A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Mommy Anecdotes

Coming Home to Chapel Hill

After our Disney Cruise we had the option of staying in Florida and hitting the theme parks with my brother-in-law’s family (I hear that the meet and greet with Queen Elsa there is a 5-hour wait!! Yikes!), or taking a side trip back into Chapel Hill for a couple of days.  The latter was less stressful for us and it was a chance to decompress our schedule and chill before another long leg into the West Coast.  On top of that the girls would be able to go back to their original stomping grounds and we’d be around “old” friends.  There were many compelling reasons to head back.

What a lovely sight. :)
I smiled quite involuntarily when we passed this sign. 🙂

Sam felt very strongly about going there too, and wanting to spend as much time as she could with Elie — which is pretty much what we did for the duration of our stay (to the girls’ delight).

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Jamie and Elie’s younger sister Maya hit it off immediately.  They did spend a lot of time together as babies, although it never occurred to me that there would be any remnants of those memories almost 18 months later.  Jamie (and Maya) both have a shy bone in their bodies and it usually takes a while for kids like them to warm up and feel comfortable.  But Jamie felt right at home, and went straight to playing and being present like she used to.  She was right at home, as if it’s something she’s been doing consistently week after week.  Things were familiar somehow (The baby brain really is something isn’t it!) .  By the end of the night, she and Maya were hugging their goodbyes, asking to see each other the next day.

Old Friends!
Old Friends!  They remembered each other!

Over all it was an easy, relaxed trip; a good way for the girls to unwind from our hectic Disney Days.  And it really just felt good to be back.

We visited the old streets and restaurants we used to go to.

Running wild and free...
Running wild and free…

We went to the Life and Science Museum and rode the train (an old favorite).

All Aboard!
All Aboard!

We also saw the new developments they had over there since we left and it was all still pretty exciting (It’s a good reason to come back again in the future!).  I really think it was the frequent visits we made to the museum was what propelled Sam’s appreciation for science and nature.

Clockwise:  (1) New Alpacas at the farm! (2) Girls identifying butterflies (3) Sam experimenting in the Space exhibit and (4) Jamie introduces Bunny to their resident bunny.
Clockwise: (1) New Alpacas at the farm! (2) Girls identifying butterflies (3) Sam experimenting in the Space exhibit and (4) Jamie introduces Bunny to their resident bunny.

We even had our very own Kindermusik class with all our old friends.

Really REALLY awesome to be around these folks again!
Really REALLY awesome to be around these folks again!

It was the best, the sweetest “welcome back” greeting we ever got.  And the girls loved every minute of it.  Even Jamie was a surprise (again) — she seemed less conscious and less clingy.  All her shyness had faded away.  Jamie started Kindermusik with Rebecca since she was 6 months old (well, she was in my tummy when we’d take Sam all her life), so again, probably a latent feeling or memory that was just reinforced during this trip.

I wasn’t expecting Jamie to have many memories of the place since she was 18 months old when we left.  But she seemed right at home everywhere we went.

We took the girls to their Dads’ school and had our customary University of North Carolina photos.

Right at home indeed.
Right at home indeed.

The weather was perfect all throughout.  We just let them walk around and frolic about campus.  It was nice to let them run in spacious grounds.  There isn’t too much of that in Manila and so I feel the girls also feel very constricted when they’re with me because I need to have them close by me.

There, in Chapel Hill — the boundaries seemed to extend and the restrictions lessened.    And there was something so…. easy and natural about it.  I felt very at ease.  I got comments on some of my Instagram feed as to how relaxed I looked.  It’s because I really was (despite my travel fatigue).  Another comment I got was how our pictures showed we still love the place so much.

Some things never change. :)
Some things never change. 🙂

And it’s true — we do.

I think a part of us will always stay in Chapel Hill.  No matter where in the world we are, that’s how it’s always going to be.  Going back there, it’s like coming home and re-connecting that little part that was left behind and becoming whole again.

A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

I Left My Heart in Chapel Hill

It’s been almost three weeks since we said goodbye to our Chapel Hill home.

I’ve been told that as time passes I would miss it less and less, but somehow as the days go by and as things settle down (We came straight into our new home and have been extremely busy putting it together ever since), I just find that I miss it more and more.  I’ve also been looking at some of the last pictures that we took as I haven’t been able to update my Facebook albums since we started packing, and it makes me quite nostalgic just thinking about it all.  The ones of our empty apartment get me the most I think.

