Tag Archives: nanayisms

a year with a princess

A couple of years ago, our life looked like this. Turo was running our farm, and managing two other farms in two different locations. He also held a desk-based job, and had to travel to the city several times a month to attend meetings. I, on the other hand, was homeschooling two kids, and exclusively breastfeeding an infant, all while working full-time for a small consulting group. I spend the day with the kids at home, while Turo is away for work. I spend evenings working at a different time zone, while Turo puts the kids to bed. We cook and clean and garden and do the laundry in between.

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Those were tough times. We had no househelp, and we had to do every single thing ourselves. Until one afternoon twenty months ago, while I was scrubbing the floor, I saw my own blood staining the floor. How ironic. I was alone with the kids and had to wait (bleeding and nauseous) for Turo to come home before I could be brought to the emergency room of the hospital.

It was a near miscarriage. I was pregnant and didn’t know it. And we were living our lives like there was no tomorrow. While there was a very weak baby, fighting for life, inside my womb. I had to stop. We had not planned on another baby. But I was not planning on losing this one by continuing to live our life the way we had been.

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I quit my job. We hired back our househelp. I took things slower. And I dedicated my entire time to taking care of my children like mothers are created to.

Several months later I gave birth to a baby girl. It was the best surprise and a wonderful blessing. We had three boys, and now we had a princess in our home. For the first time, our life felt complete. And it felt like I knew exactly where our life was headed from this point on.

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Exactly a week after our princess was born, we had to take her back again to the hospital. Her laboratory results confirmed a urinary tract infection. It was the first time, in my ten years of being a parent, that any of my children was confined in a hospital. And it had to be our fragile one-week-old princess. My postpartum “baby blues” had never been bluer.

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We spent the next few days in the hospital. And when we were finally discharged, we had to keep taking her back to the hospital twice a day for the next four days for her antibiotic shots. Oh my princess, it was so heartbreaking.

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After her round of antibiotics was complete, her lab results still showed some signs of infection. And she had to take a second round of antibiotics. And then after this round, her laboratory results still didn’t look like she was completely clear of the infection. We had to take urinary samples every week, and then every month, until her fourth month. I had to eat a low sodium diet and drink plenty of fluids, to better hydrate her when she nurses.

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On her six-month pediatric checkup, she was noticeably delayed in her motor skills. She was underweight and underheight. Her head circumference was larger than normal, and her eyes opened wide, as if there was swelling inside her head. We took her to the hospital for a cranial ultrasound. Her pedia was suspecting hydrocephalus, which was no surprise at all, as Uri was diagnosed with it when he was several months old. Thankfully, the results came back and she was normal, no hydrocephalus.

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We then went on with our days. She was always a quiet little girl. She slept well through the night. She laughs adorably at her brothers and her brothers adored her. She had a tiny body, and a small appetite. She never got sick, though, but she was also never very active. She’s a princess, that’s why she’s so unlike our other boys, we always say.

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On her eleventh month we took her back to her pediatrician. She was not yet sitting up, or even making an effort to try to sit up. Her neck control was weak, and she was wobbly when carried. Her doctor wanted to rule out seizures as the cause of delayed motor skills. She was scheduled for an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor brain activity. The results came out after a week, and it was normal. Thank God.

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Still she was grossly delayed in terms of motor development. But at least there was nothing more to it than just that, developmental delay. We need to help her catch up and make up for the delayed development. We need to stimulate brain function. We talk to her, sing to her, read to her, play music to her.

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We take her to places, let her explore the world around her using her senses. She needs physical therapy to improve muscle function. We let her swim at the tub several times a day. And thanks to summer, we can spend several weekends a month by the beach.

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Our little princess will turn one in a couple of days. She is our fourth child, and you might think that we’ll have had all bases covered this time around. But each child is unique and special in his/her own way. Our meek little princess reminded us of just that. She surprises us and warms our hearts all at the same time. We love her. We so cherish the last 365 days of having her in our family. And we see her game face on and ready to confront another wonderful year of life.

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diapering decisions

after a week of stressing over cloth diapers..

