Shiko's First Flight

I was a bit hesitant to travel with Shiko abroad at his age. My major concern was that he might get bored on the plane and throw tantrums that could disturb other passengers. Another concern was if we could manage commuting in a foreign city with him. Whenever we travel long hours by land, we bring almost all of his favorite books and toys to keep him busy, since keeping him stuck on youtube is not an option for us. This is something that we couldn't do when traveling out of the country because we have limited baggage allowance and we don't have a car to put all of his stuffs in. Despite these concerns, we decided to just hope for the best and push through with the trip.

Days before the trip, I was already explaining to Shiko that we were going to ride an airplane. He would demonstrate to me how the airplane would fly and recite the names of everyone who's coming to fly with us. Our flight left Manila at around 2pm on Wednesday, May 16 bound for Singapore. There were seven of us, including my mother and siblings-in-law.  Since our departure time was around his nap schedule, he fell asleep just before we took off and woke up few minutes before we landed. It was an answered prayer! A very hassle free first flight! We arrived at Changi Airport around past 6pm, and the adventure began.

Still awake before take off

The first thing I learned about traveling with a toddler is that misadventures are part of the adventure. It's difficult when you missed transferring trains or when you ride the wrong bus which tours you around an unfamiliar city  in the wee hours of night and you have no idea how long it will take for you to get to your destination. Imagine having experienced that with a bored, tired, and hungry toddler who's very active and eager to explore. This is where I appreciated Shiko's training to 'obey' back home. During these bus and train scenarios where he would try to insist to leave my lap and roam around, I would often ask him, "What did Mommy tell you?" he would answer, "..'bey" (obey).. and he would not insist anymore.

Wasn't able to transfer to another train at Tanah Merah! Round trip to Changi Airport!

The second thing I learned is to always prepare a snack-on-the-go for him. The travel time in between places is unpredictable considering all the possible misadventures that could happen. Because of that, his eating schedule was disrupted and sometimes he's already asleep by the time we're settled to eat our lunch or dinner. By the way, it is prohibited to eat and drink inside the trains in SG, so I learned that I have to make sure that he's full before riding, otherwise, we'll have to distract him as he kept on asking for "papaaa... papaaa... papaaayyy!!! " (food / bread) until we're able to alight to our station. Speaking of food, I'd like to share that during this trip, what I enjoyed the most is the food!!! The Salted Egg Chicken at Food Republic, Old Changkee Cheesy Sausage and Chicken Balls, the Sweet and Sour Pork at an eatery near our hotel, the $1.20 wafer ice cream at the park, and... CURRY!!!! .... i loved their spicy chicken curry!!!

Salted Egg Chicken

The third thing I learned is to prepare a kid-friendly itinerary. I didn't really take the time to research on places where I would like to bring Shiko, I just wanted to bring him to Universal Studios so he could see Elmo (his favorite) and experience some rides. However, when we got there, we found out that he was still too small to be allowed to almost all of the kid's rides. We couldn't allow him to roam around as well since the weather was very hot and there were lots of people. We ended up just carrying him most of the time. He was only able to freely roam around in souvenir shops and when picture taking with his favorite characters. At his age, the Singapore Zoo and Safari could've been a better option. Looking forward to going there on our next visit.

The only ride that he experienced

The fourth thing I learned is to be ready to spend some extra bucks for convenience. While we tried to keep our trip on budget by commuting via train and bus and exploring budget friendly food options, unexpected things could happen which would require a change of plan. The rain fell hard the night when we were at Marina Bay Sands. Bus, train, and Grab were not possible at the time and the only transpo that's within reach was a Toyota Alphard Taxi which cost us 40 SGD (around 1500php). Quite expensive, but this was our best option since our toddler was already hungry, tired, and sleepy. In fact, he didn't make it to the hotel awake, he slept while latched on inside the taxi. Convenience is expensive, but sometimes it's worth keeping ourselves sane in chaotic situations.

