My Mommyology

Learning from Motherhood.

June 21, 2016
by mymommyology

My Mommyology Discovers: A Family Estate Plan is a Necessary Urgent Investment

We recently put in place a Living Trust and Family Estate Plan for the future of our girls.

My nightly reading which reinforces the fact that I am indeed a grown-up.

My nightly reading which reinforces the fact that I am indeed a grown-up.

The topic of “who gets the kids”, or “what will happen when we pass on” isn’t something that usually makes casual dinner conversations, and those of us with young families may not see or feel the urgency of getting “our affairs in order” right away.  Now that I am older and have younger people under my care, I figure it’s something that we’d need to face sooner than later.

In this day and age, you never know what will happen.  And admittedly, those questions (and more of the sort), linger at the back of our minds more frequently now than ever.  As the kids get older, as you make big changes in life, and as you observe the changes in the state of your health.

We can prepare our kids all we want, and work towards a healthier lifestyle, but the fact remains:  when we pass on, there will be things people will need to take care of in our behalf.  If the kids are too young at the time, then they are the most valuable assets that need the best kind of care and continued protection.

My husband and I initially didn’t think about all of this until recently, when we acquired the house, and I got into a car accident.  I was bumped from behind and I had to drive myself to the E.R., only to realize that I had to leave and come back because no one would pick up my kids.  Thankfully the accident wasn’t bad enough that I could still do so and come back later for the meds.  But what if it was worse?  What would happen then?  Heaven forbid it ever happens, but the thought was very unsettling.

Thankfully Brian Chew, a trusted friend, owns and operates OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, a Family Protection and Estate Planning firm that operates in Southern California.  In two meetings, Brian got our papers and our Estate Plan up and running in no time.  It included a Living Trust and provisions for the kids should anything happen to us, as well as health directives should we become incapacitated to make critical medical decisions.

Photo Credit: Brian Chew

Photo Credit: Brian Chew

Brian is very good at explaining your options and customizing them according to the family’s specific needs and situations.  He has been practicing estate planning law for almost 20 years, and so he definitely knows what he’s talking about.  He and his firm made the whole process easy, simple and very painless.  I’ve learned, and am still learning so much from the whole process.  This is information that was not within my usual conscious realm, but now, I am glad it has been brought to my attention.


That’s Brian with his awesome wife and kids.

Friends have told me there are ways and firms that offer a “do it yourself” option for less.  While I’ve seen some of those options, I like the added value that OC Wills and Trust Attorneys offer.  Their process is very comprehensive and you can make clear decisions with all your options on the table.  Plus, Brian and his firm offer continued follow-ups and amendments, which you can’t get from a “do-it-yourself” situation.  These “cheaper alternatives” will actually cost you more in the end, and it could potentially get complicated.  There’s nothing of that sort with  OC Wills and Trust Attorneys, and with an experienced lawyer at the helm, it is definitely worth the investment.

You wouldn’t think it was a necessity, but why should we wait until “something happens” for it to become one?  We knew we were going to do it at some point in the future, but it gives us so much relief and peace of mind that it’s been taken care of already, especially now while our kids are still very young.

If you haven’t thought about it yet, or are “still thinking about it”, from my recent experience — it’s much better done now than later.  It is worth carving out time for, and it is a discussion that needs to happen at some point in time.  Some people say it becomes most urgent as you are older.  On the contrary, I’d say it’s more urgent now while the kids are still young.

I definitely would recommend a sit down with Brian and his attorneys at the soonest possible time.  He offers a no obligations, free consultation.  So what have you got to lose?

For more information, visit the OC Wills and Trust Attorneys website, or call 949-347-5256.  You can follow them on social media as well:

Facebook: @OCWillsandTrustAttorneys

You Tube: OC Wills and Trust Attorneys

May 31, 2016
by mymommyology

My First 10K

The day before Mother’s Day, I ran my first official 10K!  It was the longest I’ve run — ever — in my life. 😉

Nine months ago my fellow Girl Scout moms decided to run the Disney Tinkerbell race, and so without really putting much thought into it I signed up along with them.  The rules specified that you had to keep a 16-min pace per mile, or else they would pick you up.

