5 Things I’m glad I did before turning 40


When 2016 rolled over, the first thing that came to my mind was – this is the year I will be 40. The thought of being four decades ‘old’ didn’t actually bother me. But then the annual birthday blues hit me again. Around this time of the year, I just want to curl up in a ball and toss obscenities at the world.

I know why it happens and yet I fall for it year after year after year. There’s one big, nasty word that has everything to do with why birthdays end up being exactly the opposite of what we think they should be: expectations. When another year rolls in and our expectations aren’t met, we end up with feelings of disappointment, depression, and sadness. 

I woke up at 1 am this morning, no scratch that, I was half asleep, half awake at that time of the night envious to the snores of my children sleeping at my sides. I checked the news (I know I should kick the habit of sleeping with my phone!) and found out another massive quake hit Japan with imminent tsunami at the same Tohoku region devastated by earthquake and tsunami combo in 2011.

Suddenly, I felt small and mostly selfish with my birthday blues. Here I was, alive, safe and have everything I need but choosing to sulk.

I got up and grabbed my Moleskine note to write a few things I am glad I did/grateful that I did before I turned 40. Here they are:

1. Started and maintained a diary in my teens

I’ve always been the one who can better express in writing than talking so I started to write/document the goings on of my life since I was probably 12 or 13. It’s old school blogging and I am glad I did that because it’s always a joy to read my old diaries now that I’m 40.

And writing was therapy for me at that time, always been.

Diary writing is actually one of the habits I am very keen for my daughter to take on because it don’t only develop writing skills but a great thing to look back on.

2. Studied, lived and worked abroad in my twenties

I am grateful to be given the chance to study abroad (on a scholarship program) to Japan when I was 19. The diploma isn’t the only thing I got out of my four and a half years in the university – I gained resilience, self confidence and courage (to battle homesickness and the challenging academics at the same time). I also had the opportunity to discover a lot about myself while gaining an understanding of a different culture.

Back home, it could be easy to get stuck in the bubble of my own experience, but studying abroad taught me that there’s so much more out there.

3. Got married and had kids

I put an end to bad dates before I turned 30 25.

Research suggests you’re more likely to marry a true peer and someone whom you have lots in common with if you marry in your 20’s as opposed to later. It makes sense. Couples who get married in their 20’s often meet in college, a time in your life when you’re surrounded by people who are of similar age and background and have similar interests. It’s easier to find someone who’s the yin to your yang in the classes, clubs, and extra curriculars you’re interested in, than it is to sort, or swipe through a random assortment of prospects online.

The husband and I met at the university in Japan and got married 3 years after graduation.

I had my first baby at 27 so now at 40, I have a teenager as my able travel travel buddy and whom I can talk and confide to like a friend and laugh with my silly jokes! On the other hand, my second child was born when I was 35 so feel I am still a ‘young mom’ and when he is 10 and big enough he could be my new travel buddy when the older one is off to college far away.

4. Travelled as much as I can (even if alone)

I went to places within Japan (only because I faced visa related challenges with my previous passport) – took railway short trips, climbed mountains, explored onsens (hot baths on natural springs) sometimes with a group of friends or if they are not available, alone.

Yep, alone, even when I was in a relationship.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “The man who goes alone can start today but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”

I was never uncomfortable with going solo (introvert alert!).

Except for trips home to see my parents to show the baby, travel for me took a back seat for a while. However, I picked up what I left off by travelling alone again when Pristine was 8 to Thailand for a blogging gig (!), when Benjamin was 2 to Turkey (another blogging gig!) and last year when I went off to Austria, just because.

5. Took care of my health

Although still a little frumpy than I would like, I am still glad I didn’t take my health for granted when I was younger.

I’ve always been active, conscious about food and adapt a healthier lifestyle because I have my parents as fitspirations. My father late into his 60’s still plays tennis 6x a week and do not have prescription meds to sustain him. My mom is super strict with her diet and can say no effortlessly to carbs and sugar, something I am still working on! They look and feel so much younger than their real ages.

While I had health setbacks earlier this year with a mild herniated disc from doing too much weights and plantar fasciitis (so much better now, thank God!), right now, I am happy to report that all my blood work are excellent and everything is normal – blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, etc.

