Sunday, June 28, 2015

100% Whole Mom

In my 5 years as a mother, I have learned, un-learned, and re-learned many life lessons.

In the beginning, I gave everything to my firstborn Jaden. I put my career on hold, zapped my social life, and just allowed my world to revolve around his. Very uliran na ina.

Or so I thought.

I woke up one day, exhausted and... empty.

I didn't realize that in giving so much of myself, I was losing myself in the process too.

And so I began my journey of rediscovering the joy in motherhood. I prayed (oh how I prayed!), studied the Bible, dated my husband again, re-connected with a Victory group, hung out with old and new friends, eased back to work, picked up a sport, and... well, got a new hair color and re-stocked my kikay kit.

In short, I took care of myself. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I filled up my love tank again, and then--wonder of wonders--I found more love to give my family, too! I was a happier mom, more cheerful, more fun!

Sure, I still had to do the same things like pick up toys, wash dirty (and smelly) bums, bathe sweaty little kids, etc. But then they ceased to be chores now. God opened my eyes and let them see that these "chores" are my acts of service to my family; they are very personal ways of communicating my love and affection.

I know that I'm not the only mother who has been through this. And I know too that many more moms are still wondering where the magic of motherhood has gone, waiting to be "filled up" again. 

This is why I appreciate passion projects like Whole Mom, a series of workshops that aim to inspire moms make happy homes, embrace their beauty, and nurture their hearts. These workshops promise to be enjoyable me-times for mothers where they can learn more about creating their own space at home, skincare basics, discovering healthy diets and workouts, reflective writing exercises, and much more.

Whole Mom is spearheaded by accomplished women and--more importantly--beautiful and joyful mothers, Marilen Montenegro, Chesca Garcia-Kramer, and Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio.

Cheka, Marilen, and Rica: Advocating a kind of motherhood that takes care of the heart of the mother. (OOTD by F&F and accessories by Rich Earth Jewelry)
Whole Moms launched last June 11 with an intimate and well-styled get-together at Earth Kitchen in White Plains, Quezon City. It was a beautiful afternoon of mommy bonding. I saw new and familiar faces, and once again affirmed to myself that motherhood can bring different people talk about the same joys and challenges, and eventually make friends of these erstwhile strangers! What a gift indeed!

Event styling by Oomph Styling

Aside from charming all of us with  rustic chic styling and wowing us with awesome food, Marilen, Chesca, and Rica regaled all of us with short mommy anecdotes and drawing us to the importance of self-care and, ultimately, an identity in the love of Jesus: "We can't give what we don't have, and we can't love if we're not loved." How true.

That afternoon, the beautiful mommy trio raffled off amazing prizes from Uratex, Melissa, Rabeanco, Estee Lauder, Paez Shoes (which I won--hooray!!!), Agoda, Sofitel, Seda Hotels, Electrolux, and Jamie & Baby.

And as if to drive home the point that we moms deserve to be pampered oh-so-generously, Whole Mom also sent us off with dozens of gifts from Pottery Barn, Muji, Tesoro's, Happy Skin, Messy Bessy, Rich Earth Jewelry, OMF Literature, Got Heart, Pickings, C & C, Moringa, Lysol, Strip, Browhaus, and Ponds. Why, pangkabuhayan showcase talaga!!!

Already, I cannot wait for the first workshop of Whole Mom! Please do stay tuned for their updates via their Facebook page and Instagram!

All photos by Jamie Espadilla
Instagram: @jamieandbaby

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Castle-Hopping in Copenhagen

As some of you know, I am a big royal fan. I love everything about palaces and regal life. I like the pomp and splendor, but I am also enamored by how many royals actually live just like us behind palace doors (except that their household staff probably curtsy. Hehe).

In Copenhagen, Denmark, we had another awesome opportunity to come close to royals by visiting three of their homes, the Frederiksborg Palace, the Kronborg Castle, and the Fredensborg Castle.

Frederiksborg is a beautiful castle made in Dutch Renaissance style. It was built in the 1600s by King Christian IV. While I am drawn to the simpler lines of the modern, I must say that the architecture of Frederiksborg is truly breathtaking. Pwedeng setting ng nobela.

At Frederiksborg. My sister Kai who we didn't know was actually carrying a baby in her tummy already! Wee! Congrats to the "royal" baby!
With two kids, I could hardly pay attention to our tour guide. But I did enjoy exploring the castle, which has been converted into a museum. Featured here are several notable paintings and intricate tapestries depicting the history of Denmark and Norway, when they were ruled under one king. We also walked through the castle's opulent staterooms, banquet rooms, and hallways--all styled to reflect an elaborate, regal lifestyle.