Afternoon at MBS before it rained

The fifth and last thing I learned is that traveling with a toddler stretches your capacity as a parent. I had no idea how much and how long I could bear carrying a 10-kilo toddler while walking for hours trying to navigate our way through the next destinations. When Shiko 'poooped' a few minutes before our scheduled boarding time, I learned a faster way to wash and change his diaper. When he 'poooped' again while we were on the plane, I learned to wash and change his diaper in a very limited space. When he was awake during the whole flight back home, I learned that no matter how tired Mike and I were, we will always have the strength to stay awake to take care of Shiko. Of course, we are thankful that our in-laws were there to take turns with us and help us, but when everyone else were already tired and exhausted, ultimately, the buck stops with us, his parents.

Tinanggal ni Shiko yung cap ko muntik na mahulog sa tubig! Kaya ayan, ang haggard ko! Ayaw nya kase magpa-picture, pinipilit ko lang! 😂 

Non-stop walking!

Stroller at Changi Airport! Nakapahinga din sa buhat! 😂
It's not easy traveling with a toddler, but the exhaustion was worth it as I saw how Shiko learned to mingle with different people and different nationalities. He brightened up peoples' faces as he smiles and says "Hi!" to every person that he meets on the plane, bus, and train. Everytime we were about to leave the hotel, I would always explain to him what we will go through the day (the train and bus rides, the walking, the places that we will visit and the best times for him to sleep). I loved that even at his very young age, I could already see his effort to cooperate with us. I read an article that says that traveling with little children is hard, but these experiences help mold them to become well-adjusted adults one day. I'm so glad that we decided to push through with this trip despite our hesitations. Will we do it again? Definitely!

Wide awake during our whole flight pauwi! Antok na antok na kame ni Daddy, sya hyper pa rin! 😂
We thank God for keeping us safe and allowing us to enjoy this trip. :)

When Life Feels Complicated

A little backstory. Even before Mike and I entered into a relationship back in 2010, he already shared to me almost everything about his past... his dark, messed up, ugly, complicated past. I was shocked by his story at first, but at the same time, I was amazed with how God could turn someone's life upside down and use it to lead people to Him. In fact, it was Mike's life testimony that inspired me to also seek a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Part of his past was a baby that he chose not to acknowledge because he wasn't ready to face the responsibility back then. For nine years, he hasn't heard anything about his ex and their baby, until a few months ago, she tried to reconnect with him, and with me through facebook (we are very grateful to her for reaching out to us). Mike is no longer the same person that he used to be and we both know that we have do what is right and obey what God is telling us to do. We decided to once and for all confront the past, take responsilibity, and welcome the child as part of our family.

To be honest, the first few weeks after I had my first communication with the mother of the child was the hardest. Even if I was already aware of the possibility that a child would one day claim Mike as her dad, having to face the reality that it was now happening was not easy.

I have always had this mental picture of the kind of life that I want to have for my family -- Me and Mike, and the number of children that I dream for us to have... how the rooms of our children would look like, our homeschooling journey, our family travels, etc.. etc.. When Shiko was born, I knew that it was the start of God fulfilling every dream and prayer that I have for our family. I guess the harderst struggle that I've had to face in this season was to let go of those dreams and imaginations that kept me awake at night for many years, and to accept that God has a different plan for our family.

I remember a night when I was crying while asking God, "Lord, I know that this is what is right, and this is Your will... Pero kaya ko po ba talagang harapin itong path kung saan mo kami dinadala?" 

And God spoke a gentle whisper in my heart while I was reading a Loop Devotion, He said, "My Princess Misce, I will not bring you to a place where I will not be... " 

I told Him, "But Lord, this is just too hard, too complicated, too uncomfortable for me..", And He once again answered, "I have work for you to do with Me, yes. We will go and I will push you to lean on Me and trust Me and do things uncomfortable for you to do alone... I am here with you, holding your hand, not leaving your side. I am enough. My presence is enough... You are not made to cower and fret and wring your hands. You are made to walk with eyes up, head held high, so you can see the path I take you. Together we go, just one step at a time, and into territory that may be unknown but will be safe and familiar too . . . because I will be there." 

