A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA

A #TrailingSpouse’s Village

Welcome to the 4th run of the #TrailingSpouseStories.  This love month is not only for expressing our love for our expat partners. There are other people and objects of our affection like our home countries. This month we trailing spouses talk about our homesickness, our longing for our home countries, which we do love in more ways than one.


In light of this month’s #TrailingSpouseStories theme, I’d like to share my personal theory on homesickness (or the lack thereof).  And for all intents and purposes, the only basis this theory has —  is me. 😉

We are all born into a “village”.  Apart from our immediate family, it’s all the relatives, friends and help that we get to raise children into the best kinds of human beings we possibly can be.  Hence the well-known African proverb:

... or some e-card funnier version of it. ;)
… or some e-card funnier version of it. 😉

When you’re born and/or raised into your “village”, the tendency is to accept everything that comes with it, without question.  All the personalities, the weird and odd things, the relationships in all states and stages and the social skills, or lack thereof.  It’s the whole package.  It’s what you know, how you were raised, and what you believe to be right and true.  And the village stays together and is very close-knit because everyone follows the same culture and belief system (How very M Night Shyamalan of me!).  This therefore makes a member of the village loyal; and as an effect, builds attachment and interdependency amongst its members.   Really, what’s wrong with that?
The problem comes when life happens and you have to leave the cozy confines of your village to create your own, start anew, and well… trail your spouse.  And everything that is new and different takes some getting used to.  Admittedly, it’s just harder.

That’s when the homesickness sets in.  It hits hard especially if a person had the most positive experiences of their lives in this village.  It’s very hard to let go of those.

When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do...
When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do…

But here’s what I realized, all thanks to my wise mentor and slightly balding Godfather  (aka “Ninong”, but The Godfather kinda gives him a more regal ring to it, no? ;)).  During one of our “life” discussions, he once told me I’d survive anywhere if only because I knew how to “create” my own village.

Like everyone, I too was born and raised in a village.  But some thing, some circumstance or event(s) along the way of it all made me realize:  The entire system I was raised into wasn’t all for me.  And somewhere along the way, I learned to customize:  I take those that I want, and leave out those I feel don’t fit.  It could’ve been a coping mechanism on my part, but all I know is that it’s what works for me (and now for how I raise the girls).

It’s not that I’m unattached.  On the contrary, I’m big on staying in touch and keeping strong ties.  Many that know me and are close to me can vouch for that, no matter where in the world we are (literally).  Thanks to social media and all our gizmos and gadgets, it’s been easier to keep tabs on everyone too.

And I think because of this “trait” of mine, my attachment becomes fluid.  Instead of a whole village, I miss parts of it.  I miss specific people.  Though I miss their physical presence, I’m still genuinely happy to connect whenever we can, physically or virtually (I guess it helps that my Language of Love is “Words”).

When people ask me if I miss the Philippines, I can never give a straight answer.  The Philippines will of course always be a home to come back to.  And everything that happens to it, the good and the bad, I go through it too.  But if I’m being honest, I’ve also had so many positive, life changing experiences outside of Manila, it’s become easy to leave without an urgent longing to come back.  The birth of my two children in Chapel Hill can’t beat any other experience I’ve had anywhere else.  And I think it’s also paved the open-mindedness  towards living away from home.  Maybe that’s why with this move to California, we quickly adjusted to our new life, as some have observed.

Also, it’s hard to be homesick when you see that Jamie is significantly better here.  Not once since our move, has she had to take antihistamine for her allergy.  Her topical creams and ointments?  We apply once a week; and maybe twice when the weather shifts drastically.

Ironically enough, it all comes down to the little unit of two little girls and a husband that is my village.  With all this moving and trailing and what have you, they have become my home.  We’ve developed our own belief systems, social skills and little culture.  It has parts of the villages my husband and I originally came from, but it’s essentially its own ecosystem.

My village.
My village.

And if you follow the logic,  it’s this village that I’ve become attached to.  We are interdependent of each other.  So no matter where in the world I am, it is without them when I am most homesick.