Inside the Castle Chapel where Danish kings used to be crowned. On the walls of the church are dozens of coats-of-arms.

The banquet hall; this one has on display some of the gorgeous gowns of the royal ladies. Nganga moment.

Look how intricate the ceilings are!
From the windows of the castle, we were able to see the vast and magnificent palace garden outside. What I'd give to spend a day in that garden! Too bad I don't have a half-decent photo, but click here to see how amazing it is! :)

I also enjoyed the fascinating stories about the Danish royal family, both of the past and the present. The (scandalous) anecdotes about King Christian VII and Queen Caroline Matilda were especially interesting! ;)

Next on our itinerary is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Kronborg Castle. Its status as a protected symbol of heritage is largely because of its role in the history of Europe, particularly Denmark and Sweden. The Renaissance castle sits on the coast of the Baltic Sea, and is therefore the main guard of this entranceway. At some point, the Swedish army attacked and conquered the castle, taking with the precious paintings and other valuable goods.

Jaden playing in the Kronborg's banquet hall
In literary culture, Kronborg is best known as "Elsinore", the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet. (Hindi ko nabasa yun so let's move on...) Haha.

Visiting the royal Danish family's summer home was also a treat for us, especially since we got a glimpse of their version of the traditional guard change (or changing of the guards).

In contrast to the massive royal houses, Copenhagen's top tourist attraction isn't so big in size--the statue of the Little Mermaid. Of course, we just had to see it too :)

The Little Mermaid sits on a rock by the waterside in Copenhagen. The city intentionally put her in water to prevent people from defacing or vandalising the statue. 

To be perfectly candid, I was quite underwhelmed when I saw her. She was tiny! And her story, not as legendary as I expected: A man named Carl Jacobson (founder of Carlsberg Beer), was so inspired by The Little Mermaid ballet that he commissioned artist Erik Eriksen to make a sculpture like her. She was unveiled on August 23, 1913 and was then given as a gift to Copenhagen. The end.

But as I said in the past, art is art, and a simple act of generosity of a citizen to his city can go a long, long way! The Little Mermaid is no less than an authentic city icon, alongside New York's Lady Liberty and Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Fathers' Day

Thank you, Daddy Julius, for carrying us in your strong arms and on your shoulders,
for teaching us about animals, especially the different kinds of dinosaurs,
for showing us how to love our own pet animal, Disney,
for helping Kuya Jaden raise and take care of his (virtual) dragons,
for giving Mommy money so she can take care of herself too,
for always taking us to our lolos and lolas,
for making us laugh with your silly accent/s,
for singing so loudly even though it infuriates us (sometimes),
for taking a gazillion photos and videos of us,
for staying with Sophia in the morning,
for working hard to give us an awesome life,
for the family adventures we take,
for being so proud of us even before we start doing things,
for your BIG LOVE for us and for our mommy.

You're a great dad.

Happy fathers day!!!

Jaden & Sophia

Friday, June 19, 2015

Freedom Day at Mind Museum

Because of our recent travels, I have come to realize that both my kids are ready for adventure and, uhm, excursions (how very field trip-ish!), most especially if it is to see and understand the world around them. Jaden and Sophia are both so curious now, and with brains like sponge, it's become easy to teach them anything!

So, for Independence Day, I thought of various "discovery trips" for them and in the end, I chose to visit the Mind Museum in Taguig.

We invited Kuya Dugo, Jaden's best buddy!
Mind Museum is an 8,000sqm-big sensory and interactive facility that houses 5 science galleries featuring the smallest particle, the atom, to the largest element, the universe.

We began our museum exploration with the Atom Gallery. This area boasts of a lot of interactive exhibits, so kahit major nosebleed ako sa kaka-explain ng science terms ("How does a hologram work, Mom?"), nag-enjoy naman yung mga bata discovering things for themselves! Hehe. 

This giant, partially melting chocolate bar welcomes all to the Atom Gallery. It was a brilliant way to illustrate what an atom is. Everything, even BIG things, is made up of little things called atom :)
Playing with light inside the Shadow Box
Clockwise from L-R: (1) The table of elements featuring the chemicals as used in our everyday life. (2) Atom Scanner which we used as a selfie camera haha. (3) The Hologram exhibit, Jaden's favorite! You don't see it now, but the boys were "holding" the hologram image of Spiderman hehe. (4) The Fission-Fusion exhibit, kung saan nanliit ang brain ko when my son asked what it was all about. LOL.

