to her symptoms and everything in her life will be affected. Most of us moms, we're like trains. We chug along. Or, what's that positivity word? We POWER THROUGH. Even when we're exhausted, we don't acknowledge our state and our emotions. We don't ask for help. Everything's okay. And then we snap. Or break.  

Reading Snippets of Sanity showed me how it's totally okay to admit you can't do it all, that you have needs, that you make mistakes, that you should tell your kids you're a flawed human being, and to ask for help. Kaycee shows us it's okay to not be perfect, even though we all want to be perfect.

It's hard to raise a parent - the parent being us!

I think all of us - moms or not, mentally well or not - all of us can learn a thing or two from Kaycee and her book. My takeaways are: Be honest with yourself and with others. Be kind to yourself most of all.  

Snippets of Sanity: On Mental Health and Motherhood by Kaycee Enerva is only USD 2.99 on Amazon Kindle and USD 7 for the paperback. Find more stories by Kaycee on her blog The Macho Mom!


*Visit the blog every Wednesday night this June for my reviews of books written by Filipino mommies! Support mommies! Support literature! Support local! 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

5 things I learned from "No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God" by Jeffrey and Jennifer Aspacio


Since June is traditionally the month associated with weddings (in the Philippines, however, most weddings happen from October to February), we'll tackle a book on marriage this week. I picked No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God by Jeffrey and Jennifer Aspacio. Instead of a book review, I'll list down the 5 things I learned from the first book written by two of my childhood and church friends.


1. Woman was created by God to save man.

Haha! I'm half-joking. Actually, Jeff did mention in the book that Jen saved him from his foolish ways. So there's some truth there. God said it isn't good for anyone to be alone so He created a helper or a savior for each of us. No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God reiterates that that doesn't mean we should swoop in and change our spouses. We should still love and accept them for who they are.

Anyway, my takeaway from this is this helper-savior thing applies not just to man-woman, but to everyone. We need friends. We need others. I like to think God doesn't just magically rescue us from ourselves. He uses family and friends, even strangers, to help us out and lift us up with love. That's our mandate: love each other.  


2. You must be whole before you get married.

"You complete me" is a famous romantic line. I never fell for it, though. In fact, that scares me a little. I don't want a man who is incomplete and needs me to make him whole. That's an impossible task for anyone. You get married because you have so much love to give. Love - and life! - is for giving, not taking. No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God emphasizes that the wholeness of each distinct part of a marital union enhances the other. Marriage makes us better. When marriage makes us worse, that's because you were incomplete to begin with.

When I got married, it was after 8 years of dating. That's because I wanted to be sure of who I am. I was definitely sure Vince was The One for me, but I didn't want to saddle him with an insecure, frightened, whiny, immature, overcompensating girl. I waited until I was mature enough, confident enough, happy and completely in love with myself before I committed to loving him till death do us part. He was the same. In fact, he said he was glad we didn't get married when he first asked, a few weeks after we met. He said he was changing, too, and we're glad we did all those self-improvements and realizations while we were both unmarried. 

That's not to say you can't change and improve anymore when married, okay! As long as we're alive, change is inevitable. But it's easier to go through those changes together when you're both a whole person on your own. 

In my case, what really made me whole was my faith in God. His love for me was really the source of my confidence and peace. My marriage is not perfect (whose is???) but one thing that doesn't trouble us is insecurity. We know ourselves and each other so well that there is peace. Because we are both whole persons, there is no fear, no distrust, no doubt. And in any relationship, that is vital.


3. Husbands should also submit to their wives.

I loved that it was Jeff who wrote this section. It comes from a place of complete humility and - as mentioned - wholeness. He isn't afraid to say he, as the man, submits to his wife. For the world, that means she wears the pants but anyone in a happy marriage knows that a good marriage is one of equality. There is respect and admiration for each other, there is a willingness to serve each other.

"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." Ephesians 5:22-23. These verses have caused so much grief to millions of wives because people have interpreted it to mean unquestioning obedience. But as my husband always reminds me, we must always take Bible verses into context. Why did Paul the Apostle tell wives to submit to their husbands anyway? Actually, the first thing he said was in verse 21: "Submit to one another." The second was the admonition for wives to submit to their husbands which he follows up with the third command in verses 25-33: "Husbands. love your wives!!!" 

Yes, one verse telling us to submit to one another. Three verses telling wives to submit to their husbands, and a whopping NINE VERSES telling husbands to love their wives because she is the best thing that ever and will ever happen to him. Periodt! But seriously, it is more important for a man to value his wife because when he loves her completely, she will submit to him completely, too. No need to assert your dominance. Wives naturally respond to love. See, context. I am so happy No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God reminds us all of the context! Partnership and mutual submission. That's marriage.   

