Monday, February 25, 2013

Mommy Mondays: learning trips

Sibika is hard enough for Noah because of the language barrier. So imagine how hard it is for him to memorize practically-alien terms as well as understand the terms' meaning or significance in Filipino. Last December, his Sibika lessons had to do with places in the Philippines. It started with Mga Magagandang Tanawin sa Pilipinas (Beautiful Places in the Philippines) like Bulkang Mayon, Pagudpod Beach, San Juanico Bridge, Banaue Rice Terraces, Pasonanca Park & Talon ng Maria Cristina. He had to memorize the places' names in Filipino, as well as a description of the sight & the province where they can be found. Then they moved on to a lesson on Mga Makasaysayang Pook sa Pilipinas (Philippine Historical Places). There were a total of 6 historical places in his lesson, 4 of which were found in Metro Manila (unlike the places in his previous lesson). So on the Sunday of that week, I decided to take Noah on a learning trip. I figured a real experience would make it easier to recall the new set of difficult-to-remember places.

First stop was Luneta Park. 

Noah got to see Rizal's Monument in full color vs the small black & white photo in his book. I told him this was where Rizal was shot and that it used to be called "Bagumbayan". He of course had to ask why we couldn't go near it (it was cordoned off), why the guards didn't move, and if the guards would move if tickled.

Second stop was Fort Santiago. 

Noah enjoyed Fort Santiago. He got to ride a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage). He even sat in front with the kutsero (carriage driver).

He had fun literally following the footsteps of Rizal. We just went the wrong way so Noah was walking in the opposite direction.

He did enjoy comparing the size of his foot to Rizal's.

And even his height vs. the Jose Rizal statue in his jail cell.

I think this is what helped with Noah's lesson best. He got to see Rizal in a jail cell. How easy will it be now to remember that Fort Santiago was where Rizal was imprisoned?

My Lola (my grandmother from here & here) was actually imprisoned in Fort Santiago as well. So Noah kept asking where Lola's jail cell was. He was obsessed with finding it, searching the place, until we found the dungeons and assumed that was where Lola was imprisoned.

I thought Noah would be eager to get out of the sweltering heat after going through the Fort Santiago gate. But he was still interested to explore the plaza (Plaza Moriones) between the ticket booth (first gate) and the real Fort Santiago gate. He even ran to this Jose Rizal monument in the middle of the plaza and right under the hot sun.

I was horrified when I saw this photo because I thought he was pretending to pee - a signature photo op pose of the hubby. But Noah was genuinely observing the monument. Ooohh, real learning!

He got a photo taken as a cardboard guard and with a real-life guard!

Noah pretended to smoke General MacArthur's pipe. It was only when I saw the photos that I realized his mouth actually touched the pipe. Horror!

He also (eeep!) tugged at the cross of some priests.

Noah played in this shaded area for a while. The Fort Santiago map says these were American Barracks Ruins. He pretended to fire the canon...

And tried to pull this (is-it-called-a-)bullet? 

After tugging on a few more bullets, we finally left Fort Santiago.

The last two weren't actually stops... because we just drove past them. I just told Noah to watch out for them through the window. We passed Espana going home so Noah could catch a glimpse of the Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas, where Jose Rizal studied. 

We also drove by Ortigas Avenue so Noah watched out for the EDSA Shrine (where today's historical event took place), the last on our list of Manila historical places.

Noah scored very well in his Sibika test. I don't know for sure if it was because of our little learning trip. I do know the learning trip has turned out to be a gift that keeps on giving. You see, before heading to UST that Sunday in December, since we were already in Manila, we also drove by the Intramuros Walls, Binondo Church and the Bonifacio Monument. Last week, Noah's Sibika lesson was Philippine Heroes and when we got to Andres Bonifacio, I asked him if he remembered the Bonifacio Monument from our learning trip. He did! And now, with that vision in his head of the monument with people fighting with swords and the KKK flag, it is easy for Noah to remember what Andres Bonifacio did for our country.

Turns out, tutoring need not be limited to worksheets. Real-life experiences are a fun way of tutoring your children. 

Photos are all my own.

