Off to College

One of the best pieces of advice came from a college friend. He told me to secure a hotel room near the university as soon as the move in date is released.  The best advice ever!

College meant that the student now gets the bulk of information (unless of course, it was related to tuition collection, then we get the email).   I relied on my son to alert me when the move in date is made public. 

There are only two hotels on campus.   By the time I was told of the date, one hotel was sold out and the other only had 5 rooms left!  Booking that room made all the difference. Because of that, we were able to explore the campus a day before it got busy, enjoy a quiet meal in one of the campus restaurants, and sleep well that evening reducing the overall anxiety associated with move in day.

The move from San Francisco to Hanover, New Hampshire was relatively easy. We checked in two-fifty pound luggages. Our strategy was to vacuum-pack everything–two pillows, comforter, duvet, bed sheets, mattress protector, winter coat, his extensive hoodie collection, pants, and everything else.  We could have ordered everything online and ship it directly, but I wanted everything to be washed before he used them.

At 9AM on August 31st, the move in day, we got his school ID and dorm key from the West House kiosk. While waiting for our time slot to go to his room, we collected our university swag and enjoyed the especially prepared breakfast for parents and guests.  My son was determined get a bike from the campus yard sale, so he lined up an hour before the sale started. Being early paid off, aside from the successful purchase of a  mountain bike, he got a lamp, and a swivel computer chair for a bargain!

Wheeling them to the dorm from the yard sale

We moved in at 12:30PM. All told, it took us around 2.5 hours to unpack, make the bed, find home for his clothes in drawers and hangers, do some furniture rearranging, AND make the room as cozy as possible.

Growing up in Manila,  I did not have to live in a dorm when I went to college. In fact, I lived so close to the university that I could walk if I wanted to.  I even went home for lunch a few times and got back in time for freshman physics lab at 1:30pm. The closest experience I have to my son’s cross country move was when I, myself, moved to San Francisco.

Like my son, I remember being very excited about the new life I was going to have away from home.  I was going to teach in San Francisco, so I knew the challenges and opportunities were going to be very different from what I was used to. For the first time ever, I was going to live by myself.

Like my son, I knew I was ready! Unlike him, I knew my move was permanent.


Developing Good Readers

“Ahiya, let’s play Jack en Poy to see who will read the book first!”

We were on our way to the local library to get the next installment to the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Both kids read the first three books (City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass) and now, they wanted to borrow the remaining three (City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, City of Heavenly Fire).

My 8-year old is already planning on how to solve the problem of who will get first dibs in the event that there is only one copy available. They agreed that the hand game is the best way to settle the problem.

The library had two copies of Book#5, but only one of Book #4, and no Book#6. They checked out the three books, and just for good measure, included a couple of graphic novels and a book that was in the library’s suggested readings. It was a long weekend afterall.

By the time we got home, Jack en Poy was shelved and a coin toss was now the preferred method to settle their book dilemma. Jack en Poy is fun and entertaining, but there is a lot at stake and I wouldn’t hear the end of it if one suspected the other of peeking and changing the hand gesture at the last moment. So, I fully supported the switch.

I was commissioned to toss the quarter, catch it, and then flip it on my hand. Heads would mean my 10-year old son reads it first.

Unfortunately for my daughter, she lost the coin toss. But fortunately for her, she didn’t have to wait very long. Her ahiya reads fast and was able to give her the book by lunchtime. By dinnertime, they were in their rooms with their own copy of the next book.

These strategies worked for me in encouraging my children to read:

  1. Set a time during the day when everyone just readsIMG_3472
  2. Visit the library to borrow and read booksIMG_4818
  3. Use books as prizesIMG_4687
  4. Make books accessible even in the car (in this case, a restaurant)IMG_4817
  5. Have audiobooks for books that might be too difficult to readIMG_3242
  6. Include reading in your bedtime ritualIMG_4825

Continuing the Family Christmas Tradition

A favorite memory growing up in Manila was visiting relatives on Christmas Day. We would sik-sik (squeeze into) in my dad’s VW Beetle and drive 70km to Lipa. We would bring my mom’s freshly baked fruitcake, ham from my mom’s suki (trusted vendor), and ice cream cake that we would pick up from Magnolia House in New Manila.

Once in Lipa, we would pass away time playing with cousins, eating leche flan and a ton of other sweets, and entertaining grown ups by reciting poems. My parents were lovers of poetry and my mom taught us all how to declaim.

Backing out from a “performance” and saying, “nahihiya ako (I am embarrassed to do this)” is not something that my mom understood. So up on the gallinera (a chicken coop bench) the performer would stand to recite the latest poem he/she learned.