After I signed up, I tried my luck and collapsed after 2 and something miles.  My pace?  19 mins per mile (Okay, 18’57”).  Eeek.

My only goal was not to get picked up by the car.  I knew I had to increase my chances of that by attempting to get in shape (read:  get back my pre-baby weight and body).  After all, it always helps to work towards something.

Now I will have you know that I’m not a runner  (can’t you tell by my run time?).  And never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get into distance running.  But the people around me were very encouraging, and the trails in this area are  pretty.  The air is clean and it wasn’t too hot.  So I thought, why not!  In Sam’s words, “I might as well try.”

I started off on the right foot (pun intended), by getting good shoes.  Some good friends pointed me to a shop called Road Runner.  They review your running style and foot needs, and then custom-shape a sole accordingly.  Of course, they also sell you a shoe to go with it.

The arches that support my messed-up feet.

The arches that support my messed-up feet.

As I waited for my turn, I eavesdropped on some of the triathletes present picking out their shoes.  Some of them threw advice my way, seeing as how I was a lost duck.  And that’s how I ended up with my very first pair of Asics.  I wouldn’t have picked that brand on my own.

Those triathletes knew what they were talking about, because I do like my shoes!  I immediately felt the difference.  I could go for longer periods of time and the usual aches and pains that made it hard to walk after, weren’t there.  Hurray!

Schedule-wise, I tried to get out whenever I could.  As a parent with multiple responsibilities, it was very hard to be consistent about exercise.  It’s not an excuse; it’s just how our lifestyle has been set up.  In between caring for two other human beings and their multitude of activities, the household chores and the little projects here and there, sometimes I’d just rather sleep (at this age — can you blame me?!).   When we were fixing up the house, it was hard because I’d have to free up my mornings waiting for suppliers to come.  I consoled myself with the fact that my frequent trips up and down our stairs were a workout enough.  Sometimes I’d think, “I could run…. or do the groceries….”  The guilty-mom in me would choose the latter.

In any case, I learned to be ok with my consistently inconsistent exercise schedule.  Thank goodness for the 10-month prep time.  I had time to try to build a regular exercise schedule.

At one point, I pushed a little too hard, I actually injured myself and couldn’t run for 4 weeks.  My aunt who runs all over Canada told me to take time and stretch.  Even she at 50 does not run everyday.  She tries to put some stretching in between her running days.  I had to remember that!

When I was ready to hit the trails again, my brother-in-law gave me the best tip I’ve had to date:  Interval running.  According to him, a one minute break in between consistent running times should help build stamina and endurance.  The minute is more than enough time for your heart to recover and re-circulate oxygen  (Incidentally, an app called Couch to 5k gives you a similar interval training).

I started with one minute runs and one minute walks, and as the weeks went by I was able to gradually increase the run time.  Thank you FitBit for tracking all of that as we went along.

The next thing was the music.  My triathlete friend Mench (she pens the blog Wandermench), advised that I kick the earbuds habit so I could focus on my running form.  I tried that for a while… and just couldn’t do it.  At the very least, thanks to Mench, I was now conscious of how my feet hit the ground and how I held myself up.  I used the Running stations of Spotify to help me keep a beat.

But if I’m being honest, I find running to be lonely.  And thankfully I have mom friends in my village who encourage me to keep going by running with me too!

Prior to the Tinkerbell race, we did a few 5K runs in the area.  It was also a gauge to see where we were in terms of time.

Color Run on the Left, and Running through the Hangar on the right.

Color Run on the Left, and Running through the Hangar on the right.

I was fairly happy with the times I posted, but they will still pretty close to the 16-minute per mile mark.  More than that, it was then when I realized I was a social runner.  I did much better running alongside other people.

So a month before the actual 10K, I proposed that a group of us would get together every Sunday morning at 630AM and run different trails in the area.  As my friend Cindy said, we held each other accountable.  The first few Sundays, most of us would show up because we knew someone else was waiting.

We kept that up until the Tinkerbell 10K, and even rode together to Disneyland that morning (Thanks my husband, our Uber Driver).

At 4AM under the tree, out of the rain. We were ready to go!