This week started with a hell of a bad news, at least for me. I am easing into the third trimester of my third pregnancy, and finally starting with much-delayed nursery preparations–doing an inventory of baby clothes, equipment, cloth diapers. As I tried to make arrangements for the pick-up of a crib that was no longer used by Turo’s sister, I found out that my stash of Tushywushy pocket diapers were missing. In addition to an electric breast pump, the Tushywushies are some of my biggest motherhood investments. These set of cloth diapers have been used by at least 2 children, from infancy to toddlerhood, and I took pains laundrying and drying them just so they would last long. They cost me an arm and a leg (note: I bought them 5 years ago) but they also allowed me to save on disposable diapers and a LOT of non-biodegradable waste.

I fumed when I learned that my beloved Tushywushies were gone. I’m the type who take cloth diapering seriously. Aside from avoiding diaper rash on my babies’ bottoms, and being more economical, the unforgettable flood of 2009 was a major motivating factor for us to cloth diaper our children full-time (we only use disposables when travelling). So I was in a not so good mood for a couple of hours. And then the cloth diaper system search began. Continue reading diapering decisions

the life we live daily: entertainment for free

It’s a shame, really, when I said in my last entry that I was doing a series of posts in honor of my fourth anniversary of blogging. That was in July. And that was this blog’s anniversary month. And now, it’s what? Days before Oktoberfest!

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A lot of things happened in between. And I mean a L-O-T. Let’s start with, I turned thirty. Some of our very good friends migrated to Canada (sniff). I’ve been to India and was a vegetarian for a week. I got a raise. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever gotten a raise. And then I started working my ass off since then.

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But today, today is a special day. I’m celebrating turning thirty with my best friends in the world in a surprisingly nice hotel (I’m not that easy to impress) right smack in the middle of the city. Unfortunately, these good friends of mine were kind enough to sleep out on me, thank you very much. My children are angels watching endless cartoons (we don’t have cable). And Turo is away partying on boys’ night. For the first time in a very long time, I actually have time for myself to not be super busy and… blog! Well, who am I kidding, of course I’m writing a report after this, but right now I  still have some glorious minutes to spare.

For this post I want to share one of our family’s best kept secrets: going out and having fun without spending a centavo. If you think this is impossible in this day and age of consumerism, well I’ve got one word for you, EXPLORATION.

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We’ve lived in Los Banos for over two years now, and to be honest, there are still a million places here that we haven’t been to. Some of these places we know or heard of, but a lot of them are probably just around the corner we only need to go and find them.

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I guess the difference is about looking at life as an adventure. That there is something special waiting to be discovered at every turn. This is something my children taught me. That life is never just about goals, and reaching them. Not just about plans, and making sure things go the way you want them to.

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It’s about finding nice little surprises along the way, and actually stopping for a moment to enjoy them. Because at the end of the day, you will likely end up doing that thing that you need to do. Or reach that place you’ve dreamed of going to. Or get that role you’ve always wanted to sink your teeth into. Because you’re smart enough to think up goals that are actually doable and within your capacity.

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The question is, when you find something really interesting along the way that is not within your perfect little plan, can you afford to hang back for a moment and stare in awe like a little boy would?

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To some people, there is a huge opportunity cost to doing just that. But for us, breaking one’s journey is practically free. And, oftentimes, it’s even the most exciting!

the life we live daily – conscious consumption

Practicalities in everyday living need to be just that – practical.

Four years blogging and I cannot instinctively say that my life has changed drastically since. There had been changes — some major, some hardly noticeable. And this blog was a likely witness to most of them. So, in honor of this blog’s fourth anniversary, I start a series of posts that will hopefully serve as a snapshot of my life at the moment, which I know I would lovingly look back to in a year or more.

The first post in this series I call “the life we live daily” speaks of a topic close to my heart, environmental preservation, and the real and doable things that we do in order to make a positive difference to our well-loved earth.

I have written plenty in this blog about changing our purchasing and consumption habits so that we could reduce our negative environmental impact.

The food that we eat

The local food project

Lifestyle check: reduce, simplify and reduce

Ilog maria finds

Greener gift giving

Diaper duty 

This commitment to environmental preservation through conscious purchase and consumption, is not only a personal advocacy, but one that we try to do as a family. We realized that food expenses lead our consumption pyramid and by changing the way that we eat, we can make a significant difference in the way and in the amounts we consume.

Our food prioritization principles are simple.

