This Baby’s Got Talents

I am one-year old, the youngest of the Little Rascals.

Baby number five. Watch and see me dive.

I can read the newspaper side ways.

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 Or drive wildly around town in my Super Mini Cooper.

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I can be my Mom’s coffee holder.

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 Or bully big Pio to stroll me around the field.

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I can make Lolo Tony do whatever I wish.

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Do you think I’m spoiled? Nah!

Just a little bit cheeky.

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My name is Anton.

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Death by Chocolate

If there is something I look forward to at the end of the week, it our date.

Don’t we all eagerly look forward to that?

After a long hard week, Elmer and I deserve a break from the goodness and madness of our daily lives.

So he brought me to Lindt Cafe last Friday.

Thanks Anna V for introducing this to us.

We were suppose to go there for our anniversary but life happens and pneumonia got in the way.

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Best part is, we finally got to go and enjoy every bite of those luscious cakes, macaroons and brownies with rich Lindt chocolate sauce on the side. The coffee and chocolate drink were also to die for.

I forgot we have 5 children.

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This is what I consider death by chocolate.

Have a blessed weekend.

This Tremendous Lover

I don’t know why it took me this long to tell you about the other man in my life.

But coming out in the open is liberating as freedom can be. Elmer knows about him. All this time. As a matter of fact, I knew him long before I met my husband. I met him when I was just 19 through the persistence of my best friend, Tanya.

After that chance meeting, life was never the same again.

He made the most positive, radical change in my life. He taught me that an ordinary person like me can belong to the ranks of saints, that I can be closer to Christ, that I can be holy. He led me to a deep personal conversion which will become the theme of my life.

He spoke to me like no other. His words pierced the very marrows of my being. The first thing he told me, an idealistic engineering undergrad then, was

“Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love”.*

He impressed the virtue of generosity on me very early on.

“How little my life is to offer to God”.*

That was enough to get me all enthusiastic. I was young, idealistic and seriously seeking Christ to fill am undeniable void in my existence.

While I was struggling to go against the current of conspicuous consumption and hedonism he taught me effectively to live the spirit of poverty and detachment.

“Those who needs least has most. Do not create needs for yourself.” *

During the lowest point of my life, he taught me divine abandonment and that I am a daughter of God.

“My Lord and my God: into your hands, I abandon the past, present and the future, what is small and what is great, what amounts to a little and what amounts to a lot, things temporal and things eternal.

There is no need to worry.”+

He told me that I am not any less of a woman if I decide to give up my banking career to be a stay home mother.

“A woman can achieve perfection even at home where she is fulfilling her primary purpose and central role. That the attention she gives to her family will always be a woman’s greatest dignity. A woman fulfills an indispensible part of her mission in the care she takes of her husband and children.”@

When I am about to give up in my struggles, he encouraged me to persevere.

“Sanctification is a work of a lifetime. Reform everyday a little.” If I fail, “I have to begin and begin again.”*

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He revealed to me the secret of saints – Love.

“Charity succeeds always. Without charity nothing can be done. Love then is the secret of your life. Do love! Suffer gladly. Toughen up your soul. Invigorate your will.”

I love him profoundly like a daughter loves his most beloved father.

Most importantly, he prepared and led me to Elmer. I don’t think our lives would have crossed path if not for this great man. And I don’t think Elmer would have been remotely interested in me if not for the arcane influence of this person in me. Now, we owe our amazing lives and wonderful family to him.

He is a father, a friend, a lover, a priest, a saint.

His name is Saint Josemaria Escriva.

We are celebrating his feast day today.

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We have an obligation to increase the happiness of others. We cannot be selfish.


*Quotes taken from his book “The Way”
+Quotes taken from his book “The Way of the Cross”
@ Quotes taken from his book “Conversations”

My Secret Weapon

I was having a class that morning with the kids. Tatay offered to bring out Anton and Nina for a walk around the shop. I took a good look at Nina with mismatching socks, no pattern coordination between her dress and sweater plus her messy hairdo. What’s new?

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Me: Tatay, di kaya ma-fashion police si Nina? (Dad, don’t you think the fashion police might catch Nina)

Tatay: Ano yun? Meron ba nun dito? Bakit nila huhulihin si Nina? (Whats that? Do you have that here? Why would they catch Nina?)

Me: Yup they have fashion police here. Look at what she’s wearing!

Tatay: Eh ano bang pakialam nila. Yan ang gusto ni Nina na isuot!(Why should they care? That is what Nina wants to wear!)

I cannot tell you enough about Tatay. He is my labandero, errand man (paki bili nga ng luya, pakisundo si ganire) , comedic relief (daig pa si Dolphy humirit), coffee drinking buddy, baby sitter with an obvious favorite (calling Anton), Marie biscuit and M&M supplier to the kids (now you know why I find it hard to feed them during meal times), reliever when I’ve had enough of the children, substitute teacher when I have to go somewhere.

