5 Reasons Why We Travel with the Kids

Travel is one of the things we like doing as a family.  We love planning for roadtrips and out of town trips during holidays.  Of course, vacations out of the country are special and takes more time (and resources) so planning is longer and more deliberate.

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Our kids in one of our trips to Tagaytay

Our last trip overseas was in October 2016.  It was our first trip as a family of five and our first time in Osaka, Japan as well.  A lot of people were a little surprised that we were bringing 12-month J to the trip.  Some even suggested to leave him with my mom so that we can enjoy more.

“It’s difficult to travel with a baby.”

“Leave him with his Laly (Grandma).  He’s too young to remember this, anyway.”

I do recognize that bringing a baby with us on a trip changes the pace and even our itinerary but we really didn’t have the heart to leave him this time.

Truth be told, that trip was my first time to fly with a baby. S was already 2 years old when we first travelled by plane and it was only a 2-hour local trip.  That was also F’s first time to ride a plane and he was almost 4 years old during that time.  Admittedly, I was also a little anxious so I sought help from a friend who is a seasoned traveller with babies. Thank God for her and the tips she shared, some I really would not have thought of myself.

Many well-meaning friends advised N & I to wait when the baby is older before we bring him along in our travels.  I guess every one has their own preferences and I believe that we each should follow our gut.  But for those of you considering travel with kids, here are my five reasons why I think you should go for it (as I did) no matter what age:

1.  TRAVEL = FAMILY BONDING TIME – When we travel as a family, we are stuck with each other’s company whether we like it or not.  Inevitably, there are times when we get into each other’s nerves! Like when N would get frustrated with me when I navigate wrongly… or when F would be irritated with S and her constant bugging 😛.  For most parts though, we find it to be a great opportunity to reconnect and bond.  We get the chance to talk, have fun and create memories.

2.  TRAVEL PROVIDES for NEW & BIGGER ROLES – I remember one time when we planned a trip to Boracay with friends.  N had a business trip scheduled so we decided that it was most practical to just meet in Boracay.  This meant travelling with F & S (then 8 and 6 years old) by myself.  It was a pleasant surprise that the kids rose to the occasion and picked up after themselves.

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Boracay with F & S (2011)

During this recent Japan trip, S was such a helpful assistany to me, especially when taking care of baby J.  On the other hand, F was a willing helper to his dad, carrying our luggage and even navigating around the city.  They also learned how to be more responsible with keeping their own tickets, buying their meals and keeping their own stuff.

3.  TRAVEL TEACHES ADAPTABILITY and FLEXIBILITY – We all know that the most well thought-out travel plans can still go wrong.  Delayed flights, missing baggaes, weather abberations.  These things will teach our kids how to adjust and make the most out of unforeseen situations.  In this trip, we initially wanted to go to Universal Studios mainly for the Harry Potter experience.  After checking though, the crowd estimate was outrageous!  I actually still wanted to give it a try (being a HP fan that I am).  It was F who put things in perspective — that it would be difficult for J and that we would not really enjoy if there is waaaaay too much people.  S said that since they’ve been to two other Universal Studios anyway, they’re willing to wait a few more years till J is ready for theme parks. How is that for flexible?

4. TRAVEL LETS US DISCOVER THE WORLD FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE –  Experiencing a diffent culture first hand helps us appreciate better those things that are different from what we’re used to.  Personally, I used to dislike Japanese people (think World War II and how the Japanese invaded the Philippines).  But having been in close contact with them in this trip showed me how they are nice people,

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Snippets from our Japan trip (2016)

courteous, polite and very helpful.  I believe that when we expose our children to more of the world and its varying cultures, they will become more inclusive and accepting of others.  They will accept and appreciate diversity much easier.

 

5.  TRAVEL PROVIDES A BETTER LEARNING EXPERIENCE – Learning about a city or country by reading about it is so much different from actually experiencing it.  Travelling gives the kids a better learning opportunity as they see, feel, touch and taste what a place has to offer.  That was the case when they went to Times Square in New York or ate fresh sushi at the Kuromon market or rode the elephants in Thailand.  The experience makes everything more tangible and memorable.