Many women have asked me how I can be feminist and also be submissive to my husband. You know, people misunderstand feminism so much. To be feminist means to have a choice. Women shouldn't be forced or prevented from choosing what's best for them. Before I submitted to my husband, I chose him. Of all the men in the world, he was the only one I deemed to be worthy of my love and trust. Because I know he is a good man and he loves me, I can let him be my partner in life. I can let him lead our family. Important words: "I let him." He lives up to that trust. You should know that I support divorce. When a man abuses his wife and kids in any way, then he is no longer a good leader and I believe a wife should withdraw her choice. (Note: The Aspacios don't support divorce.) 

(UPDATE: Jen corrected me and said that divorce is Biblical. "Divorce sometimes is inevitable. Even the Lord allowed divorce, because of man's stubbornness. I still believe that nothing is impossible when it comes to working out a marriage, if both are up to it, but if it is bringing harm to the well-being of either husband, wife, even kids, and everything's [been] done, divorce is the way to go. Divorce protects the spouse and children, and it doesn't nullify the union. Alimony also takes care of the children's needs. Annulment is not very strong in this, if there is at all a clause similiar to alimony. I'm not familiar with our PH law on this. But I am for divorce.")  

In the same way, Vince also knows that he can depend on me for everything, he can tell me anything, he can be what he wants to be and I won't mock him or scold him or dismiss him. He is confident to serve me and our kids because I am the holder and guardian of his peace and security. I am keenly aware that this man trusts me and depends on me with his whole being. I should never do anything to betray him. If I do, I risk losing him - and he should leave a wife like that! (Note: Vince doesn't support divorce.) 


4. Wives are precious.

"Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder your prayers." I Peter 3:7. Another verse that has caused trouble to women everywhere because people claimed that the Bible said that women are weak.

I love the etymology of the term "weaker" that No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God presents. It transforms a hurtful word into one that honors women.


5. To love your spouse is to love yourself.

Many people have a hard time with this. How can you put yourself first if you serve your spouse? How can you love your spouse if you love yourself? Ephesians 5:28-30 explains it: "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body."

Again, it's a wholeness thing. You shouldn't depend on another person to make you happy. But the most marvelous thing happens when you love your spouse and make every effort for their happiness - your spouse will do the same! So you're both making each other happy and that's so much fun, so satisfactory! It's a mutual pleasure exercise!

Again, it's a wholeness thing! If only one of you is whole, then the other will just take and take. But you can never truly fill up an incomplete person. You can try. And many husbands and wives do. But it is exhausting and frustrating. That's no way to spend the rest of your life so choose well. 

That said, and even though I said I believe in divorce, I also believe in not giving up on your marriage. Marriage can be tough. Jen wrote that it "should not be a place of struggle" but many times it can be. My own marriage went through some hard times, too (Vince denies this hahaha and says I make up my own problems when we have always been strong). Love and commitment save a marriage. So love each other. And commit! 

These are the 5 things I learned from No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God by Jeffrey and Jennifer Aspacio. Their book tackles many other topics, such as parenting and how to survive infidelity (from their personal experience bravely detailed in their book). You can definitely learn a lot more! Here are the many ways to get your copy:

For Kindle and international orders, buy from Amazon.

For Philippine readers, buy from Shopee.

To learn more about No Perfect Marriage, Only a Perfect God, follow their Facebook page.

*Visit the blog every Wednesday night this June for my reviews of books written by Filipino mommies! Support mommies! Support literature! Support local! 

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Review: "I Am Happy" by Kim Espartero and various Filipino artists

 

June is when we celebrate our independence from foreign powers. Now that it's being threatened again, I think it's important we teach our kids the beauty of our country and our culture so that they grow up proud of being Filipino and fiercely protective of our sovereignty.

One way to do that is through books! So book review time! Today's literary feature is a small but mighty book called I Am Happy by Kim Espartero and various Filipino artists. 


I Am Happy is part of a series of books created for our Pinoy kids. The words are all about gratitude. It's really very simple. "I'm happy about this, I'm grateful for that." It doesn't lay on the patriotism too thick. It's just a happy list of things around us that we should appreciate - food, fun, sea and sky, family and friends. 


But the gorgeous illustrations on every page - each one illustrated by a Filipino artist - is a joyful exhibition of our country and culture! Nakakatuwa siya. So while you read to your child the words that hardly talk about the country itself, the pictures exploding with color and beauty will make you want to point out every beautiful thing about our country. Ipagyayabang mo talaga sa anak mo ang kulturang Pilipino - pawikan at parol, fiesta at saranggola, lechon at iba pa!    


Plus, every page encourages your child to think about what he is grateful for. It doesn't have to be about the country, of course. So the book, while short, is big on many things - gratitude for our blessings, love for country, and art and culture.


Highly recommend this book, mamas! Do buy a copy!

To learn more about I Am Happy by Kim Espartero and how to buy, check out Let's Be Super on Facebook.

*Visit the blog every Wednesday night this June for my reviews of books written by Filipino mommies! Support mommies! Support literature! Support local!