Taking on from our previous post on packing for your family trip, I basically follow the same rules in preparing my carry-on bags for a long plane ride.


As a review:

  1. Make a list.
  2. Color code.
  3. Compartmentalize.
  4. Make use of resealable bags.
  5. Label.


Okay, so let’s assume you have your list ready. You also have all your documents ready. Let’s move on to how we can best prepare for a long flight with children (plus a toddler, to be more specific) –and still keep your sanity and peace as much as possible.



  1. Prepare the essentials. 
  • Documents
  • Wallets
  • Gadgets
  • Change of clothes
  • First-aid kit


Make sure the ones you’ll be needing the most are most accessible.


  1. Prepare the entertainment.

Keep kids entertained and busy as much as possible, as long as possible.


10393699_10153573482840021_4667076970683226227_n 10353545_10153573482890021_4192029666424955954_n




Prepare a kit for each child. Here are some of my kids’ favorites:

  • Notebook
  • Coloring materials
  • Pencil + small sharpener with cover + small eraser
  • Origami paper
  • Tiny portable versions of board games
  • Clay


For your toddler:

  • Clay
  • Some toy cars
  • Favorite toy animal
  • Action figures/ small doll
  • Notebook
  • Coloring materials


Ipads and tablets can be your lifesavers, but I prefer these to be the last resort—when all else fails, and you have come to the point of desperation in keeping your toddler still and quiet!

  1. Prepare the eats.

Sometimes our kids act up because they are tired, thirsty, and/or hungry. Make sure you have enough snacks to keep your kids satisfied. I prefer not to rely on airline food when I’m with the kids.


  1. Prepare the encouragement.

By this I mean treats and rewards. Bring some of your kids’ all-time favorite treats as an encouragement for them to cooperate with your during the flight.


  • I usually offer the sweet stuff towards the end of the flight, just in case they have a hard time handling the sugar.
  • I also make and print out a rewards chart (applicable for preschool kids and older). This simply includes a list of previously agreed-upon behavior and expectations and the corresponding reward/s when you reach your destination. (Some might disagree with this and call it a bribe, but in this case, I am willing to make an exception and I’d prefer to call it an encouragement!)


       5. Prepare for the environment.

Since you really have no control over your environment for the next couple of hours, it is best to prepare for the environment.

  • Let your kids (especially your toddler) expend their energy prior to boarding the plane.
  • You may let them eat gum or suck on a lollipop (or hopefully you’re still nursing your toddler at this stage) during take-off and landing.



  • Assign travel buddies—who sticks with whom.
  • Assign carry-on responsibilities. Because we usually end up having a lot of carry-on luggage whenever we travel with kids (which I discourage, by the way), it is the best time to teach the older kids responsibility by assigning who carries what.

Here are our carry-on assignments:


1. One bag, which includes the gadgets (since they’re heavier) and important documents. He’s in charge of the passports and tickets, while I’m in charge of the kids.

2. Stroller


1. My tote bag, which includes other essentials for the family plus the toddler’s essentials (what’s included here is first-aid, Isaiah’s diaper-changing needs, and anything I need to be able to grab easily). I don’t have a separate diaper bag dedicated to Isaiah anymore.

2. Kids’ bag, for holding all sets of clothes they might need for freshening up or just in case.


1. They each have their own food/snack bag.

2. They are in charge of carrying their toys/entertainment packs.


Finally, be realistic. Lower your expectations. You’re traveling with kids, so rejoice if you get at least 15 minutes of shut-eye (I may be exaggerating, of course….or not.)

read more

It has been three looooong weeks! And I mean that in a very good way. :)

For the past weeks, we haven’t been home. (This is probably a good time to be defensive and explain why I have been absent in social media as well, noh?? :) ) —1.) For security reasons, I have made it a habit NOT to post anything on social media whenever we go on trips or are away from home. 2.) Posting on Instagram (or on any social media platform for that matter!) doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to some people. I mean, I literally have stop talking to people and be anti-social for a few minutes just to post something. And it’s not that I think about it too much— for some reason, it’s one area where I can’t seem to multitask.