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Times Square at night (2014)

And so, while there may be real inconveniences travelling with kids, for me, the benefits outweigh them by leaps and bounds that we will travel with the kids as often as we can 😊

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My Word of the Year

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I have decided that this will be my word for 2017 — my overarching goal over several aspects of my life.

This year, I want to be more purposeful especially in the following:

MARRIAGE : Before the kids, there was just N & I.  Along the way, it is easy to let the partnership take a backseat among everything else that needs attention.  This year, I want to make sure that N & I spend time together –just the two of us.  I am not talking about grand vacations or fancy dinner dates (although I wouldn’t mind having those too 😜).  I just want to make sure that we will consciously pencil in couple time in our schedules and create opportunities to connect with each other regularly.

PARENTING:  I have a teen, a tween and a toddler.  Each of them needs me but in differing ways.  I want to make sure that I am able to spend time with them individually and hopefully, get to know each of them in a deeper way.  I want to be able to nurture each of them in ways that they most respond to and this means that I should be attuned to their learning styles and peculiarities.  Intentional parenting also means being aware of my actions and language around them as this is something that I know affects my children directly and indirectly.

HEALTH: Now, more than ever, I realize how important it is to take care of one’s health.  While growing older might be inevitable, I want to be able to do it gracefully.  Part of my being intentional is eating healthier — more veggies in the diet, less junk, less sweets.  I am not quite the sporty type who will wake up early in the morning to do a 3km run so I will not even write that down as my action plan 😄😄.  Instead, I will be more conscious in doing more walking and stretching and doing quick exercises.

There are a few more items that I wish to start working on this 2017 including this blog, more creative work and building stronger personal relationships with loved ones and friends.  I hope that having this word as anchor will help me achieve these goals for the year.

How about you? What is your word for 2017? 😊

Celebrating Our Little Man’s First Birthday

We recently celebrated J‘s first birthday.  Can you believe it has been a year already? Where did the time go?  I sometimes feel emotional when I look at the kids and see how much they’ve grown!  The days roll into weeks…into months and before you know it, they are all grown up! 😢

The birthday parties of kuya and ate were quite similar.  We had magicians and entertainment, games, enormous balloon arrangements and a lot of prizes.  For J, we tried something a little different.  We veered away from the loud celebrations and opted for a more subdued get-together with family and friends.  It’s simpler but not, in any way, less special. 😊

Planning for my kids’ birthdays always excite me.  The first order of the day is booking the venue.  I had my sights set on a function room in one of the villages in Alabang.  It is indoor and air-conditioned, not too expensive (compared with the others in the vicinity) and near our residence.  To top it all, the size is also perfect – not too big but not too small either.  Sadly,  I was a tad late in reserving the place. It was already booked on our event date 😳.

I’ve always had my previous parties in function halls.  It’s my preferred party venue (over hotels or restaurants) because it gave me a free hand on styling and decor.  I also like that I have a wider option in terms of food since I can choose my own caterer and set up food booths.  However, the open space venue can also swing the other way as sprucing up the place will involve more expenses.

My next option was to book a restaurant.  N & I both agreed that we wanted a to celebrate this milestone in a nice venue so fastfood parties will be for succeeding years’ celebrations.  After scouting and considering several places, we decided on Milky Way Cafe in Makati.  We love the food there and they have a good sized function room which is perfect for the gathering that we I am envisioning.

Next was choosing a theme.  I got stuck in this part for a little bit because there were just sooooo many themes that I wanted to do for Baby J!  I considered to do an interpretation of my all-time favorite book, “The Little Prince”.  I also liked Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” and “The Cat in the Hat”.  There is also Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Choices…choices!!! In the end, I went minimalist and picked “little man” as his over-all theme.  I figured that since I intend to make it mostly DIY, I need something that is nice and fun but easy to execute as well.