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He still checks his blood pressure religiously every morning though given the high stress environment he lives in.

Although I still can’t understand why he can’t stop laughing whenever he’s watching a Pacquiao boxing match or why he’s hungry every two hours or why his sentences are full of “ano” (“Rea, yung ano ni ano kailangan mong anuhin.”), he means a great deal to me.

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Elmer used to tell me that he married two of a kind since Tatay is with us. We think and feel alike. Like father like daughter. Good for us, my father is a saintly man.

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To my secret weapon, belated happy birthday, independence day and happy father’s day.

I cannot ask God for a better father.

Top 10 Favorite Places in Melbourne City

It was not love at first sight between me and Melbourne. I was about to leave the city for good when I found myself serendipitously getting wrapped around its finger.

It was Elmer’s fault. That’s right. Blame it on the husband.

He kept driving me around the city so we’ve seen most of it before we head back to Singapore.

In the middle of winter, in the midst of demanding young children and while grieving for the loss of my mother, I developed a love affair with the city. It became too good to leave it all behind.

I know I haven’t even scratched beneath the surface yet but here are some of the places which made me change my mind about Melbourne City:

1. St Mary Star of the Sea

How can I not fall in love with this church? You are with God here, in person. Best place to be.

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When you are inside, you’ll be awed with the architecture, painting, design of the church.

It is just beautiful.

The Sunday mass goers are more tolerant of noisy young children. You won’t feel bad if your child misbehaves because in another corner is another child misbehaving as well.

Plus, you can always go to confession during or after the Mass in case you lost your temper along the way.

Salvation is here.

2. Queen Victoria Market. String Bean Alley. Flagstaff Garden

After hearing Mass at St Mary’s, you can go to QV Market to shop and eat. I recommend getting lost in it. You can find virtually anything. From souvenirs to wine, Spanish paella, Indian art, Desingual clothes, Greek pastries, American donuts.

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At the right edge side of the QV Market is String Bean Alley.

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This is easy to miss. You will find all local produce here. The landmark is a street landscape made of wooden cranes.

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Right at the corner of this alley is Padre Coffee. You have to try it. You will never think of drinking coffee the same way again. It becomes an experience.

You may wish to sit alfresco and enjoy the street art along the alley.

If the children gets too unsettled, it’s time to walk and bring them to Flagstaff Garden. Release the dragons. You can enjoy reading a book while they forget about the time playing.

3. Laneways and Arcades.

I go around the city mesh when I’m alone or with Elmer.  I find it hard to bring our small kids there because its easy for me too lose them when I get enthralled about a place.

This is where your curiosity will you lead from one lane to another then another. Enticing laneways full of cafe, bars, local shops and Melbourne graffiti. Lots of locals.

Its off the main roads and are you can often miss these alleys. But if you find them, Melbourne will mesmerize you even more.

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Enjoy live music played by street performers and try Brunetti if you chance upon it along the way. This is how I define leisure walk.

4. Abbotsford Convent

We chanced upon this place on its Open Day last year. It was full of life! Buzzling with arts and music, writers and painters. Food was all around. Families were having picnics and a feast. Real treat.

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It used to be a convent turned into artists studios.

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The chapel still holds masses.

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If you are into the arts and appreciates vast nature spaces, you wouldn’t want to miss this place.

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Walking distance from the convent is Collingwood Children’s Farm. The children loved petting the horses there.

5. St Kilda. Brighton.

Every time we want to go to the beach we drive to Brighton Beach Those brightly colored houses lining the beach uplifts the entire place.

We can let the children go loose here without worrying about a thing.

Sand castles. Swimming. Treasure hunts. Playground.

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Then Elmer drives us to Acland St at St Kilda to have a bite or more of those super yummy Chocolate Kooglehoupf cake at Monarch Cakeshop. Thanks to Meggy for the recommendation.

Warning: this Polish cake is highly addictive.

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6. Carmelite Monastery. Studley Park and Boathouse

I never expected to find a Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne.

If you want some peaceful silence, I highly recommend this place. The nuns are the sweetest. They were overjoyed to see our young children in their chapel outside mass hours. They even called out the other sisters to talk to the kids.

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You can go to Studley Park and Boathouse after your tranquil time at the monastery. These two places are located close to each other at Kew.

I recommend having a barbeque picnic at the park. The suspension bridge is pretty cool. The vast natural landscape is great for the children to run around and explore.

This place is invigorating.

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7. City Circle Tram Tour . Walk along Yarra River

How do you best go around the city?