Read more about other trailing spouses’ experiences with homesickness:

Elizabeth of Secrets of a Trailing Spouse shares how homesickness wasn’t what she expected
Clara of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide tells how she has been homesick all her trailing spouse life
Tala Ocampo writes about the Life that Was in the Philippines and how she would still say yes to the trailing spouse life
 Yuliya of Tiny Expats relives the sensory experience of being back home
Didi of D for Delicious talks about her love-hate relationship with her home country

Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

Travel To Bohol: Bringing Learning to Life

Last August during Buwan ng Wika (It’s the month schools dedicate the curriculum to learning about the Philippine language and culture)  Sam’s Kindergarten level focused on the Visayas region.  I distinctly remember it because the parents were asked to volunteer and help teach the kids about typical foods, dances, animals, and tourist destinations found in and around the provinces there.  Sam, an avid learner, took everything to heart.  Of course since then she’s asked to visit Visayas countless times.  Technically she has been there already several times — to one of the country’s most popular tourist islands, Boracay.  And yet, a visit to the same place (while it is a wonderful place to be in every year), can get boring for an adventure-seeking peacock like Sam, and she still insisted on seeing more of the region.

Thankfully the opportunity came about when a client of YBS, Amorita Resort, asked us to visit for a weekend.  Kris and I decided to take the whole team, as well as our families and make it our annual outing.  Needless to say, Sam was over the moon.  We weren’t only going with her favorite travel buddies M and N (I suppose we do travel a lot together!), I’m going to see, and be and go to what I learned in schoolWheeee!” was her exact exclamation.  Everything came out in quite the jumbled squeal.

This was us on the bus!
This was us on the bus!

The trip was made so worthwhile from the get-go because Amorita took the liberty of hiring for us one of THE best tour guides in town.  She really lived and breathed everything about Bohol, it’s past, present and future.  She knew every single detail and explained everything to us very very well.  And she engaged the children and gave them age-appropriate trivia.  Even I was still learning something from her too.

I hadn’t been back to Bohol in quite a while so it was a refreshing visit to see how much had changed with the province. It was sad nonetheless to see the toll earthquake had when it hit last October.   A lot of the ancient churches had collapsed, and as our tour guide Kathy said, it was pretty much because they were 300 years old.

300yr old ruins
300-yr old ruins

Our first stop was the Loboc River Cruise, where you have a buffet meal and entertainment on a boat while riding down the Loboc River.  It takes over an hour to get up and down the river back to your starting point, and there is even now a stop midpoint where the natives dress and sing and dance in the local dialect.  Sam could appreciate it because they did a dance called the Tinikling, where people jump in and out to music while trying to avoid getting their feet stuck between two bamboo poles.  “We did that in school mom!”  she told me.

The Loboc River Cruise entertainment.
The Loboc River Cruise entertainment.

Then of course a trip to Bohol wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills.  The Tarsiers are now placed in a sanctuary of sorts and people are prohibited from holding them.  Apparently, these animals are solitary as much as they are nocturnal (big words Sam learned on this trip), and hence, nosy tourists that hold them stress them out.  I didn’t know that this sometimes causes them to bang their heads until they give themselves an internal brain bleed and die.  Yeeesh!

Hello there little primate.
Hello there little primate.

The kids were all surprisingly quiet as we visited the primates who were trying to sleep.  That’s another new thing I learned — Tarsiers aren’t monkeys!  Jamie was fascinated by them too and surprisingly absorbed a lot of what our tour guide Kathy was saying about them.

There’s not much to be said about the Chocolate Hills, as it is still a wonder all on its own.  Kathy gave the kids the exact count and my post-epidural brain forgot what it was.  She also told them how the Chocolate Hills came to be and why they weren’t so “chocolatey” anymore after the earthquake.  To know more, you should go take a trip yourselves!

The standard tourist shot.
The standard tourist shot.

On the way home we visited the site of the Blood Compact monument, another quick anecdote I had to relay to Sam.  I suppose this part she didn’t learn about yet at this age.

