Friday, March 31, 2017

This is how God provides for me

This post is brought to you by Ariel laundry detergent.

Today, on the last day of International Women's Month, Ariel honored 100 Fearless Filipinas by publishing this ad on national broadsheet, Philippine Star.

A hundred women — rich and poor, career women and homemakers, young and old — all doing their best to make the world a better place, especially now that the world seems to have become a darker place. I'm one of the 100 Fearless Filipinas and I am truly honored (second row, fourth from left). I'm also a lot surprised and when I expressed it, they told me they thought I had to be on the list because of how I've bravely chosen to work from home and for all the honesty this blog is known for.

Well, freelance work is not easy. In the five years my husband and I have been doing this, delayed checks and no projects can be stressful. I try not to worry. Believe me when I say I don't spend my days nibbling on my nails in fear. I really don't! But on those days when the bank account is nearing zero, I do cry out to God in alarm. When you're a parent, your biggest fear is not being able to protect and provide for your children. But I refuse to parent out of fear.

I grew up in a home with no money. There was always so much anxiety. There was dread when the phone rang or when the mailman delivered the bills. There was shame when we visited relatives and they all looked down on us. There was the humiliation of being the only house on the street with the electricity cut off. There was always that nagging worry. Worry, worry, worry.

That's part of the reason I didn't want to become a mother. I couldn't fathom raising children in that bubble of fear. So I worked so hard, forsaking almost everything so I wouldn't be poor. I guess I finally came around the idea of motherhood when I started earning well — when I was 32. With our combined income, my husband and I had more money than we needed and we spent it shopping for our new home. We had no debts. We had fat savings. It was time to have kids!

We had Vito and then we had Iñigo. And then we lost our jobs.

You can't imagine the intense fear I had in 2012, dear Loyal Readers. I was losing my job as a magazine editor but I was being offered a great position within the company. Nothing had to change! Yet a huge part of me longed to be a stay-at-home mommy. Imagine that! I was so happy being a mama, I had to choose between job security and mommy heaven.

I guess you all know which one I chose.

Just before I had to give the company my decision, I remember spending one weekend in agony. My childhood was haunting me. I remember an interview I did with Ryan Agoncillo and Judy Ann Santos, and Ryan revealed that his wife's greatest fear was to become poor again. Surprised, I said, "But — forgive me for this remark — you have so much money. You're both so successful. How can this even be in the realm of her imagination?" And he replied, "You know how her dad left them and they suddenly had nothing? She never wants to go through that again." And that was me in 2012. Gripped in paralyzing fear. I never want to be poor again!

I confessed this fear to my prayer group. Remember my Praying Wives group? Amazing women! Earl Paolo, our ringleader, told me that it isn't me or Vince who is the provider of our family. It's God who provides, and He just uses me and Vince as the conduit of blessings for our little boys. According to our faith, He will give. Of course we must work, too, but there will be days when we can't work — we're sick, for example — but the blessings won't ever dry up as long as I just believe God will provide.

There were many verses on God's provision that Earl gave me but the one that helped me most wasn't about God's faithfulness but about the lack of my belief.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
Then you will be able to test and approve 
what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

That verse! That is the verse that changed my life! Even now as I typed it, I was moved to tears.

Do not conform to how this world thinks! Change how you see the world and the world will change for you! I don't have to work myself to death. I don't have to repeat the life my parents led. I don't have to be afraid. Believe in God — test Him! — and He will do wonders.

Well, did I become a multimillionaire? Did I jet off to various locations? Did I have a wardrobe to die for? No. But here's how it worked:

1) My blogs (back then I had two blogs) suddenly took off! Both on number of visits and amount of sponsorships. Like, from 30,000 views a month to almost 60,000. I have no idea how that happened. I give workshops on how to build and grow blogs but what happened to mine was so organic and so weird that I just chalk it up to divine intervention.

2) My blogs earned me more that I ever did as a magazine editor. Huge surprise! The income allowed my husband and I to stay home, raise Vito and Iñigo, and make Piero! We are both hands-on parents. Literally just at home with our kids every single day. We have a good life. We have good food. We buy lots of toys and books. We have the A/C on every day! I can't complain!

3) When the clients aren't paying, that can be terribly frustrating. In theory, I have all this money but in reality, my bank account is almost empty. That just doesn't make sense! It doesn't happen all the time, okay. We're fine most of the time but there really have been days when I'm staring at the bills and telling God, "I know You have provided because I have so many projects but please help me!" And then suddenly a check or two is available — sometimes just enough to pay for that month's bills, sometimes a lot more. It's exciting, this life! You can see it as stressful or you can see it as exciting. Renew your mind!