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve gone from Manila to Singapore, back to Manila, off to Sydney, then Canberra, then back to Sydney again….and now we’re back home. I’m sure for some this is nothing, but for our family, this is major. We seldom get to take our kids with us in overseas ministry trips, so this was something we were glad to be able to do– combine ministry with a family vacation. :)



Spot the kiddos. :) 






This post was really my husband’s idea. You see, he used to think my methods of packing were quite unnecessary, saying I could just put the kids’ clothes all in one pile and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. But after experiencing coming home late and exhausted from a full day and evening of walking, then waking up early the next day having to get the kids to get ready while the toddler runs around, he now agrees that the manner of packing does make a difference. :)

Allow me to share with you some of the things that I’ve found to be helpful for me and my sanity when traveling with kids. I do not claim to be an expert, nor do I claim that what has worked for me will be sure to work for you, too. We all have different styles and personalities– plus a whole different mix of our kids’ personalities, so take what you think might work for you, and please do share some of your own techniques that have worked well for you! :)

  1. Create a list.

I am so dependent on lists. I just don’t trust my brain to remember everything I’d be needing, and I don’t want to take any chances– especially when traveling with kids. I think my most moms do make lists, but just in case you’re one who prefers to wing it, let me encourage you to make your list—and use it. The longer the trip, the more detailed the list.


  1. Color code.

I love color-coded things! I think God created color not just to bring excitement and beauty into the world, but to give order to our family life (especially while traveling)!

Let your children pick a color or use their favorite color as their personal color. As much as possible, make all labels and have them use things that are their chosen (or appointed color).


  1. Compartmentalize.

As much as possible, try to fit in all your stuff in one luggage. But of course we know this seldom happens when we are bringing kids along (I can say that this has yet to be achieved for our family!)—if you can find luggage organizers or packing cubes, consider using those! I personally live by the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” There’s just so much harmony and peace there. :)


  1. Resealable Bags are your friend.

These add dimension to your compartmentalization! I personally prefer to pack the kids’ clothes into resealable bags—with each bag containing the day’s set of clothes. This way, Dennis—I mean, the little ones,  don’t need to ask me where their clothes are or which ones should they wear. Even while I’m  preoccupied with something, they can already start getting ready.

For the little ones who are not capable to grabbing their own bags and getting ready on their own yet, I just grab and lay out their clothes/set the night before so there’s no need to rush in the mornings.


Refilling your infant/toddler’s diaper bag is also easier this way because all you have to do is grab a whole set and transfer it to the bag. No thinking from your sleepy brain required.


  1. Label

Whether at home or in transit, labeling really works for me. Sometimes I forget what’s inside each “compartment,” so it helps to see it. The kids and the hubby also don’t have to keep asking “Where did you put it??” because – let’s say it all together now—there’s a place for everything, and everything is in it’s place.


 10171788_10153573483285021_4135223539253117605_nOH dear. I’m so sorry for the blurred photo! I’m not even sure who took this (most probably Dennis). But here you can see why I love color- coding and using resealable bags. :)



Color-coding + Compartmentalization + Resealable bags + Labels (the kids were the ones who labelled) = peace. :)

There you have it.

Just five for now. It would be easier to remember and apply that way, right? :)

Please stay tuned for my next post on Family Travel: Five Tips on Flying with Toddlers and Young Kids. :)

read more

I was on the phone with Dennis last night, and I heard myself once again uttering the words that I find myself saying every so often…“I feel so guilty.” 

“I feel so guilty because I haven’t been able to plan for this week’s homeschool yet.”

“I feel so guilty because I slept for a whole eight hours!”

“I feel so guilty because I spent two hours catching up with my friend.”

“I feel so guilty because I ate too much!” (So, imagine— I eat too much around….five to six times a day.)

“I feel so guilty because I might not be teaching them enough.”

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

For the most part, I know I shouldn’t feel bad about these things, but somehow guilt manages to creep in and make me feel like there’s something else I could have– and should have done.

(Side note: I finally figured out when I am susceptible to these feelings! It’s usually around “that time of the month.” Any other time, I am quite rational and stable. Promise!!!)

Back to my conversation with Dennis. All he said in response was, “Diba pinako na si Jesus sa cross?? Ba’t ka pa nagui-guilty??”

Of course, he meant this as a joke— but one that’s actually true. I ended up laughing, but this also got me thinking… Am I forgetting that God’s grace extends even to this area of my life? Am I somehow limiting God’s grace? I trust him to save me and forgive me from my sinful nature, yet I can’t trust that He allows everything that happens, and that He is able to use even my mistakes to bring about His purposes?

Seriously, the beauty of the cross is that we really have been set free from ALL guilt and shame– whether it be in trivial matters, or in matters of life and death. We have been set free from it ALL.

I know there might still be times when I’d feel guilty again. And if you’re normal like me, you’d probably go through these moments, too.

“I feel so guilty because __________.” 

“I should’ve ___________ instead of _________.”

I’m pretty sure you can easily fill in the blanks.

