Thursday, 24 August 2017

Making Mealtime Memories (screen free!)

Last week Makai started kindergarten, and though we are very happy with the school he's at (Cody's in his second year there and loves it), I had a fairly major complaint after the first 3 days. Makai's teacher was putting a show on (I think Peppa Pig) during the 30 minute recess, while the kids were eating their snack. My kids don't get to watch any TV during school days (and video games/iPad games haven't made their way into our home at all yet) so watching TV at school everyday was not something I was ok with. A show on also changes the dynamics of meal time, which I think should be  a lively community event, where kids are free to chat, share their food, and simply interact face-to-face.

We see it every time we go out for dinner- little kids are watching shows on phones or iPads while their yayas feed them and often older kids and even the parents are all on phones too. When we eat out, my kids might be climbing around in their seats, talking way too loud, and crying over spilled drinks on their colouring sheets, but the chaos is part of our family and something we work with, rather than easily eliminate by focusing on a screen while we eat.

We have a policy in our home and even during Peace Church gatherings, that phones are not allowed at the dinner table (and even if you are new to our table, I enforce it!!!). In a culture where smartphones have become an addictive habit, often taking us away from personal interactions and making us less happy and more depressed (, curbing the use of screen time for some good dinner conversation (and a little chaos!) is a pretty easy decision for us.

More and more, I am realizing how counter-cultural it is to put limits on screen time and not use it as a parenting (or teaching!) behaviour management tool.  I'm glad that Makai's teacher understood my concerns and has decided not to put a show on during recess anymore. Yesterday Makai told me, through giggles, about how funny it was when his new friend's juice box squirted all over her arm and how they laughed together... a kindergarten bonding moment that wasn't lost to a screen :)

I had to add a photo of our sweet kindergartener on his sunny first day of school!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

10 years in with a big year ahead....

Today marks 10 years since the day Darnell and I got married. What a full 10 years it has been! Last week was Makai's 5th birthday, which also means its been just a couple months shy of 5 years since we've lived in Manila as a family.  And this month marks one year until we say goodbye to Manila and move back to Canada. I also celebrated my 34th birthday this week and have been reflecting on what this next year of my life will bring.... most importantly, it will bring one more child into our family! The due date for the arrival of this little one is September 28, exactly 12 years after the blind date that started our family's journey!

I feel incredibly grateful for our journey. It is such a joy to raise a family with Darnell, to travel together (we've been to 10 countries in 10 years!) and to live cross-culturally as a family with all the challenges and fun it brings. I can't say I don't feel overwhelmed by the thought of another kid in the mix during a big year of transitions but we are up for the adventure.... if there's anything 10 years with Darnell has taught me, its to lean into adventure, to be brave and not worry, and to embrace life with positivity and passion. Its no wonder it was Darnell convincing me to have a forth kid :)  I'm not sure if I've every met another human who so joyfully enters into adventure, transition and challenges. So with the big changes this year will bring, I'm praying for Darnell's positivity and courage to rub off on me even more!

The other day as Cody was tying his shoes before our walk to school, he told me that he was sad to move to Canada because he will miss his classmates. I almost teared up right there.... and it looked like he was about to too. We talked about how hard it will be to say goodbye to everyone here and what a big change it will be for our family and how brave we'll need to be. As excited as we also are to live in Canada again, life in Manila is all our kids know. Canada is the place for summer holidays and fun visits and perfect summer weather. So Cody and I talked about how we can have happy and excited feelings right beside the sad and lonely ones because it will be a lot of both when we move home. The joy and sadness of change is coming in this next year- pray that we can embrace all the emotions with courage.

So today as we celebrate 10 years together, much is on my mind.... I look back to 10 years ago and could not have imagine a better decade or a better partner to share this adventure with. And I cannot help but think what a year from now will look like... we'll be packing up our life here; our books and toys will be in boxes and our arms will be tearfully embracing friends who have become our family as we say goodbye to the only life our kids have known, and settle into new jobs, new schools and a new community in Abbotsford, all with a new baby in tow! But before that big transition, we will savour each memory this last year in Manila will offer us. We celebrate 10 years of marriage with so much gratitude for our journey; wonderful friends and family who support us, two countries to call home, our Peace Church community, and 3 amazing kids, plus one special bonus that will be completing our family as we begin our next decade of adventure together!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Cody’s School Commute: How We Beat Manila Traffic Daily

Despite Cody’s school being only 1.3 kilometers from our house, it can take a good hour to do the round trip in the morning. Manila traffic is crazy- like really crazy. One study claims its the worst driving experience in the world. And for me, coming from a driving culture with polite Canadians following strict rules and everyone having their own SPACE (kind of hard in Manila with 12 million people!) I become a claustrophobic ball of stress when I drive the chaotic Manila streets. Plus it just really sucks to waste an hour of your day sitting in traffic.

So what’s our solution? Cody and I rock scooters to school. Not the motorized type, but the push-with-your-foot type, the kind that gives you a workout, especially up hills. Sooooo much better than sitting in stressful traffic every morning!

At the beginning of the school year we started walking sometimes, but Cody didn’t love the 20-minute walk and I felt like I was dragging him along, going so slow. We didn’t really save time walking and it’s not exactly a nice stroll. While part of our walk is through our gated village, a majority of it is along C5, one of Manila’s main thoroughfares with 8 lanes of trucks, jeepneys, motorcycles, buses and cars. It’s dusty, loud (I can’t hear a word Cody says to me!) and always sweaty (this is the Philippines- hot all year round).

When I suggested we try each riding a scooter, Cody was pumped…. and he still is! It takes about 12 mins each way and we get a good exercise and have fun too. Cody loves the bumpy sidewalk along C5 and is teaching me how to jump and tricks on the scooter. And we love racing down the quiet streets in our village.

We also like the footbridge over C5 because crossing that street would be a nightmare. It’s fun to stop and watch the traffic from above.

It’s also fun to make friends on our way! The older man with no shirt in the picture below is Tito Sunny. He sits in this spot every single day, without fail. And he gives Cody an “approve” every time we pass (a Filipino kids greeting…. Thumbs up, then touch, thumb to thumb).

We also see homeless people along the way, mostly sleeping on the sidewalk or benches. One time I saw a man taking a "dump" behind a tree on the sidewalk- kind of horrifying and also very sad. There was a lady this week sound asleep right in the middle of the sidewalk and Cody was hesitant how to go around her. What we see connects us to the streets- this city- and makes us even more aware of others’ realities.

The kids at school think it is cool (and unusual) that Cody scooters to school and it seems the teachers do too. One morning we were greeted by a man walking into the school who was very impressed with how we commute. We chatted about it a bit and he introduced himself as the owner of the school! I think we’ve made an impression!! I would say almost all the kids come by car, mostly with hired drivers, and some by school bus. But I don’t think there’s another kid in Manila who goes to school by scooter :)

On my way home, without Cody, I get the most stares and comments… I know people are wondering what this crazy white lady is doing on a scooter along C5. But I like how we roll and I’m glad Cody does too. And if you know Manila traffic, its a rare and satisfying treat to beat it daily!