(Photo from colorful.bigbangfish.com)

(Photo from colorful.bigbangfish.com)

 

They say that Christmas is the time when everybody goes back home to their families.  Well, I had the chance to feel this heart-tugging moment with our two teenage girls a couple of weeks ago, way before the month of December had set in.  I didn’t have to wait for Christmas.

Arielle went to a dinner party with some old friends and I was expecting her to be home past midnight.  She doesn’t go to parties often and I thought that this would make up for all the parties she missed as a homeschooler.  I was having a bad, bloated tummy that evening, was tossing and turning in my bed when I finally decided to get up and find something to eat to hopefully make me feel better.  That was around midnight.  To my surprise, I saw Kayla AND Arielle, both lying down on the sofas and awake.  Kayla was apparently waiting for her Ate to come home so she could open the gate and door for her.  Arielle greeted me and asked if I was surprised to see her home early.  I actually was. So I asked her how the party went as I was preparing myself a bowl of cereals with milk.  Then, both my girls joined me at the dining table and Arielle started talking.  I was waiting for a non-stop storytelling session…with all the animation…and excitement.  But to my surprise, it was the total opposite!  She shared with me how disappointed she was.  She was disappointed seeing how her old friends were not able to carry a “smart” conversation.  How “shallow” they were in their ways and thinking.  How they preoccupied themselves with selfies!  She honestly felt that they just didn’t connect anymore and that she felt she had matured and grown up faster than most, if not all, of them.  What I didn’t expect to hear from her was this:  “Ma, see???  Eating cereals with you now is so much better than the party!!!”   AWWWW…my HEART!!!!!

That moment with Arielle and Kayla at the dining table.  Past midnight.  In my jammies.  In Arielle’s party clothes.  In Kayla’s casual, don’t-care clothes.  With a bowl of Koko Crunch and milk.  The three of us gathered around the dinner table.  THANK YOU, DEAR GOD, FOR THIS MOMENT!!!

Here’s more.  The next day, when we went to church to hear mass, in our family huddle-time prayer, Arielle made sure she spoke up with a prayer to the Lord, thanking Him for FAMILY.  That she has her FAMILY to always run to…where she can be herself…and a FAMILY to always have and keep.

As I write this, my HEART is FULL.  FULL of LOVE.  FULL of WARMTH.  FULL OF GRATITUDE. THANK YOU, LORD, for my FAMILY and for this WONDERFUL AFFIRMATION that we are doing the right thing for and with our children all for your greater glory!

May God bless your families and homes for your children to always come back to…not only during Christmas season but everyday of the year and everyday of their lives, no matter what they go through and how old they become.


 

Now that Christmas is just a few days away, parties and gift-giving have already begun for some of us. Amidst the merriment and abundance around us, here are just a few reminders for kids and adults alike on how to “properly behave” this season to make Santa Claus Jesus Christ happy:

1.  Always remember to say “THANK YOU” to the giver of your gifts. Expressing it verbally, via text message, email, chat or private message, or writing a short note would be appropriate.

2.  Appreciate your gift, no matter how simple, meaningless or useless it may seem to you. It could be the 5th coffee mug you’ve received this year or that a pair of socks has become a gift you receive year after year from the same person.  No matter what it is, just be thankful that someone actually took the time to get you a gift and wait in line. It also probably was a last-minute errand for him or her to do or he or she only had a few pesos in his/her budget.  Remember that you were remembered.

3.  Say a prayer for all the persons who remembered you this Christmas and most especially, for those who do not have enough or are not able to celebrate the Holidays with their loved ones.

4.  Focus on the thoughtfulness and not on the pricey-ness of the gift.  A sincere greeting or a time spent with friends at a cafe or restaurant for a fun get-together or simply to catch up on each other’s lives will most likely be remembered more than the presents.  Presence vs. presents.

5.  If your gift is share-able, then by all means, do so!  Cookies, candies, cake, brownies, food for the gods, ensaymadas, fruits, pies, suman, lechon, leche flan, spaghetti, fruit salad…these are all for sharing and not meant for us to transform into a Grinch or Scrooge (unless your goal for 2014 is to gain 10-20 pounds more!)

6.  Last but not least, this may sound cliche.  Remember and focus on the REASON for this SEASON.  Not the presents, not the glitter and lights, not the food, booze, and wine.  But our Savior Lord Jesus Christ! 

I am actually starting to slow myself down these days in order for me to really appreciate all the blessings I have received this year and the many others that continue to come my way this season, before another year begins.  I would just like to wish you and your family a

MERRY, MEANINGFUL, and BLESSED CHRISTMAS!!!