4) And then God uses other people to provide for my family. Sometimes, the blessing is so specific to what I need that it just can't be coincidence. Here are a couple of examples:
This is not a sponsored post but I just want to tell a story of how God blesses me with just what I need. I had to do a sponsored IG post for Lady's Choice where I share a photo of my macaroni salad. I've been sick for more than a week and couldn't go to the grocery to buy pineapple chunks for the recipe. And I was feeling down, thinking I won't be able to do the post, and so I prayed for... I really don't know what I prayed for because I was blabbing to God about how bad I feel and how I need to get better and maybe I can ask client for an extension or if I can just get enough strength to run to the supermarket and get pineapple chunks. Well, God didn't make me better or strong enough to go to the grocery. He sent me the pineapple chunks! He probably decided I should stay home and rest instead of running around like crazy like I always do. Thanks, @jollyeatsph, for letting God use you to bless me. Thank you, God, for everything, as always! You are my provider and I am grateful You have never failed me and my family, always giving us what we need and sometimes even more. Thank you! #momlife #faith #MakeItJolly #blessed
A post shared by Frances Amper Sales (@topazhorizonblog) on

So all I want to say, dear Loyal Readers, is I live in hope and faith. Despite how I grew up, despite all the fears I had, despite all that I do, my life is lived in hope for all things wonderful and that's why it is wonderful! Sure, my husband and I deserve credit because we always try to make good decisions. But sometimes even good decisions don't have the expected results, sometimes no matter how you work hard the money doesn't come, sometimes no matter what savings you built the economy crashes because of outside forces (sigh!). But it's okay. God is sovereign over all!

It's okay. Don't worry. Give it up to God. Pick yourself up. Carry on always. Don't stop moving. Always believe. That's the secret to my fearless life. A renewed mind. A hopeful heart. A faithful God. May you have these, too! God bless you!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Probiotics benefits for pregnant women

This post is brought to you by FrisoMum.

I'm studying probiotics recently. First, because I'm reading up on FrisoMum, the sponsor of this post. Two, because my kids' pedia prescribed probiotic supplements for them, so that they can absorb more nutrients (my kids are skinny like their parents). Third, because there's a lot of articles on probiotics that are popping up on my Facebook feed. And last, because I was deleting photos on my phone (the endless quest to make more space!) and I saw lots of pics of pregnant me! And yes, I took probiotic capsules when I was preggers and also whenever I have tummy trouble.

Pregnant in 2014! Last time na yan!!! More pics here =)

We all know (if you drank Yakult as a kid) that probiotics promote healthy digestion. That also means they're used to treat disorders like bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea. I guess that also means if you like eating street food, you should toughen up your tummy with probiotics haha

Anyway, the articles I'm reading say that healthy gut bacteria also help in a whole lot of other ways. Let me count these other ways:

1. Keeps skin clear,

2. Keeps the vagina and urinary tract healthy,

3. Prevents bad breath,

4. Regulates immune function,

5. Reduces inflammation,

6. Kills off bad bacteria so you won't rely on antibiotics,

7. May have a hand at preventing autism.

Woah. If you're a woman, that's a lot of reasons to include probiotics in your diet, right? If you're pregnant or planning to be pregnant, that part about autism is a huge reason to take probiotics stat! Plus, when delivered vaginally, our baby's first exposure to bacteria is in our birth canal. We better make sure the bacteria there is the good kind!

You can get probiotics from food like yogurt, miso, kefir, kimchi, cheese... Actually, a lot of fermented stuff really (but I dunno if that includes wine and beer haha). All over the world and throughout history, every culture ate fermented food. That's because there were so refrigerators back then. Because of that, they had to preserve food, and fermentation is one of the processes they used. Now fermentation creates trillions of these good bacteria that we now apparently need for our bodies to be healthy! Anyway, I'm not a fan of fermented anything so it's been hard for me to include probiotic-rich food but I'm trying!

If a daily diet of fermented food is not to your liking, then you can ask your OBG about taking supplements. I did and she told me that probiotic supplements are like the greatest thing ever. Not her words, okay, more like her attitude about it! If you're preggy now and reading this, ask your OBG about probiotics.