When you go through these moments, my question will be, “Hindi ba, napako na si Jesus sa cross?”

He is too good, too wise, and too powerful to be limited by our human limitations and mistakes. He is too good, too wise, and too powerful to be limited by how well we perform.

And to this I respond with a big “WHEW!” :)


read more

I love this story of how David came to be anointed as king over Israel.

For the sake of keeping this post short (and getting to my point sooner), let me summarize and highlight the main verses that struck me as I was reading through this passage.

Here’s the summary:

Israel asked the prophet Samuel for a king –> Samuel anointed Saul as king –> Saul started out well, but eventually, his power got into his head and he dishonored God –> God rejected Saul as king and told Samuel to anoint another man whom God has chosen –> Samuel went to Jesse (the father of David) to bring his sons to him, so he could anoint the one God has chosen.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely, the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. ” (1 Samuel 16:7)

(Fast forward a few verses)

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “the Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” 

Long story short, Jesse sent for David –> God told Samuel, “He’s the one.” –> Samuel anointed David.

(Verse 13) So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.

marc-pingrisI’m sure many of us have read or heard this story a couple of times already, and perhaps many of us are also well familiar with verse seven– “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 

I know this. I’ve known this since I was a child attending Sunday School or Kids Church.

But somehow, it is not that easy to apply– especially when it comes to people who are very dear to my heart.

I am talking more specifically about my children.

“Do not consider his/her appearance…”

How often do I react to the childish behavior that I see in them, in a way that I would later on regret?

How much of my effort goes into getting into their hearts and drawing out their deepest thoughts versus trying to get them to behave or act according to what is praiseworthy by society’s standards?

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at…”

What does man look at?

“Man looks at the outward appearance.”







Cuteness level.

Financial status.

Family background.




The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.

“The Lord looks at the heart.”

When they try to perform and achieve and excel, what is their motivation?

When they study and try to improve on their skills, who do they depend on and look to for help?

When it comes to how they treat other people, why do they think manners matter?

When they fight, what is going on in their hearts?

When they try to look nice and dress well, who are they doing it for?

When it comes to their finances, family, and friends— do they know these are not their sources of identity and security?

What is the heart behind their actions?

smart gilas puso thammiesy.com

I find that whenever I move in worry and fear each time I see them “not yet getting” whatever it is I am trying to teach them, I start focusing on what I see instead of asking what is the heart behind all that I am seeing.

More than that, I forget to ask for God’s heart and ask Him about what He is doing beyond all that I am seeing.

May we all be reminded to always look beyond what is seen, and trust that God is really at work in the hearts of our children.

I love what it says in verse 13 when Samuel anointed David– “…from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power…”

When we begin to get into the hearts of our children, we begin to see God’s heart for them.

And we begin to see God’s work in them.

And we begin to see God’s power through them.

read more

Since we had our #betterme session on “How to Make Your Own Oreo Bento” last week, the kids couldn’t stop talking about their “great ideas” on the next bento they intend to make.

If the kids started to talk to me about making bentos prior to the session we had with the very creative and talented Bento Mommas, I would have been so quick to dismiss their ideas, thinking I was not creative enough to be able to pull off anything other than placing their rice in a bowl, pressing it down, turning the bowl upside down… and voila! a “rice hill”!!!

As it turns out, bento-making is possible and doable in our household. Of course, we might have to lower our standards a bit– BUT still, it is doable. :) Allow me to share with you some of the basic things we learned about the art of making bentos for our kids.

Here are some “nice-to-know’s”:

  • Bento simply means meal in a box in Japanese. It is a single-portion meal that usually holds rice, fish or meat, and vegetables…all in a box-shaped container.
  • There are different kinds of bentos, serving different purposes. The more popular ones (especially with school-aged children) are what they call “kyaraben” or “charaben” — which make use of characters as themes.
  • In Japan, the bento lunches of students serve as some sort of status symbol– the more elaborate, the higher the status. (You don’t really need to know this. But this made me go “Aaaahhh.”)

What are some benefits of making bento for our children? What makes it worth the time and effort?

  • It is a creative way of introducing food to our children. Anything new that is presented to our children in a fun way becomes less intimidating for them to try.
  • We can better make sure that our children are getting a more balanced diet.
  • It can be an automatic bonding and engaging activity with your child/children (provided you’re willing for it to take longer, and for it not to be as “perfect”).
  • This simple gesture of preparing what we think our children will like communicates that we are interested in the things that interest them, and that we understand what is important to them– fun and play!

