A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA My Mommyology Wants to Help On Becoming a Better Mom

A Religious Ed Volunteer

We go to a public elementary school, which means  religious education is a family choice, and it is done outside of school.  Our church offers it, but apart from the staff at the church, the classes are conducted by parent volunteers.

My kids love it when I volunteer in their classrooms, and I do it as often as I can.  It doesn’t involve much — I show up and do as I’m told, and then I’m done for the week and I do it again the next week.  The one thing I never thought I’d do would be a Religious Ed volunteer.  No particular reason — I just, never thought about it.  Plus this year, with both Jamie and Sam in class at the same time slot, I was going to have an hour in the middle of the week all to myself.  It sounded so — divine!

Maybe “divine intervention” had other plans for me because we attended mass one Sunday when they called for more parishioners to volunteer due to the volume of students that were coming in.  Sam heard and asked me if I would do it for her class.

Earlier in the year she had just taken her first communion, and I was told that a lot of parents stop sending their kids after that.  They come back when it’s time to get the sacrament of Confirmation.  I felt very strongly about a continuing religious education for my kids, no matter how sparse it felt as compared to mine in a Catholic school, and so I took the plunge and gave my name as a volunteer.

I was nervous and apprehensive at first — because I have no background in education whatsoever.  But according to Carrotte, the Religious Ed representative of our church, the only requirement they had was for the desire to share our faith with the children in the class.

And so week after week, I show up to a group of 10 third graders, all at different places in their faith formation, and all of different personalities.  It is unnerving to think about what to expect from them, but at the same time I remember, they are looking at me too to learn and hopefully grow.  I don’t pretend to know everything, and an inner voice just always tells me — just be present.  It’ll work out. 

A teacher’s prayer — I never thought it would apply to me. But it does!

There is a book that we follow as a guide, but they are not strict about following it to the letter.  “It will depend on what the kids need, and sometimes that’s not in the book,” they said at the Cathecist’s briefing.  So we learn to go with the flow.

The guide-book.  My bible.

I’d have to admit that it is this part of my week that stresses me out the most.  The group I’ve gotten is very smart, and also very active.  It’s hard to contain them in their chairs every afternoon in the middle of the week right after a long day of school.  Most of them would rather be outdoors running around.  I am challenged each week to think of a creative way to teach the lesson.

Calling in Father to teach the children about the mass.

It’s more work than I bargained for, and it’s also not something I need on my already full plate.  And while it’s quite the roller coaster ride each time, surprisingly it’s also one of the more fulfilling moments of my week.  So far, after each class there is a sense of inner peace, with the hope and prayer that something good came out of this particular session with me.

I email the parents after every class as to what we have done and covered, and I have heard back from a few of them who appreciate the effort and tell me that their kids are having a lot of fun, and I do appreciate the feedback.

I am learning too.  I’ve learned a lot about these kids and their families and knowing their stories, I feel has made me a more compassionate person in such a short span of time.  I’ve learned a lot from them just by being around them.  And it’s because I’ve opened myself to this opportunity that I feel I’ve found — dare I say — a vocation, and a sense of purpose in the larger community.

A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA

Happy New Year, Blog

Why hello there, blogging world. 🙂  I don’t know if you remember me.  It’s been four months after all.

So much has happened since then, and a lot of it is still going, just one thing after another.  Time escapes me.  Sometimes I think — yes let’s sit and write, but then — something else needs my “urgent” attention.  Or, I fall asleep (okay, that’s not time that’s old age). 

As my friend Michelle says, we haven’t been able to get off the train.  Everything is fun, educational, exhausting and time-consuming all at once.  We are making memories and learning as we go.  And so much changes so quickly.

I realized it takes a lot of energy to inflate all 5 life bubbles.  It is a whole other ball game keeping them all equally inflated.  Even that is a lesson in itself.But six days into the new year, I finally find myself with some spare time (well really… there is a pile of unattended laundry staring me in the face) to write, even just a little bit.  And I have to admit, it’s a nice feeling to come back to this again.Sam had an exercise in school last year that I thought would be great to repeat this year, even for myself.

This is our second year to do this exercise.