It is a little different now that we are living in the West Coast. Gifts are boxed and sent via UPS, and presents are ordered online. I sent an 8-pound Honeybaked ham to New York without setting foot in an actual store. And I received an assortment of steaks in the mail just in time for our Noche Buena (Christmas eve dinner).

This year we had Christmas dinner with an uncle. True to my Manila Christmas tradition, we brought freshly baked cookies for dessert, instead of store-bought ones. (I don’t bake fruit cakes) 

My children love to read but appear not to be interested in poetry, so declamation as a form of entertainment is out of the question. My son plays the flute and when we asked him to bring it for the special dinner, he didn’t protest.

After our dinner of perfectly cooked prime rib and paella, and before coffee and dessert, my son reminded me that he was going to play his Christmas carols.  And play he did. No pep talk needed!  My mom would have been proud.

Warming up

Getting ready

At a Christmas performance in a mall

At a Christmas performance in a mall

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity Cost is one of the first economic principles that I learned in the university. As a freshman majoring in Business Economics, I felt smart understanding The Law of Diminishing Returns, Opportunity Cost, and ceteris paribus all within the first week of school. Interestingly, these are the only concepts I remember from my college degree after choosing to pursue preschool teaching as a profession.

In the university I learned that opportunity cost is not always a numeric value. It is the value of the foregone activity that is lost because you chose to do something else instead:  the opportunity cost of an action is the highest valued alternative to that action.

For me, the opportunity cost of exercising 1,000 calories away working out in the gym is watching TV in my jammies. On some days, lounging around the house has a higher value than going to the gym, and on those days, I stay home! The goal is to obviously engage in the activity that you value the most, and they can differ from day to day.

Summer just started and as a teacher, I am off from work. I can choose to work for extra pay if I wanted to. But should I?

The question I ask then is: What is the opportunity cost of teaching in the summer for extra pay?

The highest valued alternative to my working is engaging in fun projects (without interruption) with my children —going to the library, baking and cooking, gardening, walking to the park with friends, visiting museums, hiking, etc.

IMG_4563At the local library

IMG_4389At a nearby art museum

IMG_4403Sand dunes by the beach

IMG_4608Getting ideas from Ikea

IMG_3620Uninterrupted outdoor play


I would not earn extra money but by the end of the summer, I would have spent quality time with my growing kids. I could even take on some DIY projects that I otherwise would not have time for during the school year. After a quick consideration, it was a no-brainer.

For this summer, I simply value spending time with my children more. The opportunity of spending time with my children is priceless. Of course, I would have to cut back on spending and other unnecessary expenses, but I think in the end, it would be all worth it!

Curling for Pinoys

It took me three Winter Olympics to get over the fact that curling is an actual sport.  And when I did, to my surprise, I found it entertaining.  Kwentong Nanay thanks TSC for this insightful piece.  Winter Olympics 2018, here we come!


Every four years, the world is treated to an exciting game of grown men and women sliding a cylindrical stone onto a bullseye on ice. The intensity heats up as we hear boisterous yelling and see furious sweeping in front of a path of a piece of granite that is approaching its goal. Click clack! The stone bounces off two other polished rocks and ends up in the middle of the target. The crowd goes wild! Curling is an Olympic sport that every Filipino should learn. Here are five reasons why.


1.  Big fish in a little pond. In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell argues that being a “small fish in a big pond” may ultimately lead to failure. Though successful at boxing, Filipinos have always tried to compete in sports where they have an obvious athletic disadvantage. As a result, Pinoys rarely qualify for “big pond” events such as basketball, soccer, or track and field. Why not try a different approach and seek out other obscure sports that have low barriers to entry? Although the Winter Olympics is one of the most non-inclusive and homogenous international spectacles in the world, it is also the venue for inane activities that fall under the category of “Is this a sport? Seriously?” The Jamaicans took advantage of this “little pond” strategy by fielding their own bobsled team despite never having snow. Similarly, Filipinos should take advantage of the fact that only sixteen out of eighty countries even tried to qualify for curling.


2.  How difficult can this sport be? Participants need only three skills to succeed at curling: sliding (on shoes, not ice skates), sweeping, and yelling. If Filipino teenagers can learn how to ice skate in Megamall in a matter of minutes, slipping on a pair of tsinelas and gliding on the ice should be a piece of cake. Furthermore, Pinoys are practically experts at broom-related activities. Whether they use the walis tingting, walis tambo, or the coconut bunot, Filipinos are very well acquainted with sweeping (and scrubbing). The final skill, yelling, will be discussed later on.