And today I woke up, I am not in pain and that is ENOUGH. Health is wealth. As long as I wake up painless and can carry myself, I feel I can do anything.

BONUS tip: Take care of your skin too even if you’re still tight and plump and perky in your twenties. Never sleep with makeup on, exfoliate, hydrate and moisturise regularly so you could thank yourself when you look at the mirror the morning you turn 40 🙂

I felt better writing these five things. Now, where’s that cake?

Happy birthday, Pristine

December 23 will always be special to me because just before sunrise on that day in 2003, God gave me a wonderful gift – a precious little angel.

For the past twelve years, Pristine has made it easy for me to become a mom/parent. There were no phases of terrible two or three’s or fours (or it was too mild I can’t even remember it’s been hard).

 She was an easy child past that colicky baby stage. When people see how a good girl she was when she was 5, 6 or 7, they would tell me, “Oh wait till she gets to 10, 11 or 12!”

She was still good all those years. And now that she’s 12, they’ll tell me “Oooh, you better be prepared for the teenage years! Next year!”

I wish these kind of cursing would stop.

A few weeks ago, I asked her what she wants on her birthday and Christmas since these days are so close together. She could not point out what, saying “but I have everything I need, mama, so I’m ok with anything you like to get me.”

We all know the most difficult gift is that anything thing.

I asked her which restaurant she would like to go have dinner and she pointed out a very modest, inexpensive place, the restaurant where we go for our weekend lunches. We’ve dined in some fancy restaurants but these never even crossed her mind right now. Either she doesn’t know fancy or did not want us to ‘splurge’. Or should I believe when she said, “but I really like the food in that (modest) restaurant!”

I am proud to have a very sensible, loving and caring daughter, my best friend till forever.

I don’t know what I did in a previous life to deserve a daughter like her in this lifetime. Whatever it was, it must have been incredible for me to end up with an incredible daughter like her.

To Pristine: You give me what no other person on this planet can give – you. I feel so lucky to have you as a daughter (may you never change, ok, you can change but only for the better!). Happy 12th birthday and I wish you many, many birthdays to come!

What do you want from Santa this Christmas?

Christmas is right around the corner. Since we don’t have Thanksgiving here, we go straight to Christmas. Heck, in the Philippines, the Christmas mood starts when the “ber” months roll in. I know this sounds crazy but it’s not unusual to hear Christmas songs playing on the radio as early as September.

I was on Twitter the other day and saw an announcement from UAE Secret Santa. You know that fun event last year when people who signed up for the Secret Santa gift exchange would be paired up anonymously and exchange gifts? I don’t know what others got but I would like to think I was the luckiest Santee. I was left speechless went I got my gift(s) from my Secret Santa.

Up to this day, I have no idea who gave me those gifts so this year, I decided to sign up again so I can pay it forward. There’s this normal form to fill out with name, address, telephone number and a few questions. I took so long so send the form back because there’s one question where I’m stuck:

What do you want from Santa this Christmas?

Flashback years ago, I would have listed so many items (that I need, some very basic ones including socks or even hankies).

Last year, I listed so many things I fancied so my Secret Santa could choose which one would be easier to get. I did not expect he would give me ALL + much more!

However now, I found that as I age, I don’t need many material things any more. Sure, I still get attracted to a watch, the only accessory I can’t leave the house without, or a pair of really good shoes but aside from those, what I really need can’t be bought by money: health of my family, will and determination and fighting spirit to get me through my different life goals, my children’s smiles.

My heart overflows at the thought that I am not too hungry to list the things that I want because as it is, more or less, I already have the ‘things’ that I need.

As I turn a year older TODAY, I feel more and more blessed. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate material gifts (huge shout out to my baby sister who surprised me) but it’s not like I’m going to be sad if I don’t get any. Another year means another year to be thankful for – I lived and survived everything that came my way for the past 365 days. THAT for me, is a big deal.

Here’s looking forward to more adventures, challenges and blessings that will come in the next year.

How about you, have you thought about what you want from Santa this Christmas?

Benjamin is turning 4!


What are your plans for Benjamin’s birthday? my husband asked. Wait, what? It’s that time of the year again?! Benjamin, our not so little boy at home, my forever baby will be celebrating his birthday, turning 4 in a couple of weeks!