Let us not forget to celebrate Christmas with character 🙂 


 

If you think that we’ve been diligent in our homeschooling these past weeks, especially during this time of the year,  you are wrong!  Why do you think I haven’t been blogging lately?  It’s because our regular routines and schedules have become IRREGULAR. UNPREDICTABLE. EXTREMELY BUSY. QUITE CRAZY!  Sitting down in front of my desktop at this very moment is such a rare opportunity. So how do we homeschool during Christmas holidays?  How did and do we homeschool after supertyphoon Yolanda and when our normal lives have been taken over by volunteerism, bazaar days, rehearsals (for music recital and Christmas program), recitals, Frozen and The Hobbit movies, an archery competition, meetings and inspections for house renovation, more frequent back-and-forth trips from Batangas to Manila, and okay…part of the disruption is my fault…a book launch and meet up with my good high school friends?

To keep me and the girls sane, here’s how we’ve been doing it:

1.   Our 3rd quarter always falls during the most hectic time of the year where traffic is horrendous and long lines are just about everywhere.  That only means a big chunk of our time is eaten by these two major culprits.  We end up having only a few hours during the day to actually do schoolwork and the most practical way to do it is by NOT DOING EVERYTHING in our schedule.  It simply is not do-able.

2.  To make ourselves most productive, we’ve IDENTIFIED our CORE SUBJECTS to FOCUS ON.  These are Character, Christian Living, Math, Science, and World History as a breather from their Math and Science.  Arielle and Kayla have made their literature books for this quarter, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,  their “bedtime” stories.  The other subjects are considered “minor” to us and can easily be tackled when our routines have normalized. 

3.  We’ve kept our STANDARDS or EXPECTATIONS at a MINIMUM.   Though I would have wanted to produce above average work, it simply is not realistic this time.  There are just so many things going on all at the same time and we all just have to do our best given the time that we have in our hands.  I have to remember that we all still need to rest, to sleep, and have some down time in order to be productive every single day.  

4.  Finally, I also try to keep in mind that even though the girls are not solving math problems and doing science experiments or research work, whatever it is that they are occupied with these days are still life lessons and skills for them.  All these are teachers in being flexible, time management, identifying priorities,  keeping focus, prioritizing family relationships and friendships, and discipline.

Our homeschool pace does feel slooow and I do feel quite abnormal about it.  But I myself am being taught by all these.  As what I’ve written in my last post, interruptions are blessings and lessons in disguise.  

So if you think that everything is going smoothly at the Guevara Homeschool Academy,  ah-uh! I am trying my best to keep myself in one piece these days!  

How are you all coping? 


Wow, I can’t believe that it’s the last week of November already!  That only means that Christmas is indeed just around the corner.  Have you started or are you done with your Christmas shopping?  We actually still have a few more gift-shopping to do but the girls and I are really bent on making this Christmas a K.I.S.S. one.  K.I.S.S…meaning, Keep It Simple Yet Significant. 

A few weeks ago, I posted about this K.I.S.S. intention but  I didn’t really have the specifics on how simple yet significant we can get when it comes to our gift-giving this year.  Well, I didn’t need to think hard after all!  Arielle and Kayla have each been working on crafts of their particular interests these past weeks and learned that what they’ve been doing would be their Christmas gifts to their friends.  Isn’t that nice?

So, this Christmas, we are K.I.S.S-celebrating it by doing handmade gifts!  What’s extra special about it, aside from being handmade and personal, is these are right-brain activities that come naturally for them.  Definitely something to balance their left-brain routines.
What’s keeping the hands of our girls busy these days?  I’m going to let you take a peek of what’s going to be wrapped this gift-giving season 🙂
Arielle just loooves pens and paper. Anything artsy! Last October, she joined a bookbinding workshop and is now very happy making her own notebooks.

Notebook on the left is what she did in the workshop.
She is currently working on the notebook on the right.

Punching and stitching

Painting a test design on one notebook
she’s going to keep for herself 🙂

Meanwhile, Kayla has been hooked on making friendship bracelets.  I’m amazed at how she can skillfully and intricately weave those threads into beautiful patterns!

She actually made friendship bracelet-making as one of her portfolio activities last quarter.  See how she was able to create an output for her Philippine Civics subject integrated with Character.

Lastly, we are also going to bake and give homemade goodies!   I can’t tell you yet what’s going to be swirled in our mixer and put inside the oven but oh, the kitchen is going to smell good this December 🙂

The Christmas rush is soon to be more felt by everyone and I wish you and your family your own K.I.S.S. celebrations and activities this December!


I’ve always been the type who prefer simplicity over extravagance or boldness.  I don’t really like big parties and loud music (except when it’s my high school batch’s homecoming).  I prefer cafes over bars.  Cozy restos over gourmet and fancy ones.  Generic and yet personal over chic brands.