FrisoMum is a pro-digestion milk for moms that cares for the tummy. It's packed full of prebiotics and probiotics on top of the vitamins and minerals you need. You get better digestion, better nutrition, and better times spent together with your family because you're healthy!

FrisoMum is available at selected Mercury Drug stores in Manila, Luzon, and Cebu. Always ask your OBG about taking prenatal supplements. Like their Facebook page for more nutrition tips for your pregnancy.

Monday, February 27, 2017

First look: The Honest Company's spring 2017 diapers! Plus, Jessica Alba's tips for working mamas

When a brand founded by a Hollywood mommy asks you to do something for them, you do it. Well, I would because I used to cover Hollywood celebrities in my former life! I am so starstruck that Jessica Alba's The Honest Company gave me the chance to share with my readers the first look at their Honest Diapers spring 2017 designs! Here's your exclusive first look:

So cute! I still have one kid in diapers (although we're gearing up for toilet training this summer!) so I am very much smitten with these designs! I especially like the bugs!

Just like their founder, Honest Diapers don't just look good on the outside, they're also made of good stuff in the inside. They have an ultra-soft plant-based (PLA) inner and outer layer with a bio-based wheat/corn blend in its super-absorbent core. They don't go through chlorine processing and there are no chemical bleaches in them either. No latex, lotions, phthalates, optical brighteners, organotins (MBT, DBT, TBT), or most common allergens. No fragrances, too, just naturally derived odor blockers from citrus and chlorophyll.  

Jessica Alba is included in Forbes magazine's list of America's richest self-made women.

I'm in awe of what Jessica Alba has done with The Honest Company. Really! From being a major Hollywood star to now one of the richest self-made women in the US of A—that's some feat! And what I admire most about her is she created her brand because she wanted the best for kids and moms everywhere. I may not be able to relate to her glamour and the wealth, but I definitely can relate to her being a mommy who works so hard to give her family the best, given what I know and what my resources can afford.

When Jessica isn't busy growing her billion-dollar company, she is actively involved with charities such as Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, ONE, Habitat for Humanity, Project HOME and more. But, like all good mommies, the one job she enjoys above all others is being a mom. Yes, she's now my working mama peg! (I have a lot actually. Will blog about this soon!)

Jessica is also an author. Wow!

I asked The Honest Company if their founder has advice for us working mommies, and here's what Jessica said: "Don’t get overwhelmed trying to do everything at once. Lay out what you can get done now and what will take longer.” 

I learned this the hard way. As a working mama with no household help or nannies, I spent the first few years of my motherhood completely overwhelmed. I was trying so hard to be the best mommy ever to my baby boys that I got depressed when I would (of course) fail. It was when I became more organized (thanks, bullet journaling!) and less hovering (thanks, Netflix!) that I started to relax and just take mothering one day at a time. And I believe my family is all the better for it! I now truly enjoy being a work-at-home mommy.

I'm sure Jessica is waaaaaay busier than I am but she's learned to feel happy and proud to be a working mama. We don't need to be with our kids 24/7 to be a good mother. In fact, Jessica says we should let go of mommy guilt. "Don’t be hard on yourself," she says. "Doing your best to be present wherever you are is what’s important."

Finally, Jessica emphasizes the need for all mommies to take care of themselves. "Make time to eat healthy and stay active," the famously fit star advises. "It’s worth it to recharge once a week: Get sleep, have a date night or a girls’ night in, and drink some wine!" Oh, I wish I could follow her advice more often! I do believe that we moms pour so much time, energy and resources in giving the very best to our kids but if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't give the best mommy to our babies! Again, I learned this the hard way. I was so tired and ugly and unhealthy that I wasn't 100% happy being a mom. I was too spent to give anything! So this 2017, I've really resolved to visit the salon once a month, nap more, read again, spend more time with my husband, and see my friends. 

Thanks, Jessica, for sharing your work-life balance tips with my working mama readers! Thanks, The Honest Company, for sharing your new spring diaper designs with my style-savvy new mommies!

To shop the Spring 2017 diaper collection of The Honest Company, click here. I suggest using a courier service like Johnny Air to have your purchases shipped safely here in the Philippines. Locally, The Green Company (with branches in San Juan, Pasig, and Banawe, QC) carries The Honest Company products. A few products are also available at Landers Superstore. 

Hmm. Maybe I should collaborate more with The Honest Company. It's so aligned with my blog—everyone knows me as the most honest mommy blogger! Even their office looks like my house! Lemme pray about this!