As with all my other parties, I relied on my sister Faye’s creativity to life my party ideas and design pegs.  We went for blue, green and gray as color motiff to tie in with the moustache bash concept.

Sharing with you a copy of the invitation that we circulated to family and friends through Viber and Facebook.  I decided against printing it so as not to waste paper (and save the earth!)

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Speaking of saving the earth, I also decided to do away with large balloon centerpieces that are usual in kiddie parties.  Instead, I had moustache printables that guests used as props for their photo ops.  I also had pictures of J printed to show his progress from birth till 12 months, which also served as table numbers and centerpieces.  I added some succulents to the arrangement and it turned out pretty nice, if I say so myself 😊.  What do you think?

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The decor of the venue was sparse as I was really going for the simple, minimalist look.  But N insisted on some balloon decor to make it more festive so I gave in.  Apart from that, everything else in the venue was (proudly) DIY 😊.  A whole lot of thanks to my brothers and sisters (I call them J’s Party Crew…hehe) who assisted me in making the place looking swanky and taking care of every other detail of the party.

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As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to steer clear from noisy games and party hosting. Instead of parlor games, I went for interactive and creative play to entertain the littlr ones.  I had Lego play sets and play dough activities that were a hit with kids of all ages!

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Guests were also encouraged to write their wishes and advise for J on notecards which we distributed during the event.  We asked them to hang their cards on display and we will keep them until J is old enough to read them someday.  I think this will be a nice memento of his first birthday celebration.

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As expected, Milky Way’s food was delicious! The adults enjoyed the spread of their tried and tested Filipino merienda fare (sotanghon, dinuguan at puto, barbecue and lumpiang sariwa) while the kids had their own buffet station that served classic kiddie party hits of spaghetti, fried chicken, pizza and an ice cream buffet.

But what would be a party without sweets, right?  That in mind, we also prepared a sweets table for our guests.  I love how J’s two-tier birthday cake turned out.  I chose chocolate and carrot as cake flavors and served them as additional dessert to guests.

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We also had yummy red velvet cupcakes (courtesy of Sugar Lily, of course) and a candy buffet, which also served as giveaways to kids.

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The simple program, hosted by F & S was loved by all.  It was a simple yet fun birthday celebration which we will always cherish as it was done with a lot of love.

Happy birthday, J!  We love you to bits! 😊

Chasing Summer

School just started and summer is officially over for us here in Manila.  Oh, how I wish it could’ve lasted a little bit longer!  So this post is a round-up of our summer (if only to hold on to it a little bit more).

Right after school ended, we flew to Bangkok for S‘s gymnastics competition.  This was her first international tournament so she was excited and nervous at the same time.  As for me, it was my first time to be away from baby for such a long time so I experienced a major separation anxiety attack!  It was a good thing that my mom (Laly to my kids) agreed to stay at our house for the duration of our trip.  This eased my mind and calmed my heart a little over leaving the baby in the care of just the nanny and our helper.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our nanny is trust-worthy and reliable; and she takes good care of but having Laly around to oversee things helped me a lot.

The tournament turned out to be a great experience for .  She won 1 Gold (vault) and 3 Silvers (beam, bars and floor) on her first try.  We were beaming with pride as we cheered our little princess!

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We were also able to explore a little bit of Thailand during our 4-day stay.  We have a good friend who is now living in Bangkok with his family and they were kind enough to take us around that weekend.

We first went to Bang Pa-in where we roamed around the royal family’s summer palace.  All that walking prepared us for our next stop at the Gong Kong Market where we sampled authentic Thai cuisine.

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Freshly cooked Pad Thai at the market

After that, we explored the Ayutthaya Ruins and checked out the Elephant Palace.  We were hoping to see elephants play football but it wasn’t in that part of the city so F & S just fed the big guys with turnips and carrots and experienced an elephant ride.

