• "Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness - Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well."
  • - St. Therese of Lisieux

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Guest Post: Romeo and Tess' Adoption Story

Flashback: CHRISTMAS 1986
I had just started working for a Japanese company based in Makati when the season started and part of our company’s social work was sponsoring a Christmas party at an orphanage, the Asilo de SanVicente de Paul at UN Avenue. We were welcomed warmly by young smiling faces in their freshly scrubbed clothes lining up the lobby as we made our way inside.

That was my first encounter with orphaned children and throughout the days’ event, which included song and dance programs, team games and gift giving, my fellow co - workers and I bonded with the kids as we shared meals, getting snippets of their touching stories, how they viewed their situation and a little puzzled by their wonderment as we tell on what we would otherwise consider as our quite ordinary life. By the time we wrapped up and were heading out the gate, tears where falling in everyone’s eyes as the kid’s where crying and pleading “kuya, sama niyo na ako, kunin niyo na ako” (translation: 'older brother, I want to go with you, take me with you.') as we left. Looking out from the window of our bus as it made its way out of the gate, we waved our goodbyes and somehow felt that we could do more, as we looked forward to a now more appreciated routine life.

Surrounded by kids mostly too young to talk and some actually just starting to crawl, I, my wife and my 3 children share a cake with them in what has already been quite a tradition for the past 6 years, that on Father’s day, I become a father to them, on Mother’s day the orphans have my wife as a mother, and on other special occasions or just random days when our busy schedules permit, we find ourselves in the orphanage where we got our first adopted child, our second son. Often enough as I look at their faces, I am reminded of the kids that I encountered 3 decades ago, so welcoming and appreciative of the attention we have given, lending proof to the adage that indeed the best gift you could give to a child is time. Stress reliever is how my wife amply puts it as she helps around the feeding, my kids play with their ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, as I carry and make funny faces with the babies.

In 2008 my wife and I have been married for 9 years and we have a son Bridge, who had turned 8. Sitting in the developmental doctor’s clinic, as he finished up his yearly assessment for our son who has autism, perhaps seeing first hand our personal struggle, aware that we have tried all medical, spiritual and mythical ways to have another child and knowing him personally as our neighbor, he concluded with a suggestion that we consider adoption, so we can experience how it is to have a normal child and family, “para matikman niyo naman kung paano magkaroon ng normal na anak at pamilya” his exact words.

Hearing this, my wife and I had a serious discussion back home, that also took into account the future prospects of our son. It is during this talk that I recounted my above experience with the Christmas parties our office had at the orphanage as my wife also shared that she has a cousin who was adopted. To test a hypothetical decision that we are slowly veering to, we took a trip back to the Asilo de San Vicente de Paul orphanage which brought back deep feelings to me and upon consultation with a staff there, took her advice that led us to the doors of the DSWD region 4 office at Alabang.

Participating in the seminar that is the first step in the process, confirmed our decision. Soon enough we proceeded with the necessary papers to affect our legal adoption.

The much anticipated day has come, accepting the first boy that was matched to us with no reservations, we eagerly took the trip to the orphanage to fetch our boy. Along the way, my wife and I wondered how it will feel like to see him, hold him, for the first time… will it be the same as the birth of our child? Will there be as they say a “lukso ng dugo”? A very Pinoy expression that fails a proper English translation.

And so, there he sat at the play area, and as he looked up at us with those eyes, our question was answered. Holding him with tears of joy, we knew that in our arms is someone that we will do everything in the world to nurture, educate protect and love. We called him Blake.

 After 3 years, buoyed by the generally encouraging response and acceptance of our family and friends as well the lovable experience we were having with our two sons, my wife being an only child and I having only one sibling, longed for a big family, and so we had our third child, our second adoption, this time a girl. Bianca is my wife’s clone, after living with three boys (me included) she finally has someone she can do girl stuff with. Watching them I just realize how men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and if Tess had two Mama’s Boys, I now have my very own Daddy’s Girl.