It’s November already and Christmas is just around the corner.  50 days to be exact!  Usually, by this time, I already have more or less some ideas on how to go about our Holiday season … different from last year’s.  What dishes to prepare for Noche Buena.  What kinds of gifts to buy for the persons in our Christmas list and where to, more or less, get them.  Where to have get-togethers with our different groups of friends.  What homemade Christmas tree decors to do this time (Oh! This has been quite a tradition in the past years!)  I don’t know, but I’m feeling a bit “more laid back” this year.  The Holidays has always been such a hectic season and I’m being reminded (again) that I shouldn’t make ourselves go with the mad rush and fall prey to commercialism that Christmas never fails to bring.  The reminder becomes stronger and stronger every year.  Is it because I’m getting older (a bit of denial here)?  Or is it because our girls are in their pre-teen and teen stage that they are no longer the toy stores’ main target market for the biggest toy sale season of the year?

It’s just making me think. HARDER. How should we celebrate Christmas this 2012?  It is quite a challenge now to think of more meaningful, concrete ways, most especially when everyone in the whole world seems to be synchronized and going through the same retail rush year after year. 

The mindmap, posted on the wall in front of me, which I did at the start of 2012, gave me the answer.  Simple yet Significant.  That was the theme/central image for my 2012 Goals mindmap and that’s how we’re going to do it this Christmas 2012!  Now, I’m inspired.  Here are six Simple yet Significant ways that I have in mind to celebrate our Christmas this year:

1.  No more Christmas tree.  We’ll just have The Nativity/Belen and focus more on it.  After all, Christmas is all about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not about how many gifts we have under the tree or how many and what kind we’d be receiving.

2. More quality time to spend with family members and friends. Reunions and get-togethers need not be something obligatory.  Time to really engage in conversations and listen to what another person is saying, young or old.  Listen…Connect…Engage.

3.  Prepare/Eat more healthful dishes.  More greens, less of the sweets and bad calories.  And be thankful that we have something on the table! With all the get-togethers, we actually may be having more than what our digestive system can take 🙂

4.  Gifts need not be expensive.  The more personal it is, the better.  And we don’t have to force our budget to buying gifts we cannot afford for the people in our Christmas list.  Buy local, too!

5.  Schedule a Skype/Face Time/Magic Jack session with loved ones in another country or location.  (I’m sure Arielle and Kayla’s Lolo and Lola, Titos, Titas, Ninongs, Ninangs, and cousins in the U.S. would be excited to talk with and see them on the computer screen.)

6.  Include in our list, presents for our house helpers, drivers, laundry woman, and others.  It may even be good to allot a bigger budget for them for their year-round services.  Make it the other way around?  More budget for them than our family members, friends, colleagues who can well afford and are already blessed.  (Hmmm…this is something to discuss with my husband and girls.)


How about you?  Have you already thought of how you’ll be celebrating Christmas this year?  

 




I’ve always wanted my family, especially our girls, to get involved in some outreach program or service.  I actually have been praying really hard for it.  Well, we haven’t really found a place to serve.  I’d like to think God is still preparing our hearts, spirits, and the people or community we would get involved in. Truly, the Lord has a way of answering our prayers and it usually comes as a surprise or in a manner not of our expectations.

This December, my dear friend and her two kids from Virginia, USA will be spending Christmas in Manila for the first time.  They’ve been coming over quite often to visit her aging aunt and my friend feels she needs to spend time with her aunt before she loses the opportunity.  Since it will be a first-time for her and her kids to experience Christmas here (Well, my friend’s last Christmas in the Philippines was when we were 2nd or 3rd year high school!), we decided to name this particular trip of theirs “Project Paskong Pinoy” .

As we did our usual emailing to each other, the topic on Christmas-giving came up.  Our youngest, Kayla, reminded me that she still has her savings (all coins!) and we haven’t done anything about it, and so I shared that to my friend.  At first, Kayla and I were thinking of buying grocery items to put in brown paper bags and distribute them to street people in Manila.  Mike and I used to do that with a group of friends just before Christmas when we were with Singles for Christ in Makati.  I realized that with her savings amounting to P1,060, we won’t really be able to buy that much to fill a hungry stomach and it won’t be able to feed as many mouths.  Then, ideas started to flow!!!

How about buying Jollibee chicken meals instead?  My friend liked the idea for her kids to experience Christmas differently from the way they have it over in the US. She then thought of us all doing this project by cooking rice and chicken nuggets at their place and packing them. She said that their place in Manila has a lot of squatters nearby and that all we need to do is have some control of the crowd who will be coming in to their house, which was going to be manageable since they have helpers and security guard. I also learned that my friend’s aunt used to do something like this before and it would make her happy to see kids in her house again.  What a perfect set-up!  So, after giving it some more thought, we finally decided that my family will buy some treats from the grocery while my friends’ kids will bring over their old toys to give away.  We would put them in brown paper bags and even design them.  My friend’s kids were really really excited that they made a prototype of the bag with the design that they will be making on each brown bag!  Our emails became more exciting that we also wanted a name for this.  First name I came up with was Operation Little Hands, Big Hearts.  How about Operation Puso’t Kamay (Make it Taglish since our kids are Filipinos and Americans)?  My friend’s daughter suggested that we change the name from Operation to Project since Operation sounded like a spy mission!  She has a point!  So, we continued to think.  Project Help Manila.  Project Christmas Miracle.  Project _________?   Final choice …  Project Hearts and Hands (to make Little Hands, Big Hearts shorter)! 