My Mommyology Empty Home

As part of our coping and adjustment phase, Sam and I talk about the things we miss in Chapel Hill.  I’m surprised that she always initiates it and brings it up multiple times a day.    I suppose it is on her mind a lot.  She always starts with, “I’m sad because I miss ___ in Chapel Hill…” or “Mama, do you remember ____ in Chapel Hill?”.  They normally come when we’re in the car, or right before bed time.  It doesn’t make my adjustment any easier, but I figure it’s a good thing to openly talk about and acknowledge how we’re all feeling, in the hopes that it will make this life-transition much easier to cope with.

So here is a run down of some of the things we miss about our life in Chapel Hill:

(Side note:  I will not go into the people, since they know that we miss them beyond words… )

 1.  Clean, unpolluted air, and not-so-busy streets.  Not-so-busy is an understatement I would say.  It’s really a “country-mouse moves to the city” type of scenario.  We used to wake up to birds chirping or pecking at our glass window; and now the sounds of a motorcycle or a siren or a honk wake us in the morning.

And then, there is the traffic – a totally new concept to my girls.  Ohhhh, the TRAFFIC.  It is so bad that just this evening, Jamie threw up twice in a 70-min car ride.  We never made it to our destination.

Sam keeps saying that the roads are not bumpy in Chapel Hill (there are a ton of potholes here!) and that it’s not traffic in Chapel Hill.  Indeed, it is not and being able to get to and from any destination in a precise amount of time is something I miss every time I step into a car.

2.  Pedestrians having the right of way.  Strangely enough, before my Chapel Hill days this never bothered me so much.  Now I seem to notice it, especially because my girls and I try to be pedestrians ourselves in our city-community.  Cars don’t stop to let people cross!  And conversely, people just cross everywhere and at any time!  It’s a little crazy!  I have found myself stopping the car to let pedestrians cross here, but I just get honked at from the cars behind me.

3.  Playgrounds.  Sam asks to go to a playground everyday.  The ones we have here are not outdoor, or are not as sophisticated as the ones we would frequent around the Chapel Hill community.  So far in the last two weeks, we’ve gone to more malls and toy stores than playgrounds.  I guess I just miss the safe outdoor clean-air type of fun where the girls can  expend their energy.

My Mommyology Target
Always a happy place!

4.  Target, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods…  I did my first shopping trip last week in an old supermarket.  I felt so overwhelmed and so dizzy.  There were so many shoppers that our shopping carts kept running into people; so many promo ladies in every aisle pushing products in your face… I’d forgotten.  I really had (and in my previous life I would HIRE these promo ladies for my brands!  Good Lord what was I thinking?!).  I miss my easy grocery trips and outings to Target, where, even with the girls in tow, it was never as stressful.  I haven’t gone back, but I know that I need to very soon…

5.  Freebies.  Parking in Chapel Hill is free, and so are a lot of loyalty cards.  Again, I had forgotten.  I only realized this when I was at a coffee shop last weekend and the sales lady asked me if I wanted their loyalty swirl card.  Without looking up I said yes of course, sign me up, only to notice as I paid that there was a charge on my credit card.  I inquired and asked why it wasn’t free, and she smiled and pointed to this tent card to my left that I hadn’t noticed, as if to say, “next time, read what’s not within your line of sight!”

That’s another thing…

6.  Excellent Customer Service In Chapel Hill (and in the US in general), I know that you can return all sorts of items with no questions asked.  Here, last week — I purchased a pair of house slippers for Jamie, only to find that when I got home, the band at the back of her right foot was looser (or had been stretched more) than the one on the left, which made it hard for her to walk.  I went back the next day and asked if I could exchange it, and I was told to just sew the right band together so that I could make it tighter.  I was a little shocked and I asked if I could trade it for another pair.  The sales lady looked very reluctant, but finally agreed after I insisted 4 more times.  Then she also said I only had one chance at a return and that I couldn’t return the item anymore after.

7.  The DV-R.  Being able to record the shows and watch them repeatedly at any point in time.  Sam and Jamie definitely miss that. We catch a show randomly on TV (We’re not even familiar with the show times and schedule yet), and Sam says she wants to watch it again later, or tomorrow.  Oh dear.

8.  ONLINE SHOPPING!  I will speak more about this in the future (I promise to blog more often now) 😉  But yes, I miss sitting at my desk at any hour of the day, and having all my packages, necessities included – come land at my doorstep.  At least, I wouldn’t have to battle traffic that drives me nuts on a regular basis!

I know, I know… it will get easier as time passes and I just have to be patient.