As I finalize writing this, having driven my sons B1 and B2 as I fondly call the kids, B3 is helping her mommy prepare for the office as she herself will be driven to school later. Since my business is mostly weekends we have scheduled our routines to complement each other and while doing away with a yaya (nanny) and househelp can be very tiring, it has given us the opportunity to be hands on with our kids. They are growing up confidently as we have very early on agreed not to hide their being adopted, bringing them regularly to the orphanage and to the Adoption Family Group party, to see that they are many, that they do have peers.

We tell them how their biological parents made the sacrifice so that they will have a better life, and so they must study hard. It is our idea that the best arm, is the truth. However, we have to confess that although we have prepared ourselves for the day when our son will finally talk about that ‘subject’, my wife was momentarily caught off guard. He asked “Do I look like my original mom?” Original mom being a term that he himself came up with, maybe because at age 4 he can’t pronounce biological which we used. Finally catching her breath my wife answered “Yes you look like your original mom, but you do look similar to your daddy” referring to me. Actively participating in his sisters adoption also wizened him up. Sometimes he will unexpectedly ask deep questions, always to his mom (true blue mama’s boy) like “Why did God put me in the orphanage”? Disarming and at the same time assuring that he can talk about it with us and sometimes we even hear him lecturing his sister about it. One of the questions always put up by people with regards to adoption is “How can you love someone that is not your blood”? Our adopted kids constantly make us feel that YES, they can love us, just as unconditionally.

TODAY 2016
I am now 52 years old while my wife has turned 45. Never did we imagine that at this age when most of our age bracket have grandchildren that we will still be chasing after kids, picking them up even if our backs ache when they fall, carrying them when they are tired, getting migraine from all the shouting and the noise, tidying up after their games, controlling our temper when they make mistakes, putting effort to teach them right and answer their endless questions. My wife and I even have a running joke where we ask each other, “Whose bright idea was this anyway”! But seriously, after we have tucked them in for bedtime, we look at them and have a fulfilling sigh, we see bright possibilities and look at another day’s job well done.

As our bus makes it’s way out the gates of the orphanage we waved our goodbyes and somehow felt that we could do more… little did I know.

Learn more about local adoption here and here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Christmas Play dough Mats

Chriatmas Play Dough Mats

I have made several play dough mats for my son to keep him busy this Advent and Christmas season and I want to share them with you. These can be a wonderful gift too.

So go ahead and download, print and laminate!

In addition, here are some Christmas play dough recipes. We have made some in the past and will be making more in the coming weeks.

Scented play dough recipes:

Peppermint No Cook Play Dough Recipe from Childhood 101

Gingerbread Play Dough from The Imagination Tree

Hot Chocolate Play dough from Sugar, Spice and Glitter

Vanilla Mint Play Dough from MAMAPAPABUBBA

Cinnamon Scented from The Imagination Tree

Colored  adn glittery play dough recipes:

White Snow Play dough from The Imagination Tree

Easy DIY Play Dough recipe from my good friend Mia at Pinay Mom Adventures

And the recipe I have been using most of the time in my classroom before and for Teo is from Tinkerlab: The Best Play Dough Recipe. And its true! Just add food color and/or glitter and viola! Christmas Play dough!

Oh and I just discovered more free Christmas Play Dough mats from Kate at Picklebums. I will be printing and laminating them too. The Christmas cookies are just brilliant!

Christmas Play Dough Mats, download here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Catching Tadpoles and Enjoying the Benefits of Nature Play

As you know we take morning walks everyday. During one of these walks, we found a stream of flowing water near Lolo Boyet and Lola Fanni's house. So we let curiosity take over and peeked in. We found tadpoles! They were swimming happily around. We did not think of catching some because we did not have a container with us. But our little one was very curious and would always remember the "ta-pows mi-mimg" whenever we passed by the stream.

So we decided to catch some so we can have a closer look.

We prepared our things: a fish net borrowed from Lolo Boyet, and a glass bottle with a lid.

And off we went with two dogs in tow. It was 7:00 in the morning.

Read on to find out how exactly this activity benefited our family of three.