Click here for previous posts from the Mommy Mondays series.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Simple Trick: Birthdays in School

Noah recently celebrated his birthday in school. After doing this for a couple of years now, I feel I've become an expert - learning what NOT to do one year and correcting it the next.

Before I share the tips & tricks I've collected over the years, let me start with a disclaimer. These tips will work only if our celebration objectives are aligned. I choose to celebrate my kids birthdays in school (during recess or lunch) because I don't believe in yearly, grand (I'm sure you know how wedding-reception-grand children's parties are these days) birthday parties. I prefer a few grand ones (Yes, I'm one of those parents that threw 1st birthday parties for their babies who had no clue what was going on. And yes, we celebrated Isabella and Noah's 7th birthdays in a big way too - without knowing why on earth, 7th birthdays are supposedly special.) and the rest of the years, just simple celebrations that will make the birthday celebrant feel special in a gathering among friends (vs. mommy & daddy's friends at those grand parties). So my goal for these school birthday parties is a simple celebration, planned for & executed in the easiest way possible.

Assuming you feel the same way, here are my school birthday celebration simple tips & tricks:

1. Choose your theme. I let my kids choose the theme of their simple celebration so we always end up with character themes, against my liking. So even if I would have prefered non-character themes like those blue ballerinas or Noah's Ark animals for Noah, I ended up with blech-Barney and Ben10 themes in previous years. But hey, it's their birthday, not mine. Because school birthdays are so short (no time to decorate), there are only 2 things that make your theme a theme: the birthday cake and the loot. So order a cake and buy loot according to your theme. And take photos of the cake & loot so you have proof of a theme (and do it before d-day because it's easy to forget to take photos before you slice the cake and before you distribute the loot).

2. Decide on your cake plan. The cake is critical for the candle-blowing photo op. This year, because Noah's birthday fell on a Saturday (a non-school day), I ended up ordering 2 cakes: one for his actual birthday for his birthday dinner with the family and another for his school birthday celebration. If you decide to do the same & serve the cake to your child's classmates...
  • On d-day, along with the cake, don't forget to bring the birthday candle/s and lighter or box of matches.
  • Conduct the candle-blowing photo op before the kids eat their food. This will give you time to slice the cake while they are eating their, say, chicken & spaghetti.
  • ... which means, you need to bring a cake slicer to school (bring a serated knife too just in case your cake slicer needs help cutting through fondant cake icing).
  • Don't forget to bring disposable forks so the kids can eat their cake.
  • Instead of disposable plates, use disposable lunchboxes - the ones with lids that fold close. So if the kids can't finish their cake, they can bring home their leftovers.

But in 2 years, when Noah's birthday falls on a school day, my plan is to order 1 cake and several cake pops or cupcakes. Noah's classmates can eat the cake pops... And I will get to bring home the big cake for the candle-blowing photo op during dinner with the family. Plus, no need for the cake-slicing task anymore!

3. Decide on your loot bag plan. You can opt to buy themed toys and candies and stuff them in a bag (or your preferred container). Personally, I think stuffing bags & choosing candies & token toys just adds to the pre-work of this supposed easy-to-execute celebration. So I suggest to do away with candies - they might just lead to cavities and don't they get enough candy on Halloween?

I also suggest to pool your loot bag budget and pick one big (still within budget since kids are quite easy to please) toy rather than several really cheapo toys that end up breaking the next day or just turning into clutter later. Choose a fun toy so that you're sure everyone will like them.

For co-ed schools, either ensure the toy is gender-neutral or make sure you know how many boys & girls there are in your child's class before shopping for the toys so you get the right number of girl-toys vs. toys for boys.