3.  Minimal equipment is needed. Unlike elitist Olympic sports such as fencing, in which an individual needs three different swords and ten pieces of protective gear, curling does not require too much. In fact, it is very easy to begin “street curling” at any ice rink in Manila. Havaianas flip flops can easily take the place of rubber-soled shoes (especially for practice). Walk into any Mercury Drugstore and you will see a plethora of brooms. Sandwich a hollow block in plastic, “MacGuyver” a handle on top, and you have your makeshift curling rock. If every mall in Manila converted their ice skating rinks into curling lanes, the sport would be as accessible as Jollibee.

images-2        images

4.  Curling is a clone of bowling and billiards … sort of. What are two sports in which Filipinos have enjoyed success? At 1988 in Seoul, Ariane Cerdena won the only Olympic gold medal for the Philippines. Unfortunately, bowling, though somewhat similar to curling, is only deemed as an “exhibition sport.” Hence, the gold medal doesn’t really count. Because curling involves caroming a rock against another, it is similar to billiards. Ernie “Bata” Reyes and Django Bustamante are two of the most popular Filipino sports celebrities because of their success on the international billiards circuit. Now if people at the pool halls and bowling alleys would agree to spend time on the ice.


5.  Pinoy yelling and jargon. Finally, what better way to showcase peculiar Filipino terminology than at a game that requires yelling. Imagine hearing an alpha-female sliding on ice screaming,“Kis-kis! Kis-kis para may pektus!” Or a moustached man with a beer belly bellowing in a deep voice, “Kabig, kabig! I-banda mo! Dahan-dahan para sakto!” Cheers of “swak” accompany high fives on the sideline. Exclamations of “aynaku … mintis,” and “sayang…sumablay” signal a round of chain smoking on the sidelines.


Curling is a ridiculous game unworthy of being called a sport. However, it should definitely remain on the Olympic roster because it may be the only ticket for “developing” countries such as the Philippines to achieve its gold medal dreams. After all, Filipinos are never going to compete with the Europeans and Canadians in any event that involves ice skating. The Americans practically dominate anything that requires skis and snowboarding. And unless Filipino ice dancers are shipped to sports academies as toddlers, they can forget about figure skating. With its obvious connections to Filipino culture, curling is the answer to the Philippines’ Olympic prayers.


Kale Chips

Here is another recipe for kale chips.  I have always used the curly ones, but recently found that the dinosaur variety (a.k.a. Tuscan kale and Lacinato kale) was more hearty and easier to bake.

I make my kale chips with this now.


Kale Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Wash, dry and cut off the middle part of the leaf.  (Leaving it will make the leaf soggy instead of crunchy)LacinatoKale2
  3. Arrange in a tray without overlapping.
  4. Spray lightly with oil and season with salt.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy.
  6. Kale chips can keep in an airtight container for a week.IMG_2825We usually consume whatever I make within the day

Christmas Caroling

I received an invitation from one of the parents in my son’s class for a Christmas get together.

The evite read: Join us for simple dinner and warming drinks before we carol house to house.   

I have had my fair share of caroling growing up in the Philippines. We carol to raise funds for our organization’s activity, usually a toy drive for the needy.  We let the homeowners know when to expect us, and after our Christmas carols, the host would hand us an envelop of cash or check.

Our house in Manila has been a venue to many carolers too.  My mom has listened and given money to different college groups, most of the time school organizations that her children support.


There are also less organized groups, a barkada of young children that would just ring the doorbell, sing songs with homemade shakers, tambourines made of bottle caps, and expect loose change for their effort.  These children would usually end their repertoire of Christmas songs with “Namamasko Po”, to signify that they are done singing and now waiting for their money.

I know that this is just for fun, but do the neighbors even know we are coming?

It turns out, no!

Not only did the neighbors not know we were coming, but this is the very first time that the host is doing something like this in her neighborhood!

IMG_0004A real tree that owners deck just for Christmas

After dinner, with twenty children and twice as many parents all warmed up with their respective drinks, we all trooped down the street.  We knocked at 8 doors, and the front doors opened 4 times. The homeowners were very happy to listen to the children sing.  One family even let us carol inside their home –they were having a Christmas party too.

IMG_0002Hands down winner of the most decorated house in the block

I walked back happy with the experience my kids had.  They may not have sang, “Sa may bahay and aming bati, Merry Christmas na malualhati…” a staple song in ragtag singing groups, but they did sing with their friends with gusto.

They are creating memories similar, and yet different from mine.

School Uniform

Unbelievable but true.  School starts soon.

A week ago, I went to Dennis to restock on school uniforms for my two very fast growing children.  I got to the store and had sticker shock!