At 4AM under the tree, out of the rain. We were ready to go!

I was corralled in the same lot as Cindy, and she paced me the entire race.  Complete with a bathroom break, some water stops and picture-taking along the way, we finished with a 13’47” pace, way ahead of the car (and if I may say, a big improvement from the 19-min pace I started out with!).

Stopping to take a photos in Disney AND California Adventure!

Stopping to take a photos in Disney AND California Adventure!  It was my first race thru Disney.  Can ya blame me?

It wasn’t enough to win us any kind of distinction, but it was a personal achievement nonetheless.  And more importantly, we had fun!

We kept the Sunday morning run group in the weeks that followed, and added on some other moms as well.  We agree:  the schedule works for us because our households are still asleep, we get a good workout and some active me-time as well.

I’ve gotten so used to running on Sunday morning that even when my family took a trip out-of-town, I posted my hotel treadmill run to our group to let them know I didn’t slack off. 😉

View from the treadmill. And my Fitbit recording as proof!

View from the treadmill. And my Fitbit recording as proof!

Running a 5k used to take the living daylights out of me.  Now, I can survive a 10k almost every Sunday and still function properly.  My resting heart rate has decreased, which is a good sign!  I’ve started carving out time during the week too, to get at least one or two other days’ worth of exercise when I can.  It’s still not consistent yet, but I hope it will get there soon.

I am happy and forever grateful I have a group like them to motivate me to get up and be a little bit healthier at least once a week.  I do feel stronger, despite the bodily aches and pains that eventually come after a long run (that comes with old age I suppose).

Photo Credit: Jackie Wilkin. We ran 6.49 Miles that day. Does that count as my second 10k? ;)

Photo Credit: Jackie Wilkin. We ran 6.49 Miles that day. Does that count as my second 10k? ;)

I feel better over-all.  Because of these awesome women, on Sundays I choose my social running over sleep, and I’ve not regretted it since.  😉

May 18, 2016
by mymommyology

The Year of First Communion

Second grade is the year of First Communion.  In Manila, it would’ve been a no brainer with Sam in my alma mater Catholic school.  Here, because we send her to a non-secular public school, the choice was more deliberate.

Living outside of Manila has made one religious lesson in my senior year in high school stand out.  Our professor drilled it into our heads that religion is both individual and communal, and that it is inclusive of other religions as well.  I’ve not felt this to be more true than when I see the different cultures and religions (or non-religions) that surround my girls on a daily basis.

We are lucky to have such a wonderfully diverse community and be surrounded by friends and families with varying backgrounds.  It’s a great learning experience and it teaches us all to be open and understanding of each one’s beliefs and upbringing.

I realized that growing up in a Catholic environment makes you take religion for granted.  Living in a predominantly Catholic country, going to Catholic schools all my life, and being surrounded by people who live and breathe the Catholic faith is a very different environment than what Sam and Jamie have.  I was born into this faith and for a majority of my life I knew of nothing else around it.  But my children do.

Now, there are a lot of options for them; and what I knew to be black and white for me can potentially be a huge grey area for them.  And because of this I strongly feel that my girls need a solid Catholic faith foundation; so they can navigate through it all later on.  But the challenge was doing it outside our predominantly catholic bubble.

As part of their faith formation and in preparation for First Holy Communion, Sam had to attend religious education classes (as part of her after school activities) in our church once a week for two years.  And up until the beginning of this year’s faith formation classes, we’d been very lax about taking them to church regularly.  I didn’t want them to burn out so quickly, as church can get long and boring for young kids especially if they don’t see the relevance, so I didn’t want to force it on them just yet.

I liked the huge parent involvement at the onset.  I was worried about not having the classes more regularly like we did back home when we were younger; but the Religious Coordinator made it clear:  the biggest responsibility for faith formation is still with the parents.  How we reinforced this at home (if at all), would make all the difference.

The church helped a lot.  As part of their preparation they called all the first communicants to a set of masses where they were introduced to the congregation.  The priest had the children promise to come to mass every Sunday, to attend mass on Holy Days of Obligation, to go to the Religious Ed classes every week, and to recite their prayers at home.  Naturally, when Sam said “I promise”, she insisted on following it through.  I can honestly say because of Sam, I’ve seen the inside of our church far more frequently since I’ve had kids.