4. Order food. (Easy-to-execute celebrations means no cooking required. Okay okay, I have no choice here. I can't cook. Remember from here?)
  • Visit (rather than merely call) the resto a few days before the celebration to place your order. Place your order and get a copy of the contract/order form. You can opt to have the food delivered to your child's school but you'll need to meet the delivery guy there. My brother did this and there were no problems. I'm paranoid so I opt for a pick-up arrangement. I prefer that the kitchen is right there, in case they get your order wrong or forget things like the spoons (which tends to happen with no-rice orders. They just give forks.). I even make sure to schedule pick-up 20 minutes earlier, in case they need the 20 minutes to fix something. (Haha, OC!) Make sure to check that the contract/order form has the correct date & time.
  • You can never go wrong with chicken & spaghetti. Every kid eats at least one of these two fastfood staples.
  • But do NOT get a chicken & spaghetti meal that comes with a drink. Transporting multiple drink-filled plastic cups is extremely difficult! Remember, those cardboard handles are only good for 4 cups. They don't make those for 15, 20 or 40 cups. Trying to carry this many cups to your child's classroom will inevitably result in some lids tearing and drinks spilling a little. Imagine the sticky mess! And even if the drinks don't spill, the plastic cups get those beads of condensation from the cold drink in it and lugging multiple wet cups will still be... ugh. So opt to order the food a la carte (vs. a meal) and serve tetra packs from the grocery for drinks. Their even, rectangular & stackable shape make even 50 tetra packs easy to lug around. Plus, they already come with a straw stuck to them so that's one less thing to distribute to each classmate on d-day.
  • Put the tetra packs in the fridge the night before d-day. A cooler is also an option.
  • On d-day, carry the tetra packs in a cooler (a styrofoam one with a shoulder strap will be ideal since it's light and you will be carrying a lot of things that day and will need your hands for other things).
  • For the cooling agent in your cooler, use those plastic cooling things or seal the ice in ziplock bags so the tetra packs don't get wet when the ice melts. Or bring a rag to wipe the floor if your dripping wet tetra packs make a puddle in the classroom.  
  • The chicken & spaghetti combo is not available a la carte. You can opt to order buckets of chicken and a la carte spaghetti. Then nicely request if they can pack it in the chicken & spaghetti meal box. McDonald's Tiendesitas agreed to do this for me this year. :) Make sure they note down this special packing instruction on your contract/order form.
  • One of Noah's classmates recently did away with the common chicken & spaghetti fare and went for a gigantic pizza. It seems it was a big hit with the kids so this is an option for me next year. Am thinking it will also lessen the things I need to distribute since the kids will likely want to get up and get their own slice from the giant pizza.
5. Think of your staffing plan. Visualize how many things will need to be lugged to the classroom from your car. This will help you decide how many helpers you need. Remember too that you can't bring a battalion of helpers because you not only need space in your car for all the stuff you need to bring, but classrooms aren't big enough to fit too many additional people.

To help, here is a list of things to bring:
  • Cooler containing tetra pack drinks (with straws) and cooling agent (ice in ziploc bag)
  • the themed cake (& cake pops/cupcakes if you choose this cake plan)
  • Cake slicer (& serrated knife)
  • Birthday candle/s
  • Lighter or box of matches
  • Cake boxes (the disposable lunchboxes with lids that fold close)
  • Disposable forks to eat the cake with
  • Table napkins to accompany the cake
  • Large ecobags to carry your food order
  • Loot (in lootbag or not)
  • Garbage bags so cleaning up is easy
  • your camera (make sure battery is fully-charged & memory card has enough space)

There are basically 3 main tasks during the actual celebration: [1] distribute -- first, the food, utensils, napkins & drink; second, the cake, forks & napkins; and third, the loot (but this one, your celebrant can do). [2] slice the cake. [3] take photos of the celebration.

The decision on how many people you need to do the distribute task will depend on the class size and if it is an option for kids to just line up to pick up their meal from you.

And there you have it: all the tips & tricks I've collected from 5 years of school birthdays. Hope this helps make planning & executing your little one's birthday in school simple & easy!

Photos are from annniegirl, polkadotshoppingbag & lushlee

Click here for previous posts from the Simple Trick series.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whimsical Wednesday!

You won't believe who are on the cover of Mega Magazine's February 2013 issue... Betty & Veronica! Turns out it is their first magazine cover ever! How whimsical is that?