Take the City Circle Tram Tour. I love this ride, so does Elmer and the kids. You shouldn’t miss this if you are a tourist in Melbourne. It will bring you to the key places around the city while enjoying a tram ride.

Amazingly free!

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You can go off the tram and walk along the Yarra River for some fresh air and nature walk.

8. Brunswick St.

I can never have enough Brunswick.

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Shops. Cafes. Restaurants. Vintage hotels. Arts. Markets.

I love eating at Beans and Bagels, taking my coffee at Alimentari and having dessert at Shocolate.

While at Melbourne, might as well try the best once in a while.

This artsy street leads to the great St Patrick Cathedral. This one is something you shouldn’t miss.

9. Glenferrie

We go to Glenferrie for Our Lady and the coffee. I love going for pilgrimages at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Old, historic yet charming.

Axil, the best coffee shop in town, is just at the opposite side.

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For nice and hearty meals, I recommend eating at Bread and Jam for Frances. I love that it is jointly located to a bookshop.

We celebrated Tatay’s birthday here.

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10. South of Johnston

I love South of Johnston for many different reasons.

Mostly sentimental ones.

Elmer and I enjoyed our first Aussie brunch here.

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We had lunch with Meggy and Tony here while they were in town for the Australian Open.

We met up with Ann Nolasco and her young family here when they visited Melbourne.

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Best of all, the food is amazing at a reasonable price.

Ambiance is superb. Service is warm. Coffee is equally great.

Maybe I’ll ask Elmer to treat me here for my birthday.

For Young Mothers: Letter to my Bestfriend

This letter was written for one of my best friends and for all young mothers who are facing tough life choices.

From the Best of the Chronicles of Rea.


I know you are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a young mother. I get overwhelmed too. Its normal.

Mothers are more vulnerable.

I know you are anxious about losing your job. Remember that I lost mine when I was pregnant with Luis, our third child. I thought it was the end of my world. But now, I consider the loss as the best divine intervention ever. It lit up a spiritual renaissance in me.

I know you worry more than you should about the future. I have been there too, in the same boat as you. But all we have now is the present moment.

Let’s live in it.

I know you cannot make up your mind whether you should go back to work or be a full time mom. Neither profession appeals to you strongly. Remember to ask God what He wants especially with the care of your child. I believe that our children are our most valuable treasure. They would value what you teach them to value through your example and your life.

For them time = love.

They are definitely worth more than any high paying career.

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I know you can get depressed. I understand that. I have my moments too. Many. Talk to someone. Call me. I am dying to hear from you. We don’t have to suffer alone and unnecessarily. There is comfort in our families and friends. Seek help. Go out. Your temperament cannot be confined in a single place. Make new friends. Everyone who loves you want you to be happy and at peace.

I know there are times when nothing seems to be going right. All I can say is “just breath”.

These too shall pass.

I know you don’t know what to do next with your life. Speak with God. Every day. Every minute. Every moment. He has all the perfect answers.

Always remember, you are loved for who you are.

Sing, enjoy and laugh. I love those about you. Fall in love over and over again. Relax. The baby will be alright. Trust me.

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Let’s inspire each other to give ourselves more to our husbands, children, families and friends without counting the cost. Heaven is such a great prize.

Eternity awaits for mothers like us.

Me and Anton

Saucy.Sizzling. Singapore Chilli Crab

 Every time I cook this meal, Elmer completely quiets down. He gets totally immersed into this chilli crab dish that not even 5 noisy children can perturb him.

This goes to say that we miss Singaporean food! Big time.

Well Tatay. He just keeps on talking about crabs. That is his way of saying that I love this dish!

The kids can’t stop playing with the claws.

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I’ve adapted the recipe from

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/singapore-chilli-crab

Ingredients:

4 uncooked blue swimmer crabs (1.4 kg), cleaned

2 brown onions, roughly chopped

2 tbsp garlic chilli sauce

125 ml vegetable oil

3 tsp shrimp paste

400 ml tomato sauce

60 ml (¼ cup) light soy sauce
55 g (¼ cup) white sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp white vinegar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cornflour mixed with 125 ml water
1 egg, lightly beaten
coriander leaves or spring onion, to serve

Instructions:

I steam the crabs first.

(This helps them hold onto their own tasty flavor and keeps them from becoming drenched in water. ) Bring an inch of salt water to a boil in a large pot. I simply pile the crabs into the pot and let the bottom two crabs to boil slightly and act as a platform for the other crabs to steam. Cook 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the crabs. Remove the steamer or pull the crabs out of the pot with tongs.

Then I cook the sauce.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion, chilli garlic sauce and the shrimp paste. Fry for 6-7 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the paste begins to change colour. Add the tomato sauce, soy sauce, sugar, tomato paste, vinegar and salt, and mix through.