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A view of Ayutthaya ruins

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Food was something we truly enjoyed during this trip! F found new favorites as we devoured those Thai delicacies.  Of course, we ordered the classics like tom yum goong, pad thai and mango sticky rice.  But we also loved new discoveries like prawns in coconut, beef curry, deep fried soft-shelled crabs and Thai chicken rice.  We would love to go back to Bangkok if only to go on another food trip! 😋

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After this trip, the kids’ summer was mostly spent in the gym or the pitch.  S had gymnastics training thrice a week while F had football seasions almost daily.  His club joined two big summer leagues – Rizal Football Association (RIFA) and United Football League (UFL) Youth – so they had their fair share of games every week.  The team shows quite a potential as they finished second and third runner-up in the tournaments respectively, considering that they were relatively new than other youth clubs who joined.

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U13 JP Voltes-Malaya Team

It was already at the tail-end of summer when we realized that we haven’t even gone swimming yet! The kids were a little disappointed that we had no planned trip to the beach.  With just a few weeks before classes, the nearby beaches that are nice are usually fully-booked on weekends.  I guess luck was on our side as N was able to book a quick getaway for us in Hamilo Coast, Pico de Loro on short notice.  We were only too happy to pack our swimsuits and head out for some sun and sand for the weekend!

This out-of-town trip was a first for J.  It was also his first swimming experience so we were all excited to see how he would react to the water.  Well, it looks like we have a natural swimmer in our midst!  He loved the pool…he loved the beach as well!  He played happily with his brother and sister and if only for that, it was a weekend well-spent.

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Beach time, fun time!

So, that was the summer that was.  True, it was not as eventful as some other summer vacations we had in the past but we had our moments and that is enough to bring us smiles in the meantime.

For now, we bid summer good-bye as we gear up for a new adventure back in school! 😊

I would love to hear your summer stories, too! Hit the comment button and share, would you?

Cheers! 🎉

Finding Balance

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Life is a constant balancing act.  With so many things required of us, we need to always manage our time and choose our priorities all the time.

My life is no different.  As a working mom, I am used to juggling office issues with homework and grocery lists.  My daily routine would include ensuring an updated menu for the house as well as keeping up with the emails I receive in my Blackberry (yup…still on BB! 😛).

I guess we’re always looking for the right proportions of work and home life, business and pleasure.  It’s about setting aside some kids’ time, getting some couple time and finding some “me” time. I know, I know — easier said than done!

In my case, N & I hardly ever get any quality couple time these days.  It was particularly difficult when we had no driver and (for a while) no yaya.  We had to arrange everyone’s schedule on a daily basis and shuttle from office to school to trainings in between that by the time the week is over, all we really want to do is rest at home…which of course, hardly ever happened because weekends seem more jampacked than weekdays! 😧 IF we were lucky to have extra time, we opted to stay in and sleep.

Admittedly, attending to the kids takes most of my free time. Football practice, tournaments, gymnastics training, competitions, play dates, doctor’s appointments…I could go on and on with the list!  Still, there are times when I feel that I am neglecting the two older ones in favor of the baby.  I guess it’s understandable on most cases, but those instances when S would come up to me and tell me she misses spending time with me, my heart would hurt and wish that I could have three sets to arms to hug them all at the same time!

“ME” time has taken a back seat for sooooo long, I don’t even remember when was the last time I really enjoyed some quiet, relaxing time with myself.  I know that everyone needs a breather once in a while, more probably so for working moms…but really, when does one find the time?!! Oh, the irony!

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So as I mull about this, I realized that time is really a scarce resource.  And if I am to find that balance, I have to be intentional and purposeful on how I spend my precious time.  If I simply “go with the flow”, it’s easy to get lost and drowned in the sea of endless tasks and activities.  Sharing with you also some realizations I had:

1.  Simplify.  Minimize. >> We all get our share of invitations, both for work and socials.  It can be difficult to turn down these invites but truly, it’s impossible to go to every single one of them.  The same is true for children’s parties and play dates and kiddie activities.  Choose those which really give joy and those where your presence would really matter.

2.  Breathe. >> When it gets overwhelming (and it inevitably does, remember to breathe.  Take a step back and re-assess the situation.  When I do this, I almost always find a better perspective and I am able to move forward.