I grew up reading Archie Comics. Even Isabella reads them. So I found it so surreal to see them gracing the cover of a Philippine magazine donning couture by top Filipino designers. On the cover, Betty is in a Veejay Floresca creation and Veronica's gown is by Cary Santiago.

Here, Veronica is clad in a daring ensemble by Inno Sotto and Betty's dress is from Furne One.

The newly-launched MAC Archie's Girls color cosmetics collection is what got these comic book icons on the cover of Mega.

It's so adorable how the Betty color collection captures Betty's sweet girl-next-door personality in pinks, peaches & sheer plums... 

A stark contrast to Betty's collection, Veronica's is seductive in vivacious reds, blackened plums & deep violets... The contrast nodding to the epic rivalry between Archie's girls.

Both collections celebrate the distinct personas of these two beloved characters. Not only through the color palettes, but also through the variant names. Betty's collection included names like Girl Next Door, Summer Sweetheart, Pep Pep Pep, Stay Sweet and Kiss & Don't Tell. Aren't they characteristically Betty?

On the other hand, Veronica's collection included names like Daddy's Little Girl, Boyfriend Stealer, Mall Madness, Past Curfew and Prom Princess.

How can you not swoon over full color cosmetics collections (No, they don't just come in lipsticks & gloss.) that remind you of your girlhood with your nose buried in a double digest - reading about the Riverdale gang's adventures in and out of Pop's Choclit Shoppe? Am not sure if I just missed it, but I didn't find MAC's Archie's Girls collection in this whimsical Mega issue (View more of the collection here). The issue did have a surreal interview with Betty & Veronica, as if they were real people.

Indeed, it was a whimsical issue! Love that even Mega Magazine EIC, Sari Yap, was drawn by American illustrator for Archie Comics, Dan Parent.

So put on some MAC lipgloss, grab your copy of this month's Mega issue & maybe even a Betty & Veronica Double Digest, and have a whimsical Wednesday!

Photos are my own and from here & nitrolicious.

Click here for previous posts from the Whimsical Wednesday! series.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

unexpected valentine kilig

I guess it's true that you can find love in the most unexpected places.

Or hearts for that matter. Notice the heart-shaped nostrils of my friend B's new baby Noelle?

I didn't expect that my most kilig moment on Valentine's Day would be when Noah held our front door for me and waited for me to step out before going out himself. He even opened my car door for me! It made me tingly all over [kilig] to have been the recipient of this unexpected gentlemanly gesture.

Hope your Valentine's Day was also happier than you expected it to be!

Photos are all from my Facebook news feed.

Postscript: Noelle, I so didn't expect I wouldn't meet you in person. I was anticipating your birth with so much excitement and trooped to your area, the South, so many times that I cannot believe I didn't get to see for myself those heart-shaped nostrils of yours & everything else adorable about you. I hope you are relishing your love-filled home away from home. After all, as your Mama says, home is now also where you are.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Hearts Day!

What do you have up your sleeve this Valentine's Day?

Will you be heading to a romantic destination?

Or will you just be staying in?

Whatever you're doing today, I hope your day is filled with the things you love and spent around the people you love the most.

Happy Hearts Day!

Photos from acupofjo & annnniegirl.

Click here for previous posts on Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

more than just flowers

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and I found the prettiest bouquets at Bungalow 300! They're pretty not just because of the flowers, but, I have to admit, more because of the pretty packaging. After all, it isn't Bungalow 300 without pretty prints! How lovely are these fabric wraps? They're available in orange, white or blue. You can also choose your type of roses (1 dozen local long-stemmed for PhP2,750, 2 dozens local long-stemmed for PhP3,500, and 1 dozen Ecuadorian for PhP4,750). Then your rose color - red or fuschia.

But the pretty doesn't end with bouquet wraps. Bungalow 300 also offers these cute bouquets in fabric-wrapped take-out boxes!

Aren't they adorable?

These bouquets-to-go cost PhP1,500 each.

Hmmm... now, the question is how to get your Valentine to order these prettily-packaged flowers for you.

Check out Bungalow 300's FB page. To order, email or call 0947-6108616. Free delivery within Alabang or Makati; small delivery fee for other areas.

Photos from Bungalow 300.