I suddenly remember the time I was in Austria last month. I stayed with a friend who had a baby and I spent moments of disbelief when I carried the small baby in my arms as I try to imagine carrying Benjamin in my arms now. How did time pass by so quickly? I remember my own kids’ baby days so well, and now here we are with Benjamin four years later!

So back to what I’m planning to do on his birthday which falls on a weekday (Wednesday).

A cake, a gift and just the family is my plan. A few balloons maybe. The cake had been pretty much decided and the gift…hmmm, what will we give him?

benjamin 2

We are not big on buying toys and if we do, we only give something we know he will truly treasure so it won’t end up as pieces of trash around the house. He just had a Lego Duplo (train) from my friend so no more Lego for now. My sister said she’ll buy him a book, so that is sorted out too.

I think he is not ready for board games yet.

He is attending pre-school and recently love to construct elaborate imaginative scenarios. I am sure he will love toys that inspire role play and imaginative play, including figurines (such as toy soldiers, pirates, farm animals), dress-up clothes, sock puppets but could get bored to it and it could end as trash.

It’s actually fun to think of what to give Benjamin because he is in the age where he really starts to show his preferences and interests. Plus, he isn’t sticking every little piece into his mouth any more and can play independently for a lot more time than his younger self.

When his older sister turned 4, we gave her a bicycle. And we kind of plan to give him the same on his 4th birthday. Dubai “winter” is around the corner and we could take him out with his bike to the park. I am sure he will love it! A bicycle for a 4 year old, what do you think?

Any other gift ideas you have for preschool children?

Thoughts on turning 38


One rainy day in 1996, my father came home with an unusual glow in his face. He looked like he wanted to tell me something but couldn’t. It’s the first time he’d acted like that and it felt weird. He is usually pretty chatty about everything and would exaggerate stories with elaborate hand gestures and facial expressions that never fail to entertain. However, when he came in the door that day, he looked at me and handed me…a letter.

(With a daughter who’s addicted to all things Harry Potter, I am tempted to say “Hogwart’s Letter – though it almost had the same effect.)

A few weeks earlier, I took a qualifying scholarship exam to study in Japan. And that letter was all about it.

I passed the exam and would be leaving home and my father could not contain his excitement and afraid to miss all the right words if he’d speak it so he wrote it down instead.This was 1996 when we didn’t have cellphones to send text messages or internet for Facebook messages. It was the good old handwritten letters period in time.

So a couple of days back, I turned 38. Yeah, whatever. It’s another birthday but turning 38 wasn’t just “another birthday” this time. I was 19 when I left home so that meant half of my life have been spent living abroad. It has been 19 years since I got my father’s letter.

(Left is the photo when I first got my passport at 19, the right is double my age at 38)

19 and 38

How does it feel turning 38?

When I was 13, I looked at my mother who turned 38 and just had her sixth baby and thought, “how am I going to handle being 38? I could not possibly do it better than her!” I admit I was scared of aging because it meant more responsibilities, more children! Funny because at that time, I thought the number of children was genetic – if my mom had six, I would probably have six too or around that big number. It was a crazy thought but nevertheless it felt so true that time!

Yes, there are more responsibilities now but thankfully, lesser than six children (I only have two, that is all I can manage!).The morning I turned 38, I didn’t think of the party I’d be doing (because I don’t like parties so there’s no party) I got up and stood on my own two feet and realized my world is full of possibilities. I have a healthy family, a safe and cozy home and dreams to pursue. I have the luxury to think about the things I want to do, not just the things I have to do.I love where I am in my life right now. The past year had been so good I wonder what I did to deserve it.

But the very best part is that all of this wonder is only part of my unfolding story. Because, I’m only 38.

Benjamin birthday

Me, the party pooper

Benjamin birthday

I feel bad every time one of my children’s birthday nears. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for another year of good health and thankful for each of the 365 days I hold them. But the usual and almost obligatory birthday parties (depending on which culture you came from!) or some sort of celebration – that always gets me.

I suck at party planning.

I admire people who can pull off party planning like a pro. People who make Pinterest boards and mood and vision boards of the perfect party, moms who make a real effort to make birthdays colorful and themed and all things bright and wonderful. My friends Abi of Cuddles and Crumbs who makes very creative cakes and Sheila of AB and me who gets excited about party planning and nails it. Lucky kids they have!