The next morning we got up at 5AM and went out on a boat to watch the Dolphins jump and feed and play, another activity Amorita arranged for the group.  We saw several pods and both children and adults alike were fascinated and excited.  Generally a tour group could have also gone snorkeling or scuba-diving in Pangalusian island and then had lunch there afterwards, but we had the kids so we needed to cut the activities up so they could rest.  Besides, we also wanted to enjoy the beautiful resort of Amorita and their wonderful service.

Photo courtesy of Jess Abillar
Photo courtesy of Jess Abillar

Ria once told me in a meeting that Amorita is known for its “infinite experiences” because they will really cater to each guests’ unique needs and wants.  And I’ve heard the same from friends who’ve stayed there before.  “They really spoil you“, I was told.

There’s a personal message from the person who turns down your room at night.  The kids get their own treats and messages too!

Happy Surprise for Sam when we got back to the room!
Happy Surprise for Sam when we got back to the room!

In fact when we met the resort manager Hermie, Sam went up to thank her for the cookies, but also mentioned that “my baby sister doesn’t like chocolate too much.  She prefers strawberry.”  Hermie’s reply was that she’d have the chef bake an extra batch of Strawberry cookies specifically for Jamie — and lo and behold when we arrived at our room that night, there they were!

Strawberry cookies for my strawberry girl!
Strawberry cookies for my strawberry girl!

Amorita is famous for their seaside villas which has a jacuzzi and view that overlook the beach.  It really speaks of a private getaway, and if you chose, you really wouldn’t have to leave the premises.  It’s perfect for people, couples and families who want their own space and pace.  The last time I went to Bohol, I didn’t stay in Amorita and now that I have, let me tell you it’s worlds apart from what the others have to offer.

The entrance to your private villa.
The entrance to your private villa.

Amorita is currently in progress with its second phase of villas and function areas that are set to open this May.  From what we saw, it’s going to be quite breathtaking.  They’re even putting a two floor dining area and bar which promises to have sumptuous dishes, and a huge, huge infinity pool!  The space for each villa is roomy enough and well-thought through.  Every little detail is worked out.  I suppose that’s the difference when the owners are hands on with the project from start to finish.  Their vision really shines through.

Although Amorita was not in Sam’s curriculum last August, they definitely played a key role in helping bring what she learned in school to life.  From the food to the best tour guides and most optimal schedule we had during our visit, Amorita made sure we left the island with a lot more than what we came with.  They enhanced and magnified everything Sam learned in school, and taught Jamie a whole lot of culture too.  They’ve taken everything to memory and to heart, and are both definitely looking forward to going back for more.

Sam enjoying her "field trip"
Sam enjoying her “field trip”
Mommy Anecdotes My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

Dresses, Dresses, Everywhere!

It’s that time of year when I once again purge and clean the girls’ wardrobe closets.

Jamie at 2.5 years of age has suddenly had some sort of a growth spurt.  She’s still very petite, but the 18-24 month and 2T clothes she’s been wearing are suddenly getting tighter and shorter.  On top of that, Jamie has also gotten to be very opinionated about her clothing choices and will not wear something she did not pick out herself.  Even if they don’t really match.  One time she insisted on going to school in her pajamas… and it wasn’t even pajama day!

Jamie follows the lead of her Ate Sam (of course!), who is suddenly so opinionated about what she’ll wear outside her school uniform.  It’s probably an offshoot of teaching them independence at an early age, and generally it’s okay.  Lately though, Sam just wants to wear dresses.  No shorts, no pants, not even skirts… but dresses.  Sam will ask me to take down 3 or 4 choices from her closet and will pick from there.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I like to dress the girls in situation-appropriate clothing.  It’s gotten harder to do that with Sam because of her dress-fettish (Is that normal though?!).  And the thing is, in my effort to invest in situation-appropriate clothing (ie play clothes),  she started out with a limited number of dresses, and just kept asking for more.

Who can resist Gingersnaps? :)
Who can resist Gingersnaps? 🙂

I haven’t gone shopping in Manila for children’s clothes (because I hoarded before coming back here), but couldn’t resist the new collections I saw at the Gingersnaps branches.