3.  Choose relationships.  >> When it comes down to it, always choose to strengthen and nurture relationships that matter.  Date your spouse.  Date your kids— individually, not as a team.  Date your best friend. Date your mom.  Date yourself.  Make time with those that matter.

Finding balance is always a work in progress.  It is a choice that we make every day.  Make yours count.

Cheers!

*photos taken from web

Back to (Baby) Basics

It’s been four months since we welcomed our Baby J.  Those four months seemed to have flown by before my eyes!  A decade has passed since N and I experienced baby parenting so everything feels very new again.  There are even times when I feel like a first time mom as I grapple with things I’m supposed to do.

Truth be told, this has been the most exhausting time for me as a mom.  For one, this is the only time I’ve given exclusive breastfeeding a fair chance.  I also breastfed and when they were babies, but in hindsight, I think I gave up too easily and mixed-fed too early.  With J, I told myself that I will try as much as I can to feed him with breastmilk only.

It wasn’t a walk in the park, I can tell you.  First of all, the milk didn’t come instantaneously.  I think it was on the 3rd (or maybe 4th?) day when the milk flowed.  The lactation nurses in the hospital would visit and encourage me to still nurse often and be patient.  Sadly, the lack of milk in the first few left me and Baby  J frustrated.  He would cry and I would cry with him.  I would feel upset not being able to nourish him 😢.  Patience, they said, patience.  True enough, the milk did come!  But by this time, I’ve already got sore and cracked nipples.  Every feeding time was an ordeal!  I truly wanted to give up already because it was very painful.  But I endured…one feeding at a time.  And then slowly, it became more tolerable until one day, the pain was gone and we were  happily breastfeeding from then on.

It is still not easy.  It requires a little bit more from me —like watching what I eat to make sure I don’t consume allergenic foods like shrimp paste or eggs; or withholding my glass of wine for a little bit longer just to be sure ☺.  Then, there is also the round-the-clock feeding or pumping to make sure that the milk supply remains adequate.  Sleep has been (and still is) a luxury that I terribly miss.

True, exclusive breastfeeding is demanding and draining that it sometimes it leaves me feeling exhausted.  Despite this, I choose to do this until J is at least 6 months old.  Difficult as it may be, I cannot express the fulfillment that it gives me.  It may be one of the most rewarding feeling I’ve experienced as a mom.

 Baby J and I have been inseparable during his first weeks of life.  We didn’t have a yaya until he was about 2 months old already so it was mostly him and me for most times.  A baby can be a handful but thankfully, J was not very hard to take care of.  He is generally a happy baby and easy to deal with.  It also pays that N is very hands-on as a dad and the two older kids love taking care of the little one too.

Of course, there were times when I wanted to take a break and go out of the house.  But as soon as I get the chance to do so, I would be raring to go back home to J.  Talk about mommy separation anxiety! Haha 😯  I think it hit me the hardest a few days before my first day back at work.  Just the thought of leaving J made me sad and weepy! How I feel for all working mommas who had to go through the first day back at work after a maternity leave!

I’ve been back at work for over a month now but there are days when I still struggle with separation anxiety.  It is especially difficult to leave in the morning when he is in a playful mood.  I muster every ounce of willpower to go to work when this happens.  We just try to go back home as early as we can so we can have quality bonding moments with the little one.  On weekends, we are either full of kids’ activities or just home, catching up with each other.

Yes, it feels like we’re back at square one with the addition of Baby J to the family.  A lot of adjustments are made and in some ways, we are still finding our way around.  It feels like one big adventure and it’s one that we’re happy to embark on together as a family 😊.  We’d be delighted too if you’d keep us company! 😊

My 2015 in Review

I know. I have been away too long, I know!  It has been crazy for the past weeks…errr…months for me.  But I am here now and I thought that there is no better way to get back on track than to look back at the year that was.