Maybe I am being lazy. I don’t like big parties, especially if I have to host it. This is not about the cost at all because we all know with some creativity and resourcefulness, one can create a party within a specific budget.

I am awkward at big parties.

I always feel I do not do well entertaining each and every guest and I think I have to – because they have come out all the way to attend my party. I do not even eat well at parties I host (thankfully it’s not many). I do not remember if I ate anything on my wedding reception. I can’t even remember if we had a vanilla or chocolate cake.

Anyway, it was my son’s third birthday yesterday. If I had to follow my “traditional” thing, that would mean no party, no calling of guests, just family members and probably just have a small cake with 3 little candles to blow and maybe a few balloons just to get the birthday mood in. And many pictures.

Benjamin turns 3

But then I feel guilty and succumb to the “norm”.

I searched and ordered a Nemo cake (Benjamin is into Nemo or The Little Mermaid but I can’t, for the life of me, get him a cake with a half naked, half fish-half human girl on top), I got balloons, took half day off from work to do last minute shopping and went home to cook.

I totally spent all the time in the kitchen that I forgot to take a shower before guests came. Plus I could not find my foundation powder so I had to borrow from a guest (she offered!). How epic fail is that? Oh and my hair – it was overdue for a hair dye session to cover the grey like, 3 weeks ago!

But really, does my young child know it’s even his birthday?


Benjamin’s nanny was so sweet to make this wall decor with Pristine’s help.

The food to prepare for a home party – this is where I suck more.

When I was growing up, we only get to have ice creams and soda and spaghetti or cakes and probably a big roast meat during our birthdays and Christmas. I come from a big family (we are six siblings) so plus our parents’ birthdays and Christmas and New Year, we get to enjoy “special occasion only” food 10 times a year. That’s only 10 times in 365 days.

So every ice cream in cone and spaghetti and cakes are special.

But fast forward to now, we can have ice cream every day if we want it. We cook a pasta dish for the kids at least once a week. Cakes? Whenever we like it at  restaurants when we dine out.

How life has changed.

This is where my party planning attempt goes sour. What food will I cook and serve the guests that’s “party-worthy”? Yada, yada, yada I know you’ll tell me it’s just not about the food but the company! the spirit! the togetherness! yada, yada, yada…but really – it IS about the food too. Personally, I see or feel nothing special about having parties now because all the “party worthy” food has become so normal that it has lost its special meaning.

Does that sound strange? Am I going out of my mind?

We had close family and a few friends last night who enjoyed our “normal” food – maybe even if it’s something they can have everyday. I also enjoyed the evening but man, the things that needed to be done prior – it makes me still think that a party isn’t always necessary (for me – because if that’s your thing, that is totally cool).

But what do I know, maybe I am really just being lazy and think sweeping confetti from the floor at 11 pm is no fun at all.

It’s my birthday today

Original post below on the morning of my birthday, before I encountered server issues that did not allow me to post at all, and temporarily, wiped off my blog from the internet.

My husband got off from work early so we can have dinner out, with the kids (yes, including the baby). I even got little trinkets of surprises, a bookmark and a key holder, the little things I need. He knows those little things.


It could be that I am re-reading that Stephen Covey book. It could be that I lack sleep due to a sick baby who don’t wan to lie down and prefer my arms and the rocking chair instead of the bed. This could also be because of too much work load lately. Or the fact that I have passed the mid-30’s and I am nearer to 40 now.

Or maybe even an early mid-life crisis?

It’s my birthday today and I am sort of on the low side of my moods. I don’t have anything planned. In fact, I am at work and after this, I’ll be taking the train home, meet the clingy baby that almost always object that I sit down for dinner, check the other kid’s homework and ready both for bed.

What does “many returns of the day” even mean? I’ve been greeted that by people I know who know that it is my birthday. I told a friend that my husband will probably come late from work, like 10pm. And she said, “So? After that you’ll go have dinner? You’ll go to the mall?”

Tsk, tsk, tsk very invalid questions not applicable for me.