  1. What we eat should be organic.
  2. If we can’t get organic, these should at least be locally sourced, and best if we personally know the farms or sources where these are derived. By locally sourced we mean coming from the same province or region we are in.
  3. We choose products that use less packaging, therefore less waste, and have gone through less processing.

Below I list down a number of basic food categories, our sources and the reasons why we choose to buy religiously from these sources. Please note, however, that some of these products may be significantly more expensive than conventional ones, while some are practically free (eg. plants we grow ourselves); but that we choose to purchase them for the overall environmental and health benefits we derive from them. Towards the end of the table I also include non-food products that we use regularly that we source in a similar way.

Products Source Reason for buying
Dairy (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese) Philippine Carabao Center, UPLB only pasteurized products coming from grass-fed carabaos; non-homogenized, non-UHT, which means more nutritional content than dairy products in groceries
Eggs Micah’s Eggs

micahseggs.com

Pila, Laguna

we know the farm to be environmentally compliant and to maintain high standards of quality and freshness
Meat Herb Republic

http://www.herbrepublic.biz

Bay, Laguna

antibiotic and growth hormone-free pork and chicken
Deli (hotdogs, mortadella, bratwurst, etc.) Philippine Carabao Center, UPLB a selection of preservative-free sausages made from carabao meat
Rice (upland organic black rice) La Trinidad Organic Producers Association, Benguet we mix black rice with regular sinandomeng rice to supplement nutrient content
Culinary Herbs (basil, Italian oregano, mint) grown at home organically grown and propagated
Medicinal Herbs (lagundi, native oregano, calamansi, gynura) grown at home organically grown and propagated
Fruits farm-grown bananas

seasonal fruits from neighboring towns

Cooking oil Minola coconut oil

San Pablo, Laguna

 

coconut-based, which is abundant here, and locally sourced
Bath products (honey propolis shampoo & body wash) Ilog Maria Farms

http://www.ilogmaria.com

Silang, Cavite

organic and biodegradable soaps from propolis (a by-product of honey production). we found these products to be effective cleansing agents without stripping the skin or scalp of necessary oils or proteins. we also use calamansi slices as hair conditioner.
Laundry products Champion Natural

Perla white bar

we use a biodegradable detergent and a coconut-based laundry bar soap. we also use fermented rice washing to soak soiled clothes before washing with detergent.

who doesn’t like summer vacation?

School’s out, and the kids are wildly ecstatic. Surprisingly, the happiest of all now that vacation’s here… is ME

A few weeks back I was close to pulling my hair out making plans for the kids once their schooldays end. I was worried they’d get bored, and annoy me, and I’d end up not being able to concentrate on my work (I work at home again, thank God). And so I was scouting for swimming lessons, craft workshops, football classes and all sorts of things that would keep them busy, and buy me a couple hours of ‘serious work time’ each day.

But at the same time, I was also trying to create a more organized schedule for all of us at home. This summer is our homeschool trial period, and if we are ever going to be successful with our bahaySKUL experiment, the best time to start is right NOW.

So after some high-level budget calculations, we were down to the fact that we can’t afford to enroll the kids in some fancy one-hour-a-day-for-10-days-only summer activity. We are saving up for school registration fees so we’d be worry-free after school starts in June. We also need to put together our bahaySKUL, which means buying our own stash of school supplies and educational materials so we can provide the best possible homeschool environment for the boys, particularly Ari.

This also means that I’m stuck with the kids and they’re stuck with me, 24/7 for the rest of the summer. Don’t get me wrong. I love my children. But being around each other forever can get pretty crazy, especially in our small household. My personal space bubble cannot accommodate my children throughout the day. What am I to do then?

We devised an ingenious schedule that lets me be with my children, do household duties and get some (office) work done, without nobody getting to anybody’s nerves. I’ll let you in on some tips.

Share house duties. If I’ll be cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, and preparing morning and afternoon snacks for the monster-eaters in my household, that’s going to take up about 5 hours of my day, not yet including the time we would be sitting down on mealtimes. So Turo and I made a deal that we would be alternately cooking lunch and dinner. Breakfast is easy as we normally just have sandwiches or toast or cereals or leftover, so it’s a breeze to prepare. I need about 30 minutes to an hour to prepare lunch, which is also when I take a break from my desk while charging my computer and cellphone, supervise the kids as they take a bath, and watch ‘Minute to Win It’ on TV. Turo takes charge of dinner, which means I am chore-free all afternoon and can return to work. Turo also committed to spend an hour each day to do some fun stuff with the kids: play music, read comic books, practice basketball. Things a frail mother like me won’t be able to do with rowdy boys. But which gives me an hour to check and reply to emails.

