Screen-free Rainy Day Activities for Toddlers

It’s the rainy season here in Manila.  A couple of weeks ago, there were at least three tropical depressions that entered the Philippines, giving us more than our fair share of rain.  Just this weekend, all our plans got cancelled or postponed because of the incessant rains. 😯 This means staying indoors for most of the days — enough to give our little toddler some serious cabin fever.

J’s daily routine always would always include some outdoor play time.  It’s as simple as a stroll along our neighborhood or a walk to the store and pick wildflowers or twigs along the way.  He also loves playing ball!  Football is a natural choice especially with his elder brother.  They would take turns in being the kicker and the goalie and would only stop when one of them is tired already.

Sharing with you now some of the screen-free activities that J enjoys indoors.  I know it can be challenging to keep the little ones preoccupied without turning to the Ipad or the television so I hope this helps mommies out there:

1.  Hide and seek — My little one loves playing this game and everyone in the household would happily indulge him.  He would go looking for a suitable hiding spot as the designated “it” patiently (oftentimes very slowly) counts 1- 10 until he finds one.  It’s fun to watch him wait in anticipation until one of his siblings find him.  It’s a test of patience and how long he can quietly sit still in one place.  On most cases though, he gives away his location because of uncontrollable giggles.  This game proves how little it takes to have fun together!

2.  Building blocks and magnet tiles  — I love how both toys are very versatile.  Sometimes, J would play with his blocks by sorting them by color.  He does the same with the tiles and sorts them by shape and then practice counting.  On other times, he would try to build something like a rocket, a tower, a house or a sword.  His play switches from the blocks to the tiles, depending on his mood.  I love that these toys encourage him to be creative and imaginative.

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3.  Coloring and doodling — I first introduced J to colors by making him paint.  Unfortunately though, it was not quite the hit that I hoped it would be.  I soon found out that he disliked getting messy so painting and getting his hands “dirty” did not interest him.  He, however, has a totally different reaction when I gave him a set of basic crayons.  He immediately started doodling and drawing and has since then, been part of our go-to quiet time activities with him.

4.  Reading — We started reading to J when he was still a baby and it has been an all-time favorite ever since.  He likes to identify things in his picture books and loves to listen to story books as well.  Now that he’s a toddler, our story telling time has evolved.  Sometimes, I would ask him what he thinks would happen next in the story or ask questions to see what he thought of the characters.   There are even times when he chooses a book which we’ve read for many times and then starts “reading” it to me.  I love how this activity has become more interactive over time.

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5.  Singing and dancing J is such a music lover!  Put on any upbeat song and you would soon have him dancing to it in no time.  His current favorites are the soundtrack of Disney’s Cars movie and Lion King.  Just like most kids his age, he loves singing nursery rhymes.  We can go on and on with various versions of ABC and never get tired.  His sister is the biggest influence in music.  Their bonding moments include S playing the ukelele while the little one sings and dances along.

BONUS:

Since J is left mostly alone at home ans plays with his namny, he has a lot of individual pretend play time.  I get to see this in action when I am working from home.  He would be in the same room as I am but he will go on with his business and not bother me.  Instead, I’d get treated to a “show” as I listen to him concoct his stories and play.  Usually, it’s a big race among his cars.  Sometimes, it’s a re-enactment of a scene from a movie or a show, complete with dialogues usong different voices! I love it! 😍

During the course of the day, he will most likely watch an episode of Disney Junior’s Mickey and the Roadster Racers or maybe PJ Masks.  But these activities definitely limit his screen time without him feeling wanting.

How about you? What are your screen-free indoor activities with your little ones? Share with us in the comments section.

Cheers! 🎉

 

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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! 🎉

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! 🎉🎉

Baby Showers for Baby #3

These past two weeks, I have been advised by the doctor to get some rest as she senses that I am contracting more than normal.  It’s a good thing that my company allows for work-from-home arrangements so it’s a win-win situation for me as well as my team in the office.