All our kids are really excited about this whole thing and we are all looking forward to doing it on the 26th of December! I can’t wait to post pictures of Project Hearts and Hands! 🙂

In the meantime, while waiting for Christmas Day and December 26, another opportunity to share came our way.  Unfortunately, it’s a tragic one.  The provinces of Dumaguete in the Visayas, Iligan, and Cagayon de Oro in northern Mindanao were terribly hit by typhoon “Sendong”.  Thousands were dead;  many are now homeless, orphans,  and still searching for their family members and relatives who  drowned while asleep during the night Sendong creeped in or who were washed away by the flood.  

The social networking sites, Facebook for instance, have been very active after the tragedy struck and it’s very heartwarming to see people use these sites to seek help, respond to the appeal, and post whatever service they can offer.  

Seeing how much food we have here in the house now that it’s Christmas time and friends have been giving all sorts of food as gifts and feeling how blessed we really are with not only the basics but even with luxuries, we made that little more sacrifice to give to the Sendong victims.  If only we could send the food gifts we’ve been receiving to Mindanao…but they’re perishables, which I felt would not be a very practical thing to do.  So, as a way to help, we gave a monetary donation to, at least, give the different volunteer groups a means to buy what they really really need at the moment for the victims.  

As I’ve said earlier, God works in His unexpected ways.  In our case, these two opportunities to share and give were His timely ways to help me teach the character traits I earlier on assigned for this quarter:  humility and compassion. Isn’t God’s timing perfect? Not that I wanted the calamity in northern Mindanao to happen (of course not!), but indeed, the Lord orchestrates everything and knows how to put the pieces of the big picture together.  He lets things happen to different people for different reasons.  

I pray for the victims of Sendong…that they may have the strength, comfort, the Pinoy spirit of resilence and strong faith in God to be able to overcome the pain and difficulties that they are faced with now.  I pray for us Filipinos who were fortunate enough and blessed to be not among the  typhoon victims.  May we take this opportunity to unite ourselves and to commit to be more responsible stewards of the environment and all the resources around us.  May we also be moved to combine all our efforts just like the “bayanihan” to be able to do something more effective and efficient in disaster management and in improving our country as one people.  

I also pray that these real-life experiences will enrich our girls and teach them to think less of themselves, be grateful, and help others in whatever way they can, not only during calamities but even during ordinary moments.  Everyday is an opportunity to do a random act of kindness and to pay it forward; an opportunity to live out our Christian faith by loving our neighbor.  ❤ 

 


It’s been more than a month since my last post!  Days are really getting busier as Christmas comes near.  Today is the feast of the Solemnity of Christ The King and next week will be Advent already.  It’s time once again to welcome our baby Jesus in our homes and more importantly, in our hearts.

This morning, our family celebrated mass for the second time at the chapel of Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Foundation in San Jose Village in Alabang.  Again, Fr. Rocky gave such an engaging homily on today’s Gospel taken from Matthew 25: 31-46.  It was another engaging one that we ended up quietly discussing it as a family during the mass and even while having lunch.  It’s the reading we are all familiar about.  When did we see Jesus hungry, thirsty, and without any clothes to wear?  From that verse, Fr. Rocky not only reminded us to love our neighbors in need, but gave two more lessons I have never learned from homilies given on these Bible verses:

1.  When we do not waste food on our plate and take care of our clothes, shoes and other things, we also end up sharing with our neighbors and loving them.  If we really think about it, when we are not wasteful with our resources and material possessions, we are giving others the chance to have their share as well.  We are not keeping to ourselves more than what we need. (Can you just imagine how our world would be if countries would also learn this simple lesson on a bigger scale?)

2.  In connection with the character trait we are learning this quarter, which is Humility (I just love it when I get validations on our lessons from real-world instances!), Fr. Rocky reminded us how Christ really is.  He is great.  He is loving.  He is SELFLESS.  Christ, our King, is selfless because He served others first and thought about Himself last.  He is our perfect model of a king who served, who loved, who sacrificed His whole being, who is HUMBLE.  

May this coming Christmas season remind us to think MORE about our neighbors everyday and not only what we want or would want to receive this Christmas.  I pray that we would not allow ourselves to get caught in the rush and commercialism of the season.  As always, I pray for a truly MEANINGFUL Christmas for everyone.