Also, don’t get me wrong:  there are a lot of good things that make me happy to be back, and wonderful family and friends who are helping us cope with the adjustment (Thank God for them!) — and you will hear more about that in future posts for sure.

But in the meantime, I (we girls — Jamie is going through her own version of it too) am in this phase and I felt it important to acknowledge that.  It just only goes to show what a big part the last four years have been in my life.  I don’t think I’d be who I am today without it all.  And so I do think Chapel Hill — and all that comes with it — deserves a big chunk of my heart for all time.

Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Wants to Help

A My Mommyology Discovery: My SweetARTS

There’s a new parent/caregiver – child activity in town this summer over here in Chapel Hill, and it’s called My SweetARTS.


My Mommyology My SweetARTS
Logo captured from

I first discovered it at the  Touch-a-Truck event last April and learned about the program from co-founder Rosario Vila.  She and her partner Michelle Schoof were putting together a set of age appropriate infant and toddler classes at the University Mall, and Jamie and I were one of the lucky chosen few to get a free trial class.

The My SweetARTS curriculum is a combination of Michelle’s  music, art, and drama education and Rosario’s love for visual arts and crafts.  I actually like the way Michelle sings and Rosario has such a warm personality.  She talks to each child personally and tries to engage them in every activity.

In the class that we attended, Michelle played the guitar and led the singing and movement activities (as from what I understand, the songs sung are original), while Rosario helped each child take a turn on the chosen instrument or assisted by featuring pictures related to the topic.  Our class had as its theme “Exploring the 5 senses”, and the lyrics to familiar children songs’ melodies were thus adapted to the theme.  A familiar story was also injected into the activity where animal sounds were played to create a multi-sensory experience.

The best part (at least in my opinion) was the arts and crafts portion.  Towards the end of the class Michelle and Rosario revealed an area in the room which had cold colored noodles, play-doh, some chalk, magnets and little packs of grapefruit, coffee beans and lemons for the kids to explore, taste, and play with.  Jamie absolutely loved the noodles and even took a lick of a piece of lemon and a piece of grapefruit.  I couldn’t tear her away from the play-doh either, even if I knew she was already tired and ready to go.

My Mommyology My SweetARTS kids
Property of My SweetARTS, Chapel Hill.

I felt that this was what made the class unique to the current offerings here in Chapel Hill.  There aren’t that many programs for infants and toddlers which offer art appreciation, craft exploration or a multi-sensory experience using creative materials.  That’s the kind of thing that I find Jamie is into now as we are always drawing and coloring and pulling out the play-doh.  The current activities that we go to (The Traveling Teacher Show Gymboree and Bull City Crafts) are geared more towards the older kids, and we do go because of Sam (Jamie is just shlepped around with no choice on her part) so it’s nice to find something that is specifically for Jamie’s age range.

My SweetARTS has four sets of classes: the Sweet Peas for 4-14 month old children, the Sweet Berries for 14 – 24 month old toddlers, the Sweet Potatoes for 2-3 year old children and the Sweet Families for families with multiple children of all ages.  There’s an ongoing promotional rate this summer for eight classes and one make-up class.  You can read more about each of the classes on their website.

Although Michelle and Rosario officially launched their programs about 2 weeks ago, they are open to drop-ins for the classes that still have space.  You just need to contact them at

Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries

A Strawberry Saturday

About two years ago the Kenan Connection (the group for MBA Students’ trailing spouses) hosted a blueberry picking activity.  I realized that I had never been berry-picking ever in my life and was interested to go, but Sam was too young to drag along to such an affair.  So I decided to try my luck last year.  When I inquired again, I made another discovery:  there was also a season for strawberry picking in Chapel Hill!  That was much more appealing to me because I LOVE strawberries!

Apparently the season for strawberry picking happens much earlier in the year.  Lucky for me my friend T was also interested in doing some berry picking and came across Notes from a Mom in Chapel Hill’s post on Jean’s Berry Patch.  She noted that Jean’s would open for picking by April 9, and that we shouldn’t wait too long if we wanted to go and get some good berries.

So – after a 24-hour weather watch to ensure that there would be no rain, we took the girls out to pick ’em strawberries just last Saturday morning.

The weather started out as perfect, it was cool and sunny with a little bit of cloud cover.  Jean’s Berry Patch was an easy 20-minute drive from where we live, and to think we had never been down that road in all our 4 years here in Chapel Hill.