It’s Friday tomorrow and it’s our “weekend” here. Still I don’t have anything planned. Maybe some of my cousins will come and we’ll cook something and just lounge the house playing lazy-day. When did I ever stop celebrating my birthday? Funny, I used to love blowing birthday candles.

And from among the greeting I got, one stood out from my friend Rose that says,

I pray that despite wanting to grow more in many areas, you are happy and contented.

I didn’t need to take a moment to say that yes, I am happy. I am contented. See? Why wouldn’t I be?

I’m just really going through this awful phase of the birthday blues. And yes, the three consecutive sleepless nights have taken its toll. Oh and I also got a very heartwarming birthday message from my sister- something that I did not expect. Let’s just say she made me cry in a most wonderful kind of way.

Benjamin turns one!

One year ago today, I became a mom, again. I always get teary whenever I recall what happened in the emergency room last year. I still cry when I reread what I wrote for Benjamin’s birth story. But I promised myself to leave it all behind the doors of 2011. So, I move on.

And I have a pretty good reason to move on – I got my happy ending (despite that horrible experience). I got my precious baby boy and today as I look into his eyes, I am filled with so much gratefulness to be blessed again, to receive the gift and the privilege to become a mom again. The one role in life I wouldn’t trade for anything. The one ‘job’ I can proudly say, I will commit to giving my one hundred percent no matter what. I can suck at all other things but not being a mom is a promise I gave to myself. A promise I enjoy fulfilling.

Before I get all melodramatic…

Today is not only an important milestone for baby Ben. It’s a celebration of a wonderful year filled with so much immeasurable joy he has brought to our lives.

Happy, happy birthday my baby boy.

Pristine’s 7th birthday party went well

Hi, I survived the kid’s birtday party. Can I have a shirt for that?

There were…(eyes to ceiling and counting with fingers)…9 kids plus about the same number of adults in our house last Thursday night. With the help of my cousin and dear friend Rose (and my boss who approved my half day leave), I was able to put food on the table on time. I even managed to take a bath before the guests came in!

Here’s how Pristine’s birthday cake looked like:

Pristine's cake

Actually the center photo was supposed be Sleeping Beauty but the baker told me they can customize it to a picture of your choice. I thought she’d be delighted to see herself in the cake and she was! That photo was taken last year when she still had her full set of milk teeth!

I didn’t have to worry about entertaining the kiddos because they entertained themselves! Here is Pristine explaining the games she has laid out for the night. LOL!

Pristine explains

What a relief that was. The Wii helped too, immensely

Pristine birthday

but they kept getting closer and closer to the TV!

Pristine birhtday

The kids had fun but if I have to do it again next year (which at this time, I am not really sure if I would like to do it again)…here are some tips for myself I’d like to read to myself before the birthday party:

  • SD cards at the ready – I wasn’t able to delete enough old photos to take longer videos from my digital camera
  • Take time to stop & take photos – I was running here and there I wasn’t able to take a photo with the birthday girl!
  • Turn on the Christmas lights – Pristine’s birthday is near Christmas so we have a tree and some lights but I forgot to turn it on

Pritstine opening gifts

Before retiring for the night, Pristine was on the floor opening some of her birthday presents. The girl just couldn’t wait until Christmas morning!

Happy 7th to Pristine!

It’s my daughter, Pristine’s seventh birthday today and though I know that I need to relax, breathe and just enjoy the moment, the thought of having 15 kids (including 3 small babies so technically 12 running kids, if they all come) in my house scares the hell out of me.

There I said the thing that had me waking up at 3am, three nights in a row.


You see, I am not good with kid’s parties. In fact, this is the first kid’s party that we will be doing at our home. (and I am starting to wonder why I even thought of holding one!) Oh right, it was because Pristine dropped hints that she would want her friends to come over, she likes balloons and party games. Since we’ve been keeping her birthday low key for the past six years, and that because she’s our only child, we decided we’ll go with what she likes on her seventh birthday.

I have things planned out: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and decorating the house but man, how would I keep 15, ok, 12 kids entertained?

Meanwhile, I am psyching myself to relax, breathe and enjoy the moment. Focus on what’s important: being grateful for another year, making my daughter happy, think happy thoughts, don’t ‘lose’ it. REPEAT.

I’ll all let you know later how it went.