Gingersnaps has always been a well-loved brand for me even before I had kids.  When I wanted to give out clothes as gifts for kids, I would automatically head over there.  And now that I have girls, I’m quite thrilled when the girls get clothing gifts from their store!  They’re of good quality, they’re designed really nicely, and they last a long time.  Jamie wears a few of the Gingersnaps outfits that Sam has outgrown over the years (of course I kept them!).  What started out as just a local brand here is actually now in 7 countries around Asia!

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of meeting Sabrina and Sherry, the wonderful hardworking sisters-in-law behind this lovely brand.  They had invited some of the #SoMoms to lunch.  Nothing formal; just a nice relaxing, get together.  It was really just like going to a lunch amongst girlfriends.  They were both genuinely interested in all of our stories and what had driven us to start blogging.  They even shared a lot of her own stories as a moms and businesswomen themselves, and freely gave out advice that has worked for them in the past.  As a “new” mompreneur in this country, I totally appreciated this.

When I walked in, they were already all seated, and so I made a grand entrance carrying  Tin’s Two Tots braided crate.  That’s pretty much how Sabrina and Sherry learned that I was part of the Two Tots family.  And I must say that it was flattering to hear them sing praises for what they’ve come to know of our humble brand (Good job Bea, Liza and Andie!  Haha!).  When we got the chance to speak privately Sabrina mentioned we should one day exchange anecdotes about our businesses (Yay!).  I do look forward to that!

Photo Credit:  NonstopBabble
The SoMoms shopping at Gingersnaps.  Photo Credit: NonstopBabble

But back to the wonderful clothing world of Gingersnaps.  When I take the girls with me, it’s hard to control them in the store.  The window displays are such eye candy that even Sam deviates from our usual path and asks to enter.  She thinks it’s a place to play!

The clothes they love.  How can they not?  It’s soft and comfy.  Sam and Jamie wear pick out their Gingersnaps dresses every single week, and it still looks really good.  They’re really well made, and no matter how much they’re washed, they still go back to their original shape.

I got Sam the pink dress first... but the next time Jamie had the chance, she asked for the same one to twirl in.
I got Sam the pink dress first… but the next time Jamie had the chance, she asked for the same one to twirl in.

Gingersnaps outfits are quite stylish too.  If you watch Project Runway like I do, there are designers and stylists that are great at mixing and matching prints.  Gingersnaps knows how to do that well, and the kids look lovely!  In fact they dress better than me.  The sizing of the clothes will last the girls a good number of years too.  And the dresses (as you can see that’s pretty much all the girls have) versatile enough to become long shirts or blouses when the girls get bigger.

These are still big for the girls, but when they saw it they insist on wearing them.
These are still big for the girls, but when they saw it they insist on wearing them.

I was a little bit worried coming back home to Manila, about not having my go-to kiddie brands locally available.  I’m not anymore.  In fact I think I’ll pick out a few outfits for some of Sam’s friends back in the States.  There’s nothing like Gingersnaps’ style there and the outfits are great for layering.  Come to think of it, as I’m now sorting through the girls’ clothes, I realize they could use a few more practical outfits from there too. 😉


For the latest styles and collections, follow Gingersnaps on Facebook (Gingersnaps Philippines) Twitter and Instagram (@GingersnapsPH).



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

A Mother’s Love Like No Other

It’s the 8th consecutive day that I’ve been sick.  I’ve gone from just a plain, itchy scratchy throat to a slight fever with joint pains as I write this post.  I’ve used up what feels like 200 boxes of Kleenex, and my taste buds are shot.  I really can’t taste anything I eat.  I wish that I could just take a high dose cure-all pill and bury my head under the covers and sleep it off.  Of course I haven’t been able to do that for two living breathing reasons.