At 34 weeks, I am glad to be relieved of the stress from the commute going to and from the office…well, at least for two weeks.  I stay at home (mostly in bed) for most parts of the week and get some work done with my trusty laptop. ☺

During weekends, my trips are limited to bare necessities such as OB-Gyne check-ups and attending Mass.  I’ve made exceptions though for two events that were arranged especially for Baby#3. 😊

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Last September 12, my sisters-in-law planned a baby shower with S.  We usually have Sunday lunch at my in-laws’ house so that was the best choice for venue.  They went for a Mickey Mouse theme and decorated the house with balloons and banners.  We were joined by my closest girlfriends who willingly joined the games that S and my sisses prepared.  It was a such a fun, albeit short gathering!

Giveaways for guests...but no, not quite ready to pop yet 😛

This Saturday, September 19, we were treated to yet another shower party, this time hosted by my mom and sisters.  It was mostly a family affair of my relatives and cousins but there were a few of my highschool and college friends who joined us for the occasion.

As usual, my sister, Faye took care of the creatives (she opted to go with the “little man” theme executed in green and blue color scheme) while Kat took care of the food and dessert table.

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Of course, a shower wouldn’t be complete without games and our big family is up for anything!  See how competitive they can be  for chocolates as prizes! 😃😃😃.

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I was just a happy spectator with all the commotion going around me.  By the evening, we were all exhausted from all the laughing and shrieking and eating…but we truly had a lot of fun.

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Our baby has not yet been born yet but is already showered with so much love and blessings by our families and friends.  Indeed, we feel so overwhelmed by their love and support and are very grateful for these wonderful people in our lives!

Preggy Over the Summer

As part of our company’s HR policies, all employees are required to take 10 days of uninterrupted leave from work.  During this time, we are not allowed to do any work.  We are not permitted to answer emails, much less be seen in the office premises.  This rule is part of the company’s efforts to promote work-life balance and really encourage its employees to take a break from the daily office routine.  This policy is strictly enforced and leaves are to be scheduled early enough so that there will be no business interruption and to ensure that there will be no overlapping leaves between key personnel.

I usually schedule my core leave during thr summer to take advantage of the kids’ vacation time.  As a working mom, I sometimes feel that the time I spend with my children is too short.  Weekends never seem to be long enough, especially when you factor in chores and other appointments.  This time is my way of playing “catch-up”, so to speak, as I spend more bonding moments with them.

Days before my scheduled leave, I told F & S to make a list of things that they want to do together.  They came up with a diverse lot — from baking to artwork, to watching a movie and going on a picnic as well as opening bank accounts and cooking dinner for their dad.  I was glad to see that they also included a “no Ipad day” and “do exercise” on their list.

Enjoying their yummy baked creations.

Enjoying their yummy baked creations.

Every day, we carefully planned out our schedule so we can scratch off as many items from their list as possible.  We had a lot of doing these stuff together and felt accomplished whenever we complete a task.

Artsy fartsy! S doing some scrapbooking.

Artsy fartsy! S doing some scrapbooking.

Sadly, our bonding sessions were cut short as I experienced some bleeding a week into my core leave.  I was on my 15th week of pregnancy then and still within the first trimester, which is usually the most delicate time as well.  I had to be admitted in the hospital for the weekend and then was advised to have complete bed rest for two weeks 😟😳  I felt sad and disappointed because it coincided with our planned beach outing with my other siblings. But the baby’s safety is our foremost priority so N and the kids had to go without me.

The past two weeks were challenging to say the least!  It was difficult to just stay in bed for that long. It was also pretty disappointing for the kids who still had a few items on their list that we needed to do.  But they are such great kids and I couldn’t be prouder as a mom!  They took the bed rest order to heart and made sure that I had everything that I needed.  They took turns in bringing food and drinks to the bedroom; they stayed with me and made sure I was snug and comfortable.  F cooked our dinner during the days when we didn’t have a helper at home while S did her share of tidying up the house.

Breakfast made by kids especially for mom

Breakfast made by kids especially for mom

It was quite difficult to be on bed rest with no helper around but we managed…and pretty well, I might add, because of the kids pitching in. I feel truly blessed to have such responsible and caring children.

Before I went back to work, we tried to make the most of my remaining days at home.  I was allowed by my doctor to go on leisurely walks by the end of the second week so we squeezed in movie dates, tried out a new restaurant and went on a picnic.  For the last one through, we had to be content with an “indoor picnic” as I cannot really travel anywhere far as of yet.

And so, while our plans were slightly changed due to unforeseen circumstances, I still feel happy that we experienced these things together as a family.  I think that this experience actually brought us even closer together.