Involve the kids. While main meals are off the list, snack time is another matter. I’m now trying to turn snacktime into a major activity at home. I let the children decide on what they want to eat, and let them prepare it with me. I use this opportunity to teach them about food and nutrition while practicing motor skills, like when beating eggs or spreading jam. We’re trying to incorporate more fruit into our diet now and snack time is a great venue to do so. Magic mango slices, banana sprinkles, pineapple and salt, are some of the fruity snacks we’ve had in the past days.

Give kids some time out. My boys are extremely active with extremely short attention spans. They’ve not yet reached the point when they would sit down and work on something for a long period of time. They always need to be on the move, otherwise they’d be on the floor wrestling, which aside from being rather dangerous as somebody might get hurt, annoys me so much because of all the noise and because of trying to keep them apart when they just wouldn’t. In order to prevent this from happening and keep me from losing my sanity, I included in our schedule tub time in the morning (where they can swim in the giant bucket outside and have some water fun) and outdoor play in the afternoon (they can go biking, kite flying or just run around in the park which is only a few blocks from where we live). Some outside time is a great way for them to release excess energy so they would be relatively more behaved once indoors. It is also during their outdoor playtime that I schedule Skype calls and serious writing stuff so there is zero distraction at home.

Get a TV sitter. I know this is not the greatest idea of all but television is still a part of our day-to-day life. In the mornings after breakfast until about 10am when the cartoons run out, my children are allowed to watch TV. I just make it a point that I know which programs they are watching. We don’t have cable so we don’t have endless cartoon channels. And we also don’t have a remote control so nobody goes channel surfing around here. But two hours of their TV time is equivalent to two hours of uninterrupted writing time for me. And that’s more than a bargain.

Give kids some time. After six years, I finally realized that the key to getting your children to follow you is when you first listen to them and follow what they have to say. Before I always used to say, “we’ll do that later after I finish my work”, but my children would just keep bugging me about whatever it is they want to do and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work and after an hour or so would still end up doing what it is they wanted to do with me, without having accomplished anything. This time, I ask them first what they want to do, whether to read a book or do some craft or cook pancakes, then I give them my full attention and we work on the activity together. And when we’re done, everybody’s happy, my children are suddenly angels, and I can start to do some serious work without them bugging me. The important realization here is, parents will still always end up doing whatever it is their kids ask of them, so why delay? If you give them your time and attention now, you’d be surprised that they’ll return the favor and give you your much-deserved peace and quiet.

Take a break, get some rest. My children are at that age when their bodies still don’t have enough energy for an entire day’s play, but they can’t be forced into an afternoon nap either. Still, I included a 1-hour rest time into our daily schedule. Nobody is forced to go to sleep, or forbidden to get up without having slept (I can remember the trauma of this when I was younger). But everybody is required to stop everything they’re doing, lie down and rest, everybody adults included. Rest time is prompted by the reading of a storybook after fun time with Turo. And the best part of this routine is that I get to have some rest too!

Post the actual schedule. Children are not idiots nor are they inconsiderate. They wouldn’t force things that are outside the rules, especially if you are consistent with the rules. We value consistency in our household. And it is a cornerstone in the way we discipline our children. After we finalized our daily schedule (the kids and I prepared it together), I printed it out and posted it on the side of the refrigerator where everybody can see it, and near the clock so they can check when it’s already time to do what. One reason is for the kids to see it and so they wouldn’t insist on doing activities that are not yet scheduled to be done. But the more important reason is to remind me to actually make time for the activities that I had committed to do with my children. If posting a schedule where everyone could see it is the way to hold me accountable for the things I had promised to do with my kids, then so be it.

Our summer schedule is not cast in stone. It is flexible in the same way that our life itself is flexible and adaptive. My children and I have thought of so many things we want to do together in the next 2 months. Now I wonder why I was even anxious of summer being here and of school days’ end. To be honest, this year is the best summer vacation I have ever had. And I’m not even on vacation!

deciding to homeschool

another turning point. big, bold decisions, one after another. 