Most of the time, obeying and doing the will of God feels uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, because surrendering to God's will means death. Death to our own plans, our own dreams, our own desires... desire to be in control, desire to just always play it safe.  But this death leads us to experience the presence of God in the most intimate way... this death, this total surrender and reckless obedience leads us to where God wants to bring us... This death leads us to the true life.

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." -- Matthew 16:24‭-‬25 NASB

While my dream is to have a simple, happy family with a comfortable life, God's plan is to bring healing and restoration to every area of Mike's life. For him to receive forgiveness from the mother of his child so he could be completely set free from the guilt and the shame of his sinful past. For a daughter to experience the love of her real father -- a father that would protect her, provide for her, comfort her, and lead her to Jesus. God's plan is to make all things (yes, ALL, including all the skeletons in our closets) to work together for good, and use them for His glory. God's dreams for our lives are always bigger and better that what we can imagine.

When life feels complicated, I fix my eyes on Jesus, and He untangles all complications. With my pillow soaked with tears I came to Him. I opened my hands and laid these complications at His feet. God reminded me of His purpose for me and all of a sudden my life is simplified again. God did not put me on earth to just live a comfortable life, be happy and die. My purpose is to glorify Him, to let His light shine through my life, and use this little light of mine to lead people to Him. God made me to be Mike's wife, for such time as this. Coleen may not be my biological daughter, but more than a Stepmother, I could be her Spiritual Mom. I could pour out my life to her and share the love of Jesus to her. I dream to one day see her passionately in love with Jesus too. I dream to one day see her serving God, fulfilling God's purpose for her life, and making an impact to her generation. It will be such a privilege for me to somehow be a part of God's plan for her life. Now, that is bigger than my original, earthly dream. God gave me a new dream once again, a dream that would impact eternity.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." - Colossians 3:2 NIV

As of the moment, we're still waiting for God to lead us towards the next step that He wants us to take. We know that His ways and timing are always perfect so we continue to trust Him as we look forward to spending more time and creating new family memories with Coleen.

Dear Shiko, The Beach Was Never The Same

Dear Shiko,

We just came home from a 3-day vacation. It was your first beach experience, and it was my first time to have a vacation at the beach as a mom.

It was never the same. 

Before, packing was a breeze. Just a few clothes and toiletries in my back pack and I'm good to go. Now, it took me more than an hour to finish packing to make sure that I brought all you needs -- from diapers, to sunblock, to your body wash, rash guard, and feeding essentials... everything had to be complete.

I used to listen to reggae music, sleep, and relax during the road trip. Now, I was there reading a book to you, or feeding you a snack just to keep you still in your car seat. I was there trying to pacify you by singing to you, or playing with you when you were already feeling tired and bored in the car.

I have always loved the beach and I used to bask and let the time just go slowly while I lay down on the sand, enjoy the sound of the crashing waves, and feel the sun kissing my skin. But now, I was there making sure you were safe. I was there introducing you to this new surrounding. I was there playing with you on the sand even when I wanted to swim and explore the sea. I was there accompanying you to go back to the cottage because you wanted to latch and eventually sleep, even when I wanted to stay at the shore and enjoy my most favorite part of the day -- the sunset.

My Baby Shiko, it hasn't been the same.

But I'll never trade a single moment that I was able to spend with you during this trip. I cherish every moment that you cried because you only wanted to be in my arms. That even while you were busy playing on the sand and the shore, you wanted me to always be close... because I know that my presence made you feel secure in this place that is so big, so new, and could have been so overwhelming to you. I cherish the moments when I wanted to stay out longer during the night so I can just stare at the moon and the stars, but I chose to go to bed early and embraced you as you fell asleep while latched on. I cherish how you share your wonders and amazement with me as you discover new creatures and try to pronounce their names in the best way that you could. The laughters, smiles, and giggles on your sun-kissed cheeks will forever be imprinted on my heart.

Dear Shiko, I only have a handful of summers left before you leave my lap and enjoy the beach... and your life... on your own. I'm cherishing these moments as much as I can, because one day my love, I know that it will never be the same.