*photos and quotes courtesy of The Honest Company; Jessica Alba's photo from

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A peek at Tod's Women's SS 2017 collection

I've always loved the classic lines of Tod's bags so I just had to check out the new Spring-Summer 2017 collection!

This is the Sella. The leather is firm but soft. I can't explain it! But I love it. I love the contrast stitching details, too. Must have this!

This is the Tod's Twist. Sleek modern lines but made more fun with the tassel and cube accessories. It's a lovely handbag that you pull apart so you can see everything in your bag. See those silver buttons at the sides? That's the hinge. I love that the bag opens up like a glorious box. Another must have!

This Wave bag and its baby companion are so neon orange, it's crazy! I love that vivid orange! Totally a signature piece.

Since Tod's bags have very simple designs, if you want something more fun, the luxury Italian brand has a collection of bag charms for you.

Here's a better look at the collection:

Tod's Bauletto:

Tod's Bauletto handbag:

Tod's Double T bag:

Double T Petite bags:

 Tod's Wave bag:

 Tod's Micro Bauletto:

And then here am I with my Tod's D Bag. YES! I finally have one! After all these years, I found it at an online store in Japan! The size and color and exact model I want!
I was supposed to use it for work but I've found that it makes a great diaper bag because it's roomy and sturdy. Yep. I finally buy my dream bag and it ends up being a diaper bag!

Anyway. To see more of the Tod's Women's SS 2017 collection, visit their website, Tod's is available at Rustan's Shangri-la Plaza and Greenbelt 4.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Back To School? Making The Most Of Adult Education

While some careers, like blogging, are all about creativity and self-motivation, others have much more clear-cut parameters. I tried looking for a job in a more stable industry a few months ago and I just wasn't getting accepted because my education and experience in the creative industry weren't considered important in the companies I applied to. So I'm thinking of going back to school and getting more qualifications in IT and digital marketing.

If you’re like me and you're finding yourself at a crossroads in life and have also decided to go back into education, there are probably all kinds of questions and uncertainties weighing on your mind. Here, I’ve listed some of the best tips for any adult going back to school…

When you come back to education after a long break from it, it can be a very daunting prospect. If you’re in your 30s (or 40s like me!) and about to go to an institution that’s full of people much younger than you, it’s pretty common to suddenly become much more introverted than you thought you were. When I was in college, I remember having classmates much older than myself... and it was the coolest thing! They were our favorite classmates because they were already working and so could tell us all about the professional life. 

So it may be a little scary at first, but I strongly recommend you come out of your shell. By developing a network of good friends and acquaintances, you’ll do a lot to enhance your experience, and have someone to fall back on when the actual grind of education gets tough. Having people who you can discuss coursework, exams and assignments with, and borrow or trade notes with when you miss a class, will make the whole experience both easier and more enjoyable. It's just like being in college again! Except you have more money, experience and wrinkles now haha.

Manage your time.
Being able to manage your time effectively is essential for any student, particularly adults who are coming back to education after a long break. This is even more important if, like adult students, you’re having to juggle your education with providing for a family and various other commitments. This is actually the only thing holding me back now. I don't have the time yet!

In school, whether in a campus or online, you’ll be supplied with a timetable for your classes of course, but it may be helpful to create your own, setting aside times for all your commitments outside of education that you need to stay on top of. Over time, you’ll learn what needs to take priority, and how to accept the fact that you simply can’t do everything in some instances. Of course, if you need to be on-call as a parent and partner around the clock, it can mean your options are even more constrained. Fortunately, there are ways around this. A lot of popular majors, such as bachelor’s degrees in business administration, are run through online programs that allow you a lot of freedom to move your personal timetable around.

Use technology at every opportunity.
One great thing about education is that it allows you all kinds of opportunities to develop new knowledge and skills, even in things that have nothing to do with the subject you’re studying. If you’re looking to improve your career prospects through further education, then the one thing you should make time for is using all the technology that’s available to you. Basic IT, and everything it’s evolved into, is used extensively at modern educational institutions, and there’s bound to be some way for you to try it all out. The more clubs you join and credits you can obtain related to modern technology, the more impressive your CV will be by the time you go looking for the next big step in your career.

I thought my CV was impressive enough but apparently it isn't anymore. With the world rapidly going online, my extensive experience in print publishing just isn't cutting it anymore. So I need to go back to school, working mamas! If you have tips on which online school or campus is good to old folks like me, please do tell!

*image from Flickr