Early on this year, the children were required to attend a parent-child retreat.  Sam had been on a recollection-retreat before but our school never had the parents participate until the end, so this was a nice welcome surprise.  And it turned out to be very worthwhile too.

Left: Beautiful background mural of the sacraments.   Right:  We learned about St Tarcisius, the patron saint for all First Communicants.

Left: Beautiful background mural of the sacraments.
Right: We learned about St Tarcisius, the patron saint for all First Communicants.

We got some good Mom-Sam quality time together, with conversations that did not revolve around our schedules or other mundane things.  There was quite the serene, but fun, atmosphere to it being in a convent around nuns.

It was a half-day session and very nicely done.  The topics, lectures and activities were appropriate for the kids, and they had time to expend some energy too in their courtyard with bubbles, toys and other physical activity.  At one point, they pulled the children for a craft and spoke to the parents about our role in this whole process.  I have to admit it was a very very refreshing experience.

At this retreat, I also discovered, and then subsequently subscribed to MagnifiKids, a missalette subscription for kids.  It has the entire mass, readings, responses and all for that particular Sunday, in a kid-friendly format.

My new discovery.  Love it!

My new discovery. Love it!

Sam brings it with her to church every week, and during the priest’s homily, she reads the other parts of the magazine and does the activities.  It has everything from a history lesson, to word meanings and context, to crossword puzzles.  And best of all, it keeps the girls quiet yet appropriately entertained.

Samples of what's inside our Magnifikids missalettes.

Samples of what’s inside our MagnifiKids missalettes.

This whole process also reminded me that before Sam could get First Communion, she had to go and get the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

During our parent briefing, the Religious Education Coordinator was encouraging us to set the example for the children and go to confession before them.  I initially scoffed at the idea, but come Reconciliation day, I was actually afraid!  (Okay, laugh if you must.)

It’s been ages since my last (official) confession, and God knows my sins all too well.  Thankfully Sam didn’t ask me to go before her, so I sat, reflected and prayed as I watched her from the sidelines walk up to the Priest, excited to “confess” and subsequently perform her penance.

Of course I snuck in a photo for keepsake purposes.

Of course I snuck in a photo for keepsake purposes.

The children were told that they didn’t need to tell the parents what they said to the priest, and we parents were instructed not to pry.

Finally, it was time for First Communion.  Maga arrived for this important milestone.  She brought with her Sam’s (and eventually Jamie’s) Ines Moda Infantil dress, the perfect gift from Ninang Kris (we love useful gifts).

We loved that Maga was here!

We loved that Maga was here!

Instead of our traditional stampitas, Sam and her classmates made banners that were used to decorate the church.

Trust Sam to have a rainbow in everything. ;)

Trust Sam to have a rainbow in everything. ;)

I was quite the ball of emotions, which was the excuse I used to sign Sam up for all the possible First Communion photos we could get.  Yes, I am that sentimental mother.

The mass was very simple, and in a language and pace that the kids could understand.  It ended with the children singing a song they prepared, and that was it.  Short, simple but very meaningful.

I don’t remember being excited for my first communion (I was pretty sick I think), but you could clearly see Sam was.  It seemed like the weekly sessions for the last two years had adequately prepared her for this date.  Considering the fears I had coming into it all, I left that last session fairly impressed and very very thankful.

That smile!

That smile!

Every week since, Sam has asked to receive her second communion, and third and fourth (and so on).   I pray she doesn’t lose that eagerness, and remembers the reason why we hear mass and take communion in the first place.

I have faint memories of my first communion.  Even the preparation that went into it is a distant memory.  Thankfully I took the coordinator’s advice and stayed involved.  I re-lived it all vicariously through Sam, and what great timing too.    And again, I’m amazed at how something I’ve done routinely for years and perhaps, have taken for granted, was brought back fresh and new through the innocent eyes of my child. 🙂

May 12, 2016
by mymommyology

Why We Love Lego: Let Me Count the Ways

My kids have too many toys.