Add combined cornflour and water and bring to the boil. Stir through the egg.

Add the crab pieces to the sauce then toss lightly to coat. Garnish with coriander or spring onion.

 Sarap!


Notes:

1. Only buy fresh crabs from your trusted fishery. You may request to smell it before buying to check its freshness. Crabs are not cheap.

2. Garlic chilli sauce and shrimp paste are available in Asian groceries. I use Lee Kum Kee garlic chilli sauce and Barrio Fiesta for shrimp paste.

While He Was Sleeping

I love checking the kids after they finally doze off to sleep.

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Total silence reigns in our house. You can hear a needle drop. It was never this peaceful since 7 in the morning.

I take my time to look at them one by one and contemplate how the day was.

My baby is now a big boy. The girls fell asleep with their faces touching each other. The boys slept holding each other’s hands. Gosh, this girl looks like me. He did many good deeds today. This boy is ready to help me unload the dishwasher every morning. He sleeps like his dad. I was too harsh with him today, tomorrow I’ll apologize.

It’s exciting, hilarious and endearing at times.

But Luis never fails to crack me up.

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He can fall asleep like a saint. You’d wish he’ll sleep until he is 12.

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He can sleep with party balloons on.

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Or fall asleep half way through the bed.

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He can fall asleep with a box on his face illumined with a flashlight.

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Or while  holding hands with Pio.

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While the rest read literary classics like Little Princess, Pinocchio, Velveteen Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia to sleep. Luis browses through IKEA catalog, Coles/ Aldi weekly sales, Target/Kmart magazines to put himself to sleep.

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There is really something special about this boy.

Weekend Renovation: The Cloudberry Project

This is a repost from my Chronicles of Rea blog which has turned private.

I can’t get enough of it. And maybe you can get some ideas here and there for simple renovations.


There is a room built annexed to our White House.
It wasn’t part of the original design.

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The previous owner built and used it as a prayer room. Everything was painted white.

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I had no clue what to do with it initially.

We stored everything we didn’t need or like in that place.

Then Anton came along.
We needed a space where the children can be
as loud as they can be without waking up the baby.

The rumpus was the perfect solution.
It was isolated and was next to the garden.

Then homeschooling was born.
Suddenly, the rumpus was more important than ever.
It became the center of learning for us.

The white walls became too boring.
The spiders too distracting.
The floor too plain.

Elmer took action and renovated the entire room
over two days of a long weekend.

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Now you have an idea of who and how he is.

Craft materials, lego, books, whatever dumped on the table.
I chose the dainty wallpaper patterns and the Cloudberry-colored paint for the walls.

Elmer executed my idea, my design.

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I thought its best to turn it into a conservatory.
With glass doors and walls on parallel sides
and columns of transparent roofs.

Sunlight freely coming in from all over.
With a fantastic view of the garden and the playground.

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The right side wall was covered with layers of wall papers.
We’ve turned the left side into a life-sized blackboard.
Free to draw and write whatever you like.

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We’ve added carpets from Ikea to add life to the parquet flooring.

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Its a dream come true for me.

I remember wanting to become a teacher
when I was in grade school because I wanted
to write on a blackboard.

Splendid!

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Torquoise blackboard juxtaposed to my Cloudberry wall.

This used-to-be unwanted room turned
out to be a real delight for me.

I almost want to spend most of my day there.

The children are equally ecstatic.
They just drew the Notre Dame Cathedral today.
I was mesmerized at their art work.

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The rumpus is officially called the White House School now.
What a lovely school it is.

I love our newly done room.
I love this Cloudberry Project.

I love my life.

How to be a Little Mommy

We didn’t kick-off winter at the right foot this year. All of us got sick.

Terrible.

Much to my dismay, my lung infection lingered the longest. I was telling Dr Audhild, my little sister’s friend, that the pneumonia virtually snapped out all my super powers.

Nanghina si Darna.

But I thought, I’d rather be the one super sick than any of the children. For that I’m grateful.

I had to rely mostly on Sasha, our eldest. I just love 7-year olds! They are dependable, so eager to please and to serve. There is a certain maturity which comes uniquely with her age.

So I kindly asked her to help me around more because I was just so lethargic. She was uber excited to be the Little Mommy.

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She even wrote down her tasks:

1. Be patient with everyone.

2. Make sure everyone does their jobs.

3. Keep everyone in the rumpus when Anton is sleeping.

4. Prepare breakfast.

5. Always ask Mommy “how can I help?”.

6. Make sure everyone is safe.

Don’t you just love her?

I absolutely do.


Your prayers strengthen me. And I offer my sacrifices for your intentions. Communion of Saints is just amazing.