Beginning April 2013, we will be embarking on a whole new educational journey for our children. We are not yet 100% confident nor 100% ready, but both Turo and I have decided firmly that homeschooling is the best way for us to form and mold our children into the kind of persons that we want them to be.

Deciding to homeschool is the first step towards homeschooling, but it is not an easy first step. And so far, this step is the farthest we’ve gone. Although we do recognize that homeschooling is going to be a long and continuing process.

So why did we decide to homeschool?

Because we couldn’t find a school whose goals match ours. Believe me, we tried. We really did. We went from school to school, and went back to each school, twice or thrice. We interviewed school teachers and principals. We looked at the school’s mission and vision boards. We observed school children in their school setting. But we weren’t satisfied. Not that we have too high standards. We don’t. In fact, we felt that a lot of the schools we’ve visited were too academically superior, to the point of being extremely competitive. Unfortunately, academic superiority is not on the list of things we look for in a school. We wanted a school that offered a well-rounded curriculum. We found one, which had a great sports, music and arts program and was very strong on academics at the same time. We wanted a school that had a short duration of school hours. We found one, where a school day lasts no more than 3 hours. We wanted a Catholic school that emphasised values and religion education. We found one, where it felt like the school became a caring community for all children. What we didn’t find is a school that offered all of these things. All of these are important to us. And when it came to our children’s education, we weren’t willing to compromise.

Because we felt we can provide the kind of learning environment that we want our children to be educated in. We are going out on a limb here just by saying that. But the thing is, if we, our children’s parents and family, cannot provide the appropriate educational environment, then who else can? We needed to trust ourselves that we know what is best for our children and that we are willing to do everything we can to be able to give it to them.

Because we want to instill a love for learning in our children. One of the reasons why we never cared about science high school passing rates, or student averages among the schools we’ve visited is because we never believed that these are an accurate measure of real learning. If there was a school that measures inquisitiveness or curiosity in children, we would have been sold pretty easily. The thing is, apart from wanting our children to learn new things and new concepts, we also want them to develop an innate habit of always wanting to discover, or try something new, or attempt understand what seems perplexing to them. We want this process of discovery and understanding to come out naturally to them. Even without teachers or school requirements nudging behind their backs. We want our children to love to learn, all the time.

Because we want flexibility. We are the type of family who takes long, spontaneous vacations. Or extend scheduled vacations without notice. We cannot stick to a highly structured regimen for long periods of time. We always feel the need to take a break in the middle of something serious or stressful or hectic. We cannot fit ourselves in a box, though we sometimes try just to keep with the norm. This is our secret to productivity. Otherwise, we just end up dawdling around wasting away precious time and energy. While we are not sure that this is always the right thing, we are certain that this is the way things work for us. And if we can make our children’s education just as flexible, then maybe homeschooling could work for all of us too.

Our homeschooling journey has begun. We realize that it’s a long long way to go, but we are counting on the support of the people around us, and our commitment to this as a family, to make this work, and become the most exciting and enriching adventure our family will ever take.

emerging from a status quo

This is an entry inspired by the realization that we still couldn’t take out a housing loan even if we could afford it.

The past year has been a trying year for us, especially financially. Sure we get by, we send our kids to school, eat lovely meals, live peacefully in our quaint little home, run our own farming business and be bosses of ourselves. We have a good life. We live simply and sustainably and pose little harm to our environment. We have time to pursue the things we want to do. In this day and age of stress and hurry, who still has time for things like composting, making pizza dough or walking? We do. And we are proud of how we have turned our city-dwelling lives around to our now low and slow lifestyle.

Sometimes, though, low and slow has its setbacks. After Turo left his job more than a year ago, nobody in our household remained formally employed. As for me, I’ve worked freelance ever since Uri was born so I practically have zero employment footprint. Turo, on the other hand, was supervisor-level for the past how many years. Being employed for so long, he was the de-facto provider of all legal documents, be it for credit card or loan application requirements. At least that was the case until a year ago. Continue reading emerging from a status quo

theatre therapié

I was never the type to remember famous lines from a movie or a play. But I love visual media just the same.