I focus on the “1” — As you may have read in previous posts, I am not big on new year’s resolutions.  But hey, we all change even just a little bit right?  So maybe a regular post or update is the one thing to start — or re-start.  For whatever other purpose it serves, coming back to this space is something that makes me feel a little bit more like me, and that’s a good place to start the year.  Let’s see how far we can take this, this time around. :)Happy New Year to us all.  Onwards, 2017!

Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes On Becoming a Better Mom

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.  😉

A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA My Mommyology Recommends My Mommyology's Manila Chapter On Becoming a Better Mom

Another Year for a #BetterMe

Two weeks into the new year, and it’s the first time (in a long time!) that I’m alone at home and in bed.  We had quite the crazy winter with the house coming together, Sam’s birthday, and then all the relatives that came and spent the holidays with us.  And when that was done, it was all about getting the routine back into place.

You know how the coming of the new year and all the posts on Facebook make you think about the year that was?  Reflect on the year in review, talk about the big milestones and major changes that happened.  Say goodbye and thank you to 2015, and then look forward to 2016.  And then boom, the fireworks and the champagne and the new year’s resolutions and the corresponding feelings come tumbling out.  It’s the positive charge needed to start the new year.

Last year, was born.  Nine moms and very dear friends attended The One Core’s Discover Your Core Weekend with Coach Pia, the starting point for this advocacy project.

Borrowed from
Borrowed from

We have in common what a lot of mothers (and people in general), want:  to be better people, better mothers, and better versions of ourselves — if only because we want to create a better world for the next generation.  It’s done on a very tangible, relevant platform too — social media!  Who isn’t on their computer or looking at their phone these days, or watching You Tube instead of TV?

It is becoming a great source of new and current information, with relevant links and channels for moms and kids alike.  I’m particularly a fan of Kids Know It.

Over the years that we’ve been working with Coach Pia and mounting #BetterMe seminars, I’ve learned so much about myself and how my whole person affects the way I am, and most especially, the way I parent.  The responsibility to a better, brighter  world all begins with me (us).  It’s a continuous process, with major ups and downs, and hiccups and bumps on the road, but still all with the same end goal that we hope to share with more people.

The prevailing thought in my head was a busy 2015.  A lot of it was life-changing, but also very “life-draining”.  As parents with responsibilities and chores and a household to look after, a lot of our energy is outward-focused.  And if your Enneagram profile is like mine (2’s anyone?), then it’s a natural tendency to put others before yourself.

On this journey of becoming a #BetterMe, I realized that no one will take better care of me, than me.  And so I have taken more purposeful, conscious steps to do things which are life-giving.  They’re not big drastic changes, but little steps that I can insert into the daily juggling act, that should help carry me through every day.  And if it makes me a better person, following the logic it will help me be a better person in the five major life bubbles, parenting included. I’ve found that writing, contributing, reading and watching what’s on to be quite life-giving.

It’s a privilege to be a part of this project. is a great constant reminder of what we set out to achieve.


Join the community on Facebook Twitter, Instagram and You Tube: @bettermeph.

Life in CA Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Recommends On Becoming a Better Mom

Fit (and Healthy), Bit by Bit

My husband gifted me with a Fitbit Charge HR for my last birthday.

Yay! Happy birthday to me!
Yay! Happy birthday to me!

I’d been curious about the Fitbit for quite sometime, after seeing my fitness-conscious brother and the rest of my family “compete” for the most number of steps on a daily basis.

Initially, I thought the Fitbit was just a sophisticated pedometer.  Now that I have mine, I realize it’s so much more.  And I dare say — I love it!  It’s been over a month since I started wearing it everyday, and now I feel like I can’t do without it.

The features in a nutshell.
The features in a nutshell.

Here’s my take on it.  For one to appreciate the Fitbit (and it’s product variants, like the Charge HR), you’d have to be…. un-fit. 😉 (I mean that in the most harmless way possible! )  It’s really no use to triathletes, or people like my brother who train for capoeira everyday.  But for people like me who’ve been trying to get back in shape for quite sometime, I’d say it’s a helpful tool.