We arrived at the same time that Elie’s family did which made the berry-picking a lot more fun for the little ones to do together.  This was a first for Sam too and she dove right into it.  At first that she started by picking the berries I pointed to her.  Her untrained fingers would hold the bulb and when she’d apply pressure to yank them, some berry juice would spill on her hands.  Her inner-OC kicked in after that and her new strategy was to have me pick the berry for her to put in the basket.

I taught her a little bit about picking the berry from the top of the stem, but the berry juice damage had been done.  She was just happy to listen.   Jamie on the other hand, was all to happy to pick and squish.  I think she even tasted a few!

My Mommyology Strawberry Picking
My Strawberry Girl at work

The bunch that we got was fairly decent compared to the other strawberry pickers.  You pay $1.55 per pound — I think we only paid $1.50!  Nonetheless we were out there for the experience first and foremost.

After picking there’s an area with a sandbox and some see-saws so the girls got to hang out a little bit and play with the berry patches as their backyard.

On our way home we stopped by the shop at the front which sold pre-picked strawberries, some strawberry made pastries and pound cake.  We brought home the Strawberry bread and 1/4 of a pound cake which were pretty good!  I wouldn’t mind going back for more.  In fact, I’m sure Sam would like to make a trip back, if only to see her “friend”… the dancing plastic strawberry man (with the nice smile).

My Mommyology Dancing Plastic Strawberry Man
Who would've thought this thing flapping in the wind would be a main attraction?

And as for the 20 little berries that we took home — what became of them?   Sam, Jamie and I tried our hands at a simple strawberry muffin recipe!

My Mommyology Homemade Strawberry Muffins
Not to shabby, wouldn't you say?


Mommy Discoveries Mommyology Current Affairs

My Mommyology Likes: Chapel Hill’s Touch-A-Truck Event

It has been a busy busy April, I can tell you that!  The warmer Spring weather brought with it a whole slew of fun activities and new things for us to do.  Sam is of age where she can appreciate all these little adventures in and around town, and Jamie is old enough as well to participate (as far as her memory goes, it will have to be through the pictures!).

My Mommyology Touch-A-Truck
On it's 4th year!

Last weekend we went with Elie and some of their friends to the 4th Annual Touch-a-Truck Event at the University Mall.  Sam was because she knew we were going to be hanging with Elie for the weekend (I think if we’d put them in a box the excitement would be the same!), and also because as we pulled up to the parking, she saw all the vehicles already parked.  She also caught sight of the bouncy house, another plus in her book.

The event was a winner all-around.  The standard entrance fee of $5 a head (kids 2 and below are free) helps benefit the North Carolina Children’s Hospital’s Promise Grant program and Troop 39’s community service projects and activities.   By nature of the event, the kids can explore all sorts of trucks and vehicles of all types in a safe environment.  They had actual firemen, state troopers, a K-9 dog, medics and owners and drivers of the vehicles talking to the kids about what their vehicle could do and how it operates.  The kids were allowed to wear helmets, honk horns, sit in the driver’s seat and play with the knobs and all of that.  It was pretty interesting!  Some of the vehicles were also on call; in fact the medics had us nicely climb out of the Ambulance we were playing in because they had to leave to pick up a patient!  Heehee!

My Mommyology Touch-A-Truck
Some of the hundreds of photos we took.

Sam was thrilled with the activity because she got to “drive” the different big vehicles that she normally just sees in books and on the road passing us by.  The State Trooper even let her sound the siren in her car twice!  Sam was not shy in the least and approached the police officers and firemen with a big smile.  She answered all their questions (politely!) when they talked to her too.  I was impressed.

My Mommyology State Trooper Car
Sam: What does "this" button do?! (press!)

We even got to watch an actual helicopter land!  That was a first for me.

My Mommyology Actual Helicopter Landing
Click on the picture or the link above to see the video we filmed!

It was a nice warm day out, and thankfully there was a stand outside that sold cold water and refreshing soft drinks.  The girls were troopers too (no pun intended).  There were a lot of vehicles and a lot of people standing in line to try each one out; so Sam and Jamie ate their lunches while waiting for their turn.

The kids took home a lot of free things, such as construction hats and Junior Trooper stickers.  Sam got her hands painted for free twice.  We even signed up for a free trial Art Class for Jamie next month!

I am obviously a Touch-a-Truck fan.  I love how activities like these make learning fun, relevant and interactive for the kids.  Sam asks to see the pictures we took everyday, and she tells me which truck is which and re-lives the tidbit of information that she picked up from that particular vehicle.  She is asking if there will be another Touch-A-Truck Event soon as she already wants to go back.

And while I know the last four years they’ve only done it once each time, I am hoping that somehow there are other activities like these in our immediate future.