A couple of weekends ago, Mother surprised me with four balcony tickets to a play which a friend produced and invited me to watch. The title of the play is “Bona” which was a theater adaptation of a Lino Brocka film of the same title, starring no less than the superstar Nora Aunor. Lino Brocka is probably the greatest, deepest, most talented Filipino film director of all time. I am no film critique but he just happens to be in a league of his own when it comes to local film-making.

The play stars the famous comedienne Eugene Domingo. So yes, her starring in this one was a big come on. And the fact that there’s gotta be loads of comic relief since she’s the lead. I’m a huge fan of comedy and Filipino humor. Once in my youth, I had written a musical comedy for secondary school. It was difficult to write comedy, and the result wasn’t really super funny. So there, reason number one is comedy and a pressing need for laughter. Continue reading theatre therapié

spending less, getting more

call me weird but, yes, I have kept track of our family’s spending over the last few years, with excel worksheets to prove it. there actually IS a science behind home management.

Today, as I busied myself over recording and scheduling bill payments for the month of August, I felt a sudden urge to try and analyze how our spending has changed over the years. I wonder if other people are as obsessed with a household budget as I am. But really I find budgeting information very practical. In fact, I always find myself looking back to it especially when we try to revisit our financial priorities, which inevitably changes as years go by.

At this point in our family life, we are actually making the most financial sense than we ever had. Of course we’ve had our share of investment lapses and unsound economic judgment, but we have learned a lot from them and we’ve matured enough to actually make some really excellent financial decisions this time around.

Looking back at our average monthly spending over the last three years, we are now spending much less than we did before. This is largely influenced by the fact that we are earning less now than we did a couple of years back, so naturally we have to squeeze in all our expenses within a tighter margin. Still, it is interesting to note that living on a smaller household budget is actually achievable, but with some slight to major lifestyle shifts.

Take a look at our average monthly budget in 2009. Like a typical household budget, food is naturally the biggest expense. This chunk is further broken down to grocery and wet market purchases. Travel is the next biggest chunk and this used to be one of our biggest splurges, making it a point to have at least 2 major trips each year. While a good half goes to food and travel, the remainder is spent on rent, services (househelp), bills payment and medical expenses. A good 15% of our monthly earnings is also stashed away as savings. Looking good so far.

average monthly budget, 2009

In 2011, our regular spending was cut down by 3% compared to the previous year. This was the time that we moved to Los Banos and while most of the basic goods and services are about the same price here as in Manila, there are some things here that cost significantly less, like eating out for example.

Our 2011 budget chart shows that while food is still the biggest expense, it did not go beyond 30% of our monthly budget. Travel expenses shot up to 23% because both Turo and I traveled regularly to Manila to work even when we were already living in LB. The rest of our expenses were essentially the same.

average monthly budget, 2011

I have mentioned quite a number of times in my previous entries that we had been slashing pesos off our budget as a resultant effect of changing the way we eat and live. You would be surprised that while our rent payments stayed constant over the years, our monthly food allocation dropped down to just about the same amount in 2012. Our monthly fuel expense is now just a mere 7% compared to a high of 23% in the year before.

Our current monthly spending is actually 12% less than what we used to spend in 2009. This is in spite of the fact that we have more expenditures now because we are also paying for farm expenses, paying school fees, and paying debt which we incurred when we loaned money as start-up capital for the farm.

average monthly budget, 2012

So how did we do it?

We grew our own food. We buy local. We skipped the grocery and stopped consuming processed, packaged food. Now we are eating fresh, natural and local, which tastes so much better, costs so much cheaper, is so much healthier and we even get to support local producers and boost local economies.

We started to maximize an oft-neglected resource—our bodies. As city dwellers we were enslaved by various modes of fuel-consuming transportation. Here in Los Banos we learned to skip riding a car or a jeepney because we can get to our destination by burning calories, not gasoline.

We grew more conscious of our purchases. We buy what we need when we need them. Stocking food or supplies no longer exist in our vocabulary. We did away with needless shopping especially of items that will go to waste eventually.

We indulge in cheap forms of entertainment. We watch movies on DVD instead of going to the movie theater. We spend mornings at the park eating taho or drinking juice. We jog around UPLB campus and treat ourselves to a cup of yogurt afterwards. We set up a sandbox for the kids so we can spend afternoons at the farm. We have pizza weekends, barbecue nights, and rarely dine out.