For my opinion, it is this:  The Fitbit Charge HR brings a greater daily awareness to my lifestyle habits, and allows me to set concrete goals towards the change I aim to achieve.

My husband calls it my very own personal trainer, that’s attached to me 24/7 (except when it’s charging for 2 hours, which happens every 3-4 days for me).  Because I’m the type who cannot stand, not meeting a personal goal!

Come the girls’ bedtime, if I see that I’m 2,476 steps away from the daily 10,000, I start to jog up and down our little hallway.  Sam has caught marching up and down while she read RazKids in the room and she couldn’t stop laughing.

I’ve also become more conscious about exercising regularly, which has really been a challenge for me since we moved.  When I exercise, 10,000 steps is easy.  But now I know — I need to move more!  So instead of sitting down outside the Kumon center while the girls are inside, I walk or jog around the neighboring community.  When I can’t exercise, I vacuum the apartment, much to my husband’s surprise (because vacuuming was a task that I dubbed was his).  The apartment feels much cleaner, I get my steps, and everyone wins.

I’m also conscious of how much water I take in — which wasn’t much apparently during my pre-Fitbit days.  And we all know how essential 8 glasses of water is on a daily basis!

The report from my Fitbit Dashboard.
The report from my Fitbit Dashboard.

The other thing I do now is count calories.  In Manila, I honestly found this very tedious, but here — everything has some form of calorie count.  And if it’s not already on the internet, it’s easy to find.  So my Fitbit Charge HR allows me to keep track of the calories I burn, and at the very least, I try not to take in more than that.  It’s great because I’ve not given up on sweets totally, but I’ve learned to eat them more in moderation.  And when I have some calories leftover, I have the occasional glass of wine. 😉

It also keeps track of my heart rate.  I think that’s how it measures how many calories one burns.  I like seeing the difference during the day and over the course of time (given the recorded history).

Another thing:  the Fitbit Charge HR makes me less dependent on my iPhone for three things.  The first is time.  I’d always whip out or carry my iPhone in one hand because I wanted to check the time.  I was never a watch person to begin with.  But with this Fitbit on my wrist, I just tap it thrice to get the time.

The second is its caller ID function.  My husband’s biggest frustration is that I always keep my phone on silent, and I never hear it when he calls.  Because the Fitbit Charge HR syncs with my computer and my phone, it vibrates when someone calls me, and their name pops up on my wrist!  So I don’t need to take my phone off silent mode, and I don’t miss any of my husband’s calls.  Again, a win-win situation.

As you can see, I haven't been getting much sleep lately, and apparently I made up for it last night!
As you can see, I haven’t been getting much sleep lately, and apparently I made up for it last night!

The third is my sleep pattern.  I used to manually record my sleep patterns on the iPhone’s built-in Health App.  I didn’t like it much because it required I remember or estimate the time I went to bed and the time I woke up.  Sometimes though while putting the girls to sleep, I fall asleep myself — and I don’t check the time.  With my Fitbit Charge HR on my wrist, it can tell exactly when I fell asleep, when I woke up, and how many good hours of sleep I got that night.

Seeing how attached I am to my Fitbit, my husband has decided to get one for himself.  And because of that plan, we’ve decided to invest in the Aria weighing scale, another smart product extension by Fitbit.

My favorite weighing scale to date.
My favorite weighing scale to date.

The scale also syncs with the device and the internet, and can calculate one’s BMI and fat percentage.  It can track as many as 8 people’s personal stats.  You just need to input this into the dashboard when you set up.  The scale knows when it’s me, and can sense how far or near I am to my weight loss goal.

I’m also amused by the system of encouragement Fitbit has set in place.  I get alerts on my phone, and helpful tips on the newsletters, and badges when I achieve something!  I haven’t earned a badge in a while, so I am motivated to keep trying (My, I sound like a Girl Scout.  Now I understand how Sam feels about those badges!)

So can I officially call myself a penguin?!
So can I officially call myself a penguin?!

I am happy to report a little bit of progress on the weight loss goals.  I understand it’s slow given that several lifestyle changes still need to be made (and by golly gee, it’s hard!).  But it’s a start… and at least I know I’m on the right track! 😉