I hope at this point you are excited to try this out. And before you start making those computations about the time you have to set aside and the tools you would need to buy, let me just stop you right there.

You don’t need to have a whole collection of bento equipment right away to be able to pull off creating one. In our workshop, for example, we were provided with only the basic stuff that most of us probably  already have in our kitchen.



Here’s a short list of essentials to get you going:

  • Bento box (i.e. your average food storage/container)
  • Silicon cups
  • Barans or food dividers (Are you familiar with the plastic green grass we see on our sushi plates when we order from Japanese restaurants?? Aside from making the food look more alive, they have a function after all! — They are actually food dividers!….Another point that I went “Aaahhh.”)
  • Food picks
  • Sauce bottles or containers
  • Rice or onigiri molds (Super helpful tip: It is easier to use resealable plastic bags to form balls or basic shapes out of rice…cheaper, too!)
  • Deco cutters (cookie cutters would do!)
  • Nori punchers
  • Hand-held tools (scissors, cutters, craft tweezers)
  • Condiment pens and squeeze bottles

Some helpful extras:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Clean mat

Before you begin your bento, keep in mind the following:

Go for GO, GROW, and GLOW food.

Keep your bento tightly packed. (You wouldn’t want your creation to dismantle!)

Expand your collection of bento tools slowly. Okay….THIS reminder?? — It is easier said than done.


If I were to take a close-up shot of all these bento stuff the Bento Mommas are selling, you would know EXACTLY what I mean!

Okay, let’s bento on….

Our first challenge was to make a bento bear out of rice. To accomplish this, we made use of both brown and white rice, plus  cut-out pieces of nori.



Here, the girls were deliberating which piece of nori cut-out to use. I really didn’t see any difference between those tiny pieces, but when I looked at the finished products of all the other moms, I realized that the kids were right– there were different types! 


To make the bento bear:

  1. Form a jumbo siopao-sized ball of brown rice for the face, plus two smaller balls (still brown rice) for the ears.
  2. Roll white rice to form the snout.
  3. To complete the face, place the nori pieces as eyes, nose, etc.
  4. Fill in the rest of the box with your protein, vegetables, and (of course) dessert.

I think our bear looks old and serious. I wanted to change the nori and shape of the snout, but my daughters didn’t let me.

Our next challenge was to make a bento snack comprising of a sandwich and Oreos. We were tasked to create this panda:

Photo on 7-9-14 at 11.43 pm #2


Additional TIP: A helpful tool when using bread as your “base” is the rolling pin.

Here’s how we made the Oreo panda bento:

  1. Flatten the bread using a rolling pin. This makes it easier to cut. We used white bread to form the face and chocolate-flavored (brown) bread for the nose.
  2. Cut out a big circle for the face and a small one for the nose. Since we did not have a cutter that was big enough to use for the face, neither was the glass (which you could use to cut-out circles, by the way) big enough, we opted to just cut using scissors.
  3. Do the classic twist and pull on your Oreo cookie, being careful to keep the cream filling in tact. The Oreo cookies will serve as the eyes.
  4. Cut out the Oreo’s cream filling and place in the center of the cookies. To complete the eyes, place one chocolate chip/drop on each “eyeball”.
  5. Place Oreo cookies, one on each side of the panda’s head, to serve as ears.
  6. Fill in the rest of your box. The kids wanted to use pretzels as bamboo sticks “behind” the panda, and the plastic green food dividers (which we’ve come to call “fake grass”) ….as grass.


Oh, you see that piece of apple right here on the lower right corner of the photo? That’s apple dunked in Sprite. This is a tip to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown. You may also use lemon (but one could always use that excuse to buy soda, right??).


Here’s the finished product! Because the panda is too “black and white,” it was nice to fill the rest of the box with color using our remaining fruits and candy sprinkles.

All the other moms had really cute bento creations as well. One of my favorites was MommanManila‘s owl:


My kids and I are so grateful that Oreo put this workshop together. Wait, did you know that Oreo is already 102 years old?? Amazing, huh?? I just want to appreciate their Better Together campaign, which really makes the Oreo cookie a good “excuse” to bond and spend quality time with our kids. :)

I’m about to end this post, but allow me to share my most favorite thing that came out of this session:


Mika made this….er….uhm…owl (?????) while we were in the clinic to get her brother’s finger treated and checked. She accidentally slammed the door on his finger, and the last state she saw the finger in before we left for the clinic was a bloody one.

This bento creation came with a note:


Remember what I said about this simple gesture of making bento registering to our children as a language of love?

This is what I mean by it. :)

read more