Another favorite! The static ball. The kids were scared at first (they thought they were gonna get electrocuted), so I went and showed them it's a fun experiment! 
We then went to the Life Gallery, where different forms of life are showcased. I like that they had an area for genes and DNA, as this is where I got to point out to Jaden why we look alike! 

Life Gallery is also where I found Sophia having a lot of fun! Here she saw things that are already familiar to her--plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, fish, big and small animals, and people!

And then we explored the Earth Gallery, where we learned about natural history, terrain, volcanoes, oceans, even earthquakes and tornadoes!

After this shot, the boys asked me, "Does that come alive at night?" Hehehe. Of course I said no. Hello, Ben Stiller! :P
What I feel sometimes... Haha :)
 After the Earth Gallery, we trooped to the awesome Universe Gallery. Here, we got to see what the surface of the moon looks like, and how the planets are perfectly aligned in our Solar System. We then watched a short film about the first time man step foot on the moon.

I loved this gallery to bits! I am not a space geek, but I think Jaden was satisfied with my stories of the universe. And as I said on my Instagram post, this is where I was able to best explain how wise our Creator is!

We were starving after the four galleries so we took a break and had burgers and fries for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing at the Museum's 2nd floor, which was dedicated to Technology and how things work.

I really hope to see more families spending time in places like this. When we went, there were just a number of us in the museum. (In fact, the kids were able to have another round at the galleries!) It's far different from the first few months of the museum--when social media was abuzz with its opening. Perhaps, management can put up a new set of exhibits, or maybe even a new gallery, to ignite public curiosity again :) 

Anyway, it was an afternoon well-spent with the kids. Certainly a great way to celebrate a holiday like Independence Day! You can never go wrong with bonding + learning + teaching kids about God our Creator. So grateful.

To know more about MIND MUSEUM:
Call (632) 909-MIND
Visit JY Campos Park, 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beautiful Brussels

Our brief stop at Brussels, Belgium rekindled my fascination for the quintessential European life: rich, regal, multicultural, historic, but also laid-back and fun--as evidenced by their love for quaint street cafes, trademark bars, and big parks & squares.

One such square is the Grand Place, perhaps the most important landmark in Brussels. Grand Place is huge, remarkable, and historic all at once. The city's magnificent Town Hall sits on one side of the square, and on the other, the celebrated Museum of the City of Brussels.

The storied Town Hall behind us.
If you're an architecture and design buff, there is so much to be giddy about Grand Place. It was such an experience standing in the center and taking in all the centuries-old buildings and their style.

But much of the glory of the Grand Place, in my opinion, is because of its rich, rich history! This landmark dates back to the 13th century, has been destroyed by wars and then built again, has seen dukes and other royals come and go, and has witnessed the growth of commerce in Brussels.

To this day, the square is host to a variety of markets. On the day we visited, a big flower market was set up beside a stage for a jazz concert.

Flower market at the Grand Place. That building on the right is the Maison du Roi ("King's House") which houses the Museum of the City of Brussels
A scene like this in always gets me. So chic and European! :)
"Lolo, dun!" My daughter Sophia bossing around my Papa.
We were given time to take a stroll in and out of Grand Place, but we were happy staying put where we were in the square. We sat on the pavement, my kids ran about the cobblestoned grounds, everyone ate chocolates, and Julz, my sisters and I took advantage of the free wi-fi. Hehe.

Like I said, we all ate chocolates, which was actually the first thing I looked forward to when I learned we were visiting Belgium! Yay! Chocolate madness!!!

Trivia: They say that Belgium produces 220,000 tons of chocolates per year. Wow. I can live here. Haha.

A chocolate artisan making my favourite treat!
The finished product in my mouth. Hehehe. Just-made Belgian chocolate is awesome.
Now, I am no chocolate connoisseur, so please do no ask me what the difference is between Belgian, Swiss, Japanese, or whatever chocolates. Basta ang alam ko, masarap silang lahat! :D

While in Brussels, we also swung by the Atomium. It's an actual working building in the design of an atom. Quite amusing... pero parang ayoko naman mag-office sa ganun. Hehe.

Ze boyz.

I will most likely say this even for the other cities, but I'd love to go back to Brussels! There's still so much to see and experience!
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