Free Milk in Schools

As children are the future citizens of the world their health should be of great concern.  And what could be a more fitting way to promote good health among children than providing them with free milk in schools. This is a health program by governments of countries the world over including the UK, the Philippines, British Columbia, Canada, and Thailand.  Despite its benefits and noble nature, there are different political issues of some sort surrounding this program – corruption, milk quality, milk suppliers, budget and allocation, and many others to name a few. However, as hundreds of thousands of children have availed and have improved health condition every year, this should be  given priority and attention.

Milk is very nutritious.  Many believe in its role in building strong bones, which is not far from the truth. The body uses several nutrients, not just one, in doing whatever metabolism it needs to accomplish for normal body functions.  And milk provides the necessary minerals needed in building and repairing bones. It is a very good source of protein, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium, which all contribute to having healthy bones. It also is a great source of water, which is rich in vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin B complex.

In Thailand, School Milk Program (SMP) was implemented and got full support from central government in 1992.  Since then school children are given free milk for 230 days annually.  Since there are only 180-200 school days in a year, each child gets 1 box of milk to be brought home during the holidays. Foreign children who are born in Thailand and are studying here, get to enjoy this as well. Hoping that this continues, and that Thai government will always look after the good of the future of the nation, the children.

 

So mainly this program aims to promote healthy growth in children. However, it is part of the program to outsource milk from local farmers, and so as a consequence this has tremendously boosts the income of local farmers.

Free Milk in Schools

My kids love this. In fact they prefer this over formula milk. They’re lucky.  I don’t remember getting any free milk during my primary school days in the Philippines.  Have you?

 

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5 Features You Might Like to Have in a Family Car

Investing in a family car is a crucial decision to make for an average family like ours. My husband and I had a long discussion on what kind of car to get to replace our aging Nissan Sentra, even the make of the car was researched and compared. The time invested on research and review-comparisons did not go to waste as we are now currently enjoying the services of a reliable, fuel efficient, road worthy vehicle, the Toyota Vios/Yaris. It has been 5 years since.

The Toyota Vios (Asia) or Yaris (USA) is a B- Segment sedan. For a family of 4 it is more than enough to take the kids to school and drive it going to the office. On road trips this car just gives you that sense of confidence on the road knowing you are in a reliable car. This compact sedan is also easy to drive and easy to park. Fuel efficiency is also one of the reasons why my husband and I agreed to get it. We love road trips so the more fuel efficient the car is the better.

However as our kids grow our family activities are also getting diverse and we somehow feel that we are outgrowing the functionalities of our vehicle. Our kids love to ride their bicycles around the city park but we could barely fit one bicycle in the boot let alone two. So we ride in discomfort with one bicycle in the boot and one inside the car placed on the backseat. This is a dangerous set-up and we don’t want to be doing this for a long time.

 

So we are now in search for a vehicle that would cater to the demands of a growing family.  Cars.com is certainly a great help, as they have got wide selections to choose from. We are eyeing 3 time-tested car brands with their respective MPV offerings – the Toyota Avanza, the Honda Mobilio and the Suzuki Ertiga.

Below, we have delineated must haves in our family car.  Although based on our personal preferences, these nevertheless might be features that you would want to consider in your family car.

 

The reason why we are eyeing these three MPVs are as follows:

  1. Huge boot space – As I have mentioned our kids are into biking and we need that space for the bicycles. And not only that, we could use that boot space when we are on a road trip for our suitcases and a whole lot of other stuff that we like to bring with us on the road.
  2. Third row seats– Some may say third row seats are not that important but it is. We have experienced so many times driving with our kids on our laps because we have guests and we don’t have enough seats. And that is very dangerous.
  3. Cup holders– Now many may think of this as petty but it is definitely not if you have kids onboard all the time. Surely, most parents with young kids are with us on this