$50 for one shift uniform?

Picture 4339

$30 for one pair of narrow wale corduroy plain pants?

Picture 3806

Unfortunately, we don’t have Divisoria or Kamuning where I can purchase tela (fabric).  Who am I kidding? Even if I found the exact material from Joanne’s Fabric, I won’t for the life of me, be able to sew a dress!

Where is a mananahi (seamstress) when you need one?!

My mom had a resident mananahi that came to our house in Manila in the summer.  She would stay with us for a week and sew piles of fabrics.  Aside from our school uniforms, my mom would have dresses, skirts, pajamas, curtains, bed sheets, pillowcases, comforters, and tablecloths made to her own specs.

Not once did I have to buy  ready-to-wear uniforms when I was in school.

Because sewing my children’s uniform is definitely out of the question, I know I would have to be smart and creative if I want to save money.

I checked my daughter’s first grade shift dress, and saw that there was a good 3 inches that I could take from the hem.    Now hemming, I know how to do.

So with a trusty steam iron, I was able to remove the mark from the old fold, and with a needle and blue thread, I was able to make the short uniform long!

IMG_1897The fold after I took the hem

IMG_1898With a steam iron, the fold is gone.

My son’s corduroy pants would undergo the same transformation.

So for this year, I only had to buy new PE shirts and fleece jackets.  If only I knew how to silkscreen and embroider the school’s logo, I would have saved myself another $150.

Ballet for Fun

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At 5 years old, my mom enrolled me in my first after-school class.

One day a week after school, I would change into my pink tights and black leotards on a bench by my school’s auditorium and eagerly wait for my ballet classes to begin.

This was long before iPods and compact sound system, so Ms. Nañas, my teacher, would haul her turntable, crates of vinyl records, and heavy speakers down the corridor and up the stage for her weekly classes.  I remember how she would mentally rehearse the routine at the corner of the stage and then gently put the needle on the record once she’s ready.

I pursued ballet on and off for 7 years. I got my pointe shoes at 9 when my calves and feet were strong enough to support my body when I stand on my toes.  I always felt proud and rewarded when asked during warm up exercises to stand at the end of the barre, because that meant that I was good enough to lead the barre exercises.

imagesI remember sewing the ribbons of my first ever pointes!

Today, I brought my daughter to her first ever ballet class.  I watched her from the big windows and hoped that she too, would enjoy the experience of performing in front of an audience.


This is the first class that she requested to attend.  Truthfully, she could pursue this for as long as her schedule allows and for as long as she wants.

I was on and off with my ballet program because I spent my summer with my extended relatives, and my schedule was unpredictable.  But my mom would enroll me again after the summer break because she knew I enjoyed dancing ballet.

Like my mom, I would encourage and support my daughter’s interests.

And if my daughter decides at some point that this is no longer what she wants, I will make sure that she is leaving it for all the right reasons.

IMG_7523At 3, in a preschool dance class

A Good Preschool

So what makes a good preschool program?

1.   A school with teachers that treat each student with respect, and understands and appreciates the uniqueness of each child.

IMG_0359Keeping a watchful eye while a child builds with blocks

IMG_3337Allowing the child to experiment

2.  A school whose biggest asset are the teachers because they teach with intention and purpose.  

IMG_0292Sorting Shoes according to shoe closures:  laces, velcro, zipper, elastic


Without teacher direction, a simple flower arrangement left on the counter inspired this clay creation

3.  A school with a principal/director who knows how to manage resources–teachers, materials, facilities, and parents.  The principal has the responsibility to hire and retain teachers.

This is the very basic; the core of a good school.

Once you have a list of schools that have all these qualities, then you can look at the program.

Where do you think your child will learn more and thrive?

In a child-centered program– Play-based, Project-Based, Bank Street, Reggio Emelia?

IMG_3232Diorama of a child’s bedroom

Or a teacher-directed program?  –think elementary school program but for little children, individual desks in rows, scheduled classes in reading, writing, math


Does your child learn best by sitting on a chair reading quietly (Look for a more structured class that offers more teacher direction),

Or does he need to be move around and be active every few minutes? (Explore schools that allow children to move freely around the classroom)

Then, take into consideration your own goals.

Do you want your child to learn another language? (You need a language immersion program)

After careful research, you should be able to find a good school with little to no compromise needed.

My advice as a parent of young children myself: provide an environment that teaches life skills.

Preschool is the perfect opportunity for children to learn how to share, negotiate, explore, question, and experiment. I discovered that the older children get, the less tolerant they are of their peers who do not know how to be a team player.

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