Our 2015 did not start quite as well as I hoped it would.  We were beset with illnesses and loss of dear ones.  We were in grief and sadness with Lolo Manny’s passing and still miss him a lot; but we have come to terms that he is already in a better place.

February was a happier month as we saw family and friends who visited from the States.  This month was filled with a lot of get-togethers and reunions.

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We got the biggest surprise of our lives as March rolled in and found out that I was infanticipating!  The initial shock that got to me was soon replaced by eagerness and excitement for our newest blessing 😊.

We also celebrated a milestone this month as F graduated from grade school, with an award for perfect attendance to boot!  It was indeed a proud mommy moment for me!

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We welcomed summer with F‘s first out of town football tournament.  La Salle decided to field a DLSZ-LSGH contingent to the NOFA Cup and F was one of those chosen to play.  It was our first time in Bacolod so aside from the football, we also made sure to try the delectable food that this province has to offer.

I took my core leave in May so I can spend more bonding time with the kids but our plans were interrupted by a spotting scare.  I had to go on bedrest which meant missing out on our Laiya beach getaway with my mom and siblings 😢.  This month, I also had to deal with domestic concerns with our household staff that added stress to my already challenging state.  But it’s true what they say that character will be tested during difficult times.  Despite the challenges we experienced on the homefront, I am truly grateful that my kids responded well and showed maturity beyond their age.  I feel very fortunate and blessed to have such caring and responsible children.

By June, F & S were raring to go back to school.  We had a new set of helpers and a few changes in our routine so we had to adapt to these changes in our household.  On my end, I am also happy to go back on work mode again.

July greeted us with sad new that our trusted helper (whom we’ve already considered as family) lost her battle with cancer.  It was very difficult to accept, especially for F & S, who have grown very close to Ate Jojie.  We were truly devastated with her passing but we had no choice but to accept it and just pray for her and the family she left behind.

August flew by without me noticing it as I got busy with work demands.  But as September rolled in, I was ordered to go on medical leave by my doctor because I was experiencing premature labor.  Thankfully, I work for a company which allows working from home.  This way, I was able to continue being in touch with my team without getting out of bed.

As I reached the homestretch of my pregnancy, we were already doing weekly visits to my OB-Gyne and regularly monitoring the progress of Baby#3!

October was our most anticipated month!  We celebrated S’s 10th birthday (has it really been a decade?!) with a simple party.  She invited her classmates and gymnastics friends to an afternoon of clay art fun.  It was a small party compared to the ones she had before but it was fun and enjoyable.

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Of course, the highlight of this month… nay, YEAR…was welcoming our newest bundle of joy!  From the moment I laid eyes on him, he has filled my heart with so much happiness!  We are exhausted and somehow, still trying to adjust to our new routines, but nothing compares to the joy that we feel 😊.

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With Baby J in tow, days and nights came and went with me taking very little notice.  I stayed home most of the time taking care of our little one.  Even before giving birth, I made a promise that I will try to do better in breastfeeding J than I did F & S.  It is, by far, the hardest thing I had to do as a mother! But challenging as it was, I am happy to report that J is still 100% breastfed…3 months and counting! Yay! 😊

We celebrated F‘s 12th birthday in November.  It was also J’s first month celebration (and marked the first time I stepped in the mall again after giving birth hehe).

December marked my 40th birthday.  Prior to getting pregnant, I had every intention to hold a party with family and friends.  It was a milestone birthday, after all, and it has been quite a while since I threw a party for myself.  But with a breastfeeding baby (and so many sleepless nights since then), I opted for a quiet dinner out with my family instead.  Maybe I’ll throw that birthday bash on my 41st instead…we’ll see 😜.

As expected, I missed most of the Christmas parties and shopping this year but I truly did not mind.  I was happy to spend Christmas (and New Year) and celebrate with those who matters most.

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2015 was indeed a roller coaster of emotions.  For all the happy and sad moments, I am grateful.

This 2016 promises to be a whole new adventure, especially with F, S and Baby J and I look forward to sharing these with you too!

Cheers! 🎉🎉