At least that’s how I feel when I walk around the house everyday trying to tidy it up.  I should say we are lucky — they are lucky — to be showered with so many things and gifts from relatives family and friends for birthdays and other special occasions.

As such, my husband (well, when the kids don’t bat their lashes at him and give him the puss-in-boots face to make him cave) and I agree we will stop buying our girls toys.  Maybe, on occasion, with the exception of Lego. 😉

Ole Kirk Kristiansen struck gold when he founded and created this company way back when (okay, their history says 1932).  I can’t imagine any child who wouldn’t at least have one set of Lego’s in his or her home, given as a gift, or purchased by a parent.  And why not when it can contribute so much to the development of a child too.

A majority of our home contains Lego bricks of all shapes and sizes.  The girls have been playing with them since they knew not to eat them.  It’s the one thing I allow them to buy when Daddy is feeling generous (or when he falls into their trap).



Here are some of the reasons why my household loves Lego:

Lego builds creativity.  My girls can go on for hours with their stack of bricks just building and figuring out how things come together.  We’ve gone from the easy-to-hold big Lego Duplo blocks to the smaller pieces for older children.  Through the years, Lego has come to own the words creativity and imagination, at least in my book.

I still remember my Lego set with the MAERSK trucks.  It never occurred to me that those trucks were real until I saw them on the road as a grown-up.  And it brought back those childhood days on the floor when I’d try to create little stories about where my trucks were going.  I wonder if my girls will have the same experience when they’re older, and maybe see the Lego Hotel in real life.

It’s also fun to see how Lego sets have no boundaries.  My girls mix up the princesses’ bodies, and have them meet the Marvel characters.  I’ll find the Star Wars characters staying at the Friends’ hotel every now and then.  Their make believe world just doesn’t end.

Lego develops their fine motor skills.  Putting small pieces together is not an easy thing (taking them apart is harder too)!  I like the fact that manipulating the pieces requires some development in the fine motor skills,  which is sometimes taken for granted.

Based on Jamie’s Mindprint scans, fine motor development is something that we need to work on with her, and it is much easier to do when she’s having fun building Legos.

Lego teaches them to follow instructions.  The instruction book that comes with each set is nothing short of amazing.  There is so much attention to detail, all the child has to do is follow.  And often times we don’t realize what a challenge that can be with raising children.

This is also one of Jamie’s stronger learning methods, when she is shown a pattern she has to copy.  I let her go at it on her own and I just watch it come together flawlessly.  She knows exactly which pack to open and what pieces go where.

Jamie working on a part of the Lego Hotel, on her own.

Jamie working on a part of the Lego Hotel, on her own.

It gives her that much needed sense of accomplishment when she’s done.  Lego has put a suggested age range on their packs, but that doesn’t matter to Jamie.  Five-year old Jamie can sit and do a project for 8-yr old kids and that adds to her self-pride.

Lego builds patience.  It’s one of the traits Sam needs to develop.  While Sam has a huge amount of focus, she is often very impatient.  She loves choosing big and challenging Lego projects but they test every bone in her body and every connection in her brain.  It’s nice to see her determination win over, and little by little she puts it together and sees it through.

The completion of the Marvel Quinjet (and some other parts).

The completion of the Marvel Quinjet (and some other parts).

Lego stays current.  The licensing they’ve done with Disney and some of the more current movies was quite the genius move.  The girls love the boxed sets from Star Wars, Disney Princess, or Marvel, and have built a collection of them over time.  I only wish they would bring back their Harry Potter sets.  Then Sam would truly be in Lego Heaven.

Can you guess what Sam is into now?

Can you guess what Sam is building now?

Lego has also built its own sub-brands of Friends, Chima, Ninjago and most recently they’ve added the Elves series.  Each one is so different, it just blows their minds and of course, they want it all.

The newest group in the Lego sub-brand, Elves.

The newest group in the Lego sub-brand, Elves.

Lego is a complete experience.  When you live in California, you can find time to drive to Legoland.

It's a hop, skip and a boat ride away!

It’s a hop, skip and a boat ride away!