When we arrived at the stream. Teo was so excited that he immediately dipped the net into the pool where the water was deeper. Realizing that it would take more than just the act of scooping to catch some tadpoles, he gave the net to 'Tatay'. So 'Tatay' demonstrated how it was done.

Teo and Tatay putting the tadpoles in the jar.
Then 'Tatay" let Teo have a go. His first try yielded no tadpoles. But then he caught two big ones on his second try! He was so happy and the look on his face was accomplishment. 

The water in this stream is clean by the way. It is from a leaking water supply pipe. If it had been drainage water, I'd think twice before letting Teo catch tadpoles. But again, a little dirt would be always beneficial.

So we took home the tadpoles we caught. Teo insisted that he carry the jar himself, so we let him. But I honestly was afraid that he would drop it and break it. But of course, I had to restrain myself and show him that I trusted him. The tadpoles were all safe.

He is happier because he gets to challenge himself and successfully accomplish what he wants to do.  Like carrying the jar full of tadpoles, for example, I allowed him to carry it because the jar could be replaced and we could get more tadpoles. He is also happy when he finds and picks up things. Teo usually puts them in the seat compartment of his toy car; which he usually 'drives' when we take walks. He plays with these loose parts at home.

Happy and content with our forty five minute walk, he is usually cooperative and follows the rest of our morning or afternoon routine. But of course with the occasional 'No.' when I have requests.

As soon as we got home, we decided to transfer the tadpoles to another bottle so Teo could see the tadpoles better. Again, insisting that he do the transferring, Tatay gave him the watering can so he could pour the tadpoles into the bottle.

We watched YouTube videos of the life cycle of frogs during wind down time. And talked about how the tadpoles grow into frogs. Teo, even with his limited expressive vocabulary, retold the events that had happened with much excitement. 

I did a watercolor sketch of a tadpole on my journal while Teo watched. I invited him to draw too but he declined and said "Watch you." So, I took the opportunity to talk about the parts of the tadpole.

By the time we finished talking about tadpoles, it was lunch time. And then bath time. While settling down for nap time, we agreed to bring the tadpoles back to the stream this afternoon so they can go into frogs. I bet Teo dreamed about tadpoles and frogs that afternoon.

Another thing I like about nature play is that it makes Teo question. He's not yet in the why stage but often asks "Was da?" What's That?" And, at this point in his speech development, anything I say, he repeats. 

We let go of the tadpoles that afternoon. As Teo poured the contents out of the bottle, he said "bye-bye" to his tiny black friends. Then, we stayed a while to watch them swim about.

"Buh-baay ta-pows."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let's Go Fishing! (Game)

Here's a quick and easy game for your toddler or preschooler. This isn't your print, cut and add a paperclip kind of fishing game. It's easier! 
You will need:
               a few dried leaves
               safety pins
               a magnet
               a stick
               and maybe a few minutes to gather and prepare the game
               plus, a few more to spend with your little one 

What to do:

Invite your little one to pick up leaves. I suggest the large and dried up ones. Not too crunchy but not too soft. Your tot will definitely enjoy this activity. We picked up small acacia leaves too, so we could have a lot of fish.

Attach one safety pin on each leaf. You can also put a paper clip through but I thought this takes a longer time to assemble - and I did not want my excited boy to wait any longer.

Tie a string onto a stick. and a magnet on the other end of the string. While I was pinning the leaves, I asked my son to go look for a piece of string. I first explained that we are going to tie it on his stick. So off he went to ask his Tatay. But his Tatay (Papa) was doing something and so he went to ask Lolo (Grandpa). My little one came back to me and said "Yoyo." Translation: 'Lolo has string.'

I attached the string to the stick and the magnet to the string and viola! We were ready to go fishing!

This can be done indoors or outdoors but we chose to do it outdoors. I got a basin and placed all the 'fish' leaves in and let the tot have a go. 

It was such a joy to see my boy have so much fun. He was challenged because the game required him to control the stick in order to 'catch' a fish. I was cheering him on the whole time.

This simple game has a lot of benefits too. It helps in developing fine motor tuning, increases focus and attention span and of course, the virtue of patience.

Remember to spend a little time 'fishing' with your little one too.

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