In less than a year, our lifestyle has changed drastically from being highly consumerist to being highly sustainable. True, we did slash thousands of pesos off our budget, but this came at a price, on denominations that we were willing to pay—in terms of time and effort. Vegetables don’t grow by themselves overnight. Local produce need to be sourced from different stores and locations. Walking to work means you need to leave the house much earlier than when you will just hop on and off a vehicle. And making pizza is so much more difficult than just waiting for it to land on your plate.

Time and effort. These are key to our happy, healthy, meaningful and sustainable lifestyle. The good news is that it can be done. But only by those who dare to leave the convenience of this modern world behind and enjoy the elements of life as they were meant to be enjoyed. No shortcuts.

understanding readiness

We take pains in raising bright, active and happy kids. I could not say we have been entirely successful but we are trying our damn best.

Ari spent the past school year in the Child Development Laboratory of the UPLB College of Human Ecology. It is called a laboratory because it is a training vehicle for UP professors and students and it is a venue for formulating new strategies for early childhood development. The laboratory adopts a very eclectic approach to learning, with emphasis on developing a child’s multiple intelligences, including behavior and home-school integration.

At the laboratory we have witnessed how Ari became more independent and how he interacted with other children. Here he developed greater self-discipline, self-motivation and self-expression. We have been more than pleased with Ari’s performance in his first year of “little school.” But that was before we began scouting for a new school for him for the preparatory level. In the course of taking school assessments and evaluation prior to acceptance to big school, we realized that more traditional schools demanded a lot more academically than what our son was currently capable of. And we do not blame his former school because we were perfectly satisfied with the kind of well-rounded preparation he received there.

In the last few months, we were practically scrambling to prepare Ari for entering a traditional school. We have math, reading and writing lessons everyday. We do science experiments at home. Ari was learning at lightning pace and I am confident that he can perform well academically alongside other children his age in a more structured learning environment. But somehow, I felt that he still wasn’t completely ready for an academically challenging and competitive environment, considering how young he his, and the kind of interests and intelligences he possesses.

This is where the concept of “readiness” comes into play. A child, or any individual for that matter, has the capacity to learn any amount of knowledge if he has the proper motivation and if he knows how to process information into a form that would be useful to him. There is a reason why the preparatory level is called such because the objective is to “prepare” children for more structured learning, and not expect them to know what graders should already know.

Readiness for learning. Readiness for absorbing information and processing them into useful concepts. Readiness for integrating what one already knows to what one is starting to learn to result in even greater learning. Readiness is not simply knowing how to write, but knowing how to create each stroke and knowing what each stroke is for. Readiness is not simply knowing how to read, but knowing how each letter is part of a syllable, that is part of a word, that is part of a sentence, that is all part of the language that we use to communicate and comprehend. Readiness is not simply knowing how to count, or how to add one number to the other, but knowing that each digit is part of a greater whole, be it thousands or millions or billions. Readiness is not simply knowing, but realizing that one has the capacity to learn anything and everything, no matter how difficult it can become in the future.

This is what we want to develop in our children, before we let them out into the harsh, competitive world outside. We need them to be confident that they will be able to take on anything however tough or insurmountable circumstances may be. In addition to preparing them for learning, we also want to strengthen their values–their understanding of what is right and what is not right. So that when they go out and interact with all sorts of people who may have been raised with a different set of values, they will be firm in what they believe to be true and appropriate.

Finally, after months of searching for a big school for Ari, we found a school whose philosophies are in tune with our objectives for our children. He will be spending preparatory level at GF Tots and Kids Care Center, which espouses a teaching and caring strategy “without pressure” but commits to preparing children for more structured learning. The Center is a few minutes walk from where we live and Turo and I were both surprised and grateful that the kind of institution we have long been searching for was just right under our noses. A casual conversation with the Center’s very passionate Director gave us enough inspiration and assurance that we were on the right track in raising our children.

Searching for Ari’s school was a highly emotional roller-coaster ride. At this point, I do not even want to imagine what it would be like to choose a college or university for my children to attend. I could not be more relieved to know that our preschool search is finally over and that we could shift our focus on making our home environment complement the kind of instruction that is being provided in school. If there is anything I have gained from this experience, it is the strong realization that we, as parents, have an even greater role to play in reinforcing our children’s learning experiences and guiding them in putting their new knowledge to good use, especially now that they are spending time in a growing number of institutions and social circles.