And Legoland just brings the experience all together.  Not to mention the fact that they have extended their own brands to other media beyond the blocks and beyond the park, like books, apps and even cartoons.  They have a water park too that we have yet to visit this summer.

The girls can't wait to go and try the Chima Waterpark!

The girls can’t wait to go and try the Chima Waterpark!

Clearly, they’re doing some things right.  It’s fun and educational, and as a gift, never disappoints (Just watch out and don’t step on them.  They hurt like crazy!). 

I’d have to say, when it comes to Lego, we can never have enough. 🙂

Does your child like playing with Lego?  I’d love to hear why (or why not)!


March 15, 2016
by mymommyology

My Mommyology Discovers: Storymakery

During a trip to the mall last fall, I saw an area boarded up with this logo on it:

The logo that started it all.

Photo credit:  Storymakery

As its name implies, Storymakery is a children’s creative writing and publishing shop, located in Spectrum Mall in Irvine.  They have actual creative writers in the store to help kids make a character, develop a plot, write out the story and publish it right then and there.  The work with the kids of varying ages too, and have various packages depending on the level of involvement the child can handle.

It’s amazing!  The creative writer in me was awakened and secretly thrilled.

I knew my girls would love it, and so when Storymakery opened its doors I signed them up for a Snowman workshop last winter.

Their store is very pretty too.  It’s spacious, and it looks very conducive for creativity and imagination.  I love places that are well thought-through.

At the workshop, the girls were immediately treated to some holiday snacks and hot chocolate.  After, they were first led to the Character Studio.  They were allowed to create their main character for their upcoming story.  In this case, they had to work with a snowman.

Creativity starts here!

Creativity starts here!

They did everything from the name to the color, and the writers were guiding them to help them describe what they were like and where they lived — all important parts of a good set-up!

Then they led to another station called “Writing”.  The girls had to come up with an antagonist, and a way to map out the story by answering questions the writers had prepared.  If your child is old enough, they can type their own answers, but in the interest of time (particularly with Jamie), the writers do it for them.

Love the icons on ceiling and wall.

Love the icons on ceiling and wall.

In the middle of the shop are these writing trees, which hold nuggets and thought starters, that kids can pick out and use to build their own story.  Pretty neat!

Trees for thought?

Trees for thought?

After that, the girls go into Publishing where they make the scenery and create a few more photos to complete their story, and they lay-out.

Sam waiting for her published work.

Sam waiting for her published work.

Then the writers take it to the back where it actually gets printed.  In a few minutes, they have their very own published written work in their hands.

The workshop also included a poster of their main character (as you would in a movie or a new book release).

Young Authors!

Proud of our young authors! (and they’re proud of themselves!)

In the shop they offered differently paraphernalia where the main character could be printed out and given as gifts.

My girls were so proud of themselves.  I can’t tell you how many times they read and re-read their stories, and showed it to other people, and they were over the moon when people called them Authors.  They felt like such distinguished folk, it was absolutely adorable.

The Storymakery experience is something one can take home too, if you sign up for their annual membership.  The family gets access to all the characters they created online, and can actually make more.  Kids can go in and make characters and stories themselves, and simply walk into the store to get it printed.

I dare say, it’s also helped Sam with her homework.  When they were asked to write a story with a beginning, middle and end for school, Sam knew how to lay it out, with the lesson in the end.  Jamie’s story-telling skills have also started to take shape with its own beginning middle and end.  So it is quite the tool for imagination, creativity and cognitive development all in one!

One of Sam and Jamie’s friends had their birthday party there too and the people in the store took care of everyone.  It was a great place for the grown ups to kick back and relax, get a haircut or a cup of coffee. 😉  Plus, the kids learned about collaborating on a story, and each one got to take home a book they all wrote together.  It’s amazing how they were able to fit everyone’s ideas in there so seamlessly.

And if that weren’t enough, the owner of Storymakery is a Girl Scout parent and troop leader, and  she also does activities and creative writing for troops to help them fulfill their badges.  Our troop has looked into working with them on a Journey, and I don’t know who is more excited to go back, the girls… or me! 😉

If you want to check out Storymakery, they’re on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram): @Storymakery.  Or visit their website!



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