I do anything for my girls, no matter what condition my body is in.  I get up at 4 in the morning, after 2 hours of sleep and accompany Sam to the bathroom or have her eat noodles because she’s hungry.  I carry Jamie to sleep for hours on end when she can’t sleep straight lying down.  I bathe them even when I’m feeling sick because I’ve found the efficient routine that will make Jamie cry the least.  I am the only one they both will take their vitamins or medicine from.  I sleep in all kinds of positions just to make sure they’re both breathing and have enough cover.  I endure all kinds of poop explosions, drama, spit-ups, excuses, stubborn moments and tantrums.

Now I don’t mean to make myself out as a martyr because I know that the only reason as to why I go to the moon and back for them is because they’re my kids.  And I’m quite sure that if you’re a mom reading this, you’d probably feel the same way about the things that you’d do for your own child.  That’s how moms are built after all.  You — we, myself included — will go to any lengths to make sure our kids are safe, protected, happy, healthy and properly cared for.

In my sick state, I was zapping through the channels and I came across the latest Johnson’s Baby Ad (Side note:  Can I just say that Johnson’s Baby has always had a way at tugging at your heart.  I still remember their ad that said – Having a Baby Changes Everything.  So so true!).  This one had the one of the simplest messages I’ve ever seen, but again it rings true to the highest heavens.  In my case I couldn’t help but think that yes, no matter what or how I’m feeling, I’d throw myself under a bus if it meant protecting my kids.  It wouldn’t matter how trivial the problem was (like a bad haircut), or how life-changing (such as a future heartbreak)… I understand that it’s important to give all I can of me for them, and I would do that in a heartbeat.

My Mommyology Johnson's Baby TVC
If you haven’t seen it, watch it here. Get your tissues ready Moms!

Because really, there’s no other person that will give your child the complete kind of care that you would as their mother.  I see that too now that I’ve had to delegate some day-to-day tasks to other people who are trying to help us in this adjustment period.  While everyone cares for your child to their fullest capacity, there’s no one that will do things the way you (as their mom), will.  No one else will pick up the little nuances and the non-verbal cues that they send out; or will take the pains to research for the best solutions to their problems.  No other person will have the patience to see them through their sleepless teething nights, or will have the right words to say when they tell you about what’s bothering them, or will painstakingly answer the Why’s over and over again.  I’ve seen the look in my kids’ faces when other people help them with some of the things they know I used to do with them.  I feel that they can sense that while the task is accomplished, there’s something different about the process.  It’s not a bad thing… it’s just not mom — so it’s just not the same.

Now that both my girls are toddlers of course their needs are different from when they were first babies.  Nonetheless I still think back to those days (and  how they went by in a blip!).  I miss them, sort of, especially when I see this happy problem-free baby.  The ad is very nostalgic and triggers memories of when your kids when they were once that baby’s age.  I still look at pictures of Sam and Jamie when they weren’t able to walk or sit up, and I think:  Oh how simple the problems and challenges were then (Of course, I only know that now in retrospect, hahaha:))!

So much has changed in such a short span of time.  The life of a mom is filled with all sorts of ups and downs and loops and twists and turns…  We are changing as much as they are, and adapting to what it is they need (again another skill only you as their mother will have for them).  When I watch the girls sleep, I think to myself that there is still so much for me to learn and so much I still need to adapt to.  It feels overwhelming, especially on days when I am exhausted or just strung out, but somehow after there is a sense of calm because I know that I am equipped to do it.   The nice reminder that the Johnson’s Baby ad has given to me in these stuffy nose, back-aching days, is the fact that there really is no other love like that of a mother.

How does the Johnson’s Baby TVC make you feel?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


For my friends that don’t read Filipino, here is a rough translation of the message of the ad. 

“There will come a time…when someone will break your heart.

You may feel sad… about a bad haircut.

That’s why while I can, I’ll make sure… that no harm will come your way”.

A Mother’s love is like no other.

Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Recommends

My Mommyology Recommends: Oh Happy Day Birth Photography by Polly Fong

I am genuinely excited (ecstatic is more like it) and privileged to be one of the first few to share with you my best friend’s new endeavor.  World, meet Oh Happy Day Birth Photography by Polly Fong

Oh Happy Day Birth Photography By Polly Fong

Birth Photography is still not a common practice in the Philippines, mostly I think because of our country’s conservative and traditional heritage.  A lot of moms will be hesitant to have themselves “shot” at a very critical and intimate moment in their lives.  However on the flip side, we are also a country that embraces the “new”.  I think too that this new generation of moms (myself included) are more open to what the world has to offer them in terms of motherhood and all that comes with it.  Capturing their child’s birth story as it happens is one of those that I feel can soon become a trend in the country, and I am quite happy that Polly is a pioneer in this niche.

Even if I personally have not gotten the chance to have Polly as my own birth photographer, I will tell you why I can vouch for her, and why I would encourage you to, at the very least, explore the idea of having her present at your own child’s birth:

Polly is Personal.  I’ve known her all my life (we practically grew up together, and have been through all the highs, lows and in-betweens of each others’ lives, in spite of the physical distance and differing timezones.  We are godparents to each others’ children and our families are practically family)  and I can definitely say that once you meet or even talk to her, you will feel at ease instantly.  Polly has that kind of ease about her.  By the end of your first interaction with her, I wouldn’t be surprised if you instantly liked (or even loved) her, to the point that you wouldn’t feel like she was someone you hired, but more of a friend, present for one of the most important times in your family’s life.

Polly is Passionate.  Polly loves what she does — even if it means being on call 2 weeks before and after your due date, and rushing to a hospital in the wee hours of the morning, she absolutely loves it.  That to me is the first key ingredient to amazing output.  She puts her heart into each and every picture, and that does her wonders in photographing the right emotions.

Oh Happy Day Birth Photography by Polly Fong
The One Where Manong (Older Brother) Meets His Little Sister

Polly is Professional.  More than just professional, she is highly ethical.  She puts the needs and wishes of her clients first and above all else, without any hidden agenda whatsoever.  There is no “reading between the lines” with Polly; she tells you exactly what she means and sticks to it, and doesn’t take advantage of situations.

Polly also knows what it’s like to be in the birthing mother’s shoes — as she has been there herself.  As such she puts a lot of importance on being as unobtrusive as possible so that the family can enjoy this very special and intimate moment without a camera directly in their face.

Oh Happy Day Birth Photography by Polly Fong
The One with Dad and His Toothbrush

Polly is a Perfectionist.  She is as OC as OC can get (I tell you, my friends and I get along because we have this in common, yes?).  You can be sure that Polly will be as clean and as sanitized as every nurse and doctor in the delivery room.  More than that, she will plan and go over scenarios with you before the event to ensure that you are comfortable and at ease with her presence there.  As for the final output, she will not release an image to you that she isn’t 200% sold on herself. 

Polly is Perceptive.  This I feel is one of her best qualities as a person, and it definitely works to her advantage as a journalistic type of photographer.  I love that she is so insightful and attune to your feelings, and it shows in her work.  She is able to capture moments that you would not be able to enjoy at that particular point in time (for various reasons) and allows you to relive and relish every detail when all the excitement surrounding the birth have calmed.

Oh Happy Day Birth Photography by Polly Fong
This is my favorite one by far (so far!)

Polly’s photos tell a story; the kind that can really only be told once, and the kind that not many people can enjoy in the moment that it happens.  She does that for you — she captures and immortalizes the important little details so that you can one day share it with your child for him or her to appreciate it too.  As someone who knows Polly on a personal level, I can say in all honesty and sincerity that I have benefited tremendously from her presence in my life.  If you allow her to be be a part of yours (and your child’s) too, I’ve no doubt in my mind, that she will make a positive lasting impact as well.


Polly’s Birth Photography packages start at P5,000, depending on the type of service you are interested in.  She can cover everything from the pre-delivery to the post-delivery of your child.  If you are interested in more information, please feel free to contact Polly Fong at +63(917)-539-8870 or email  Or, let me know via this blog post or through an email and I will be more than happy to put you in touch with her.

Incidentally, the Painter’s Wife is also giving away one (1) Post-Delivery birth photography package worth P5,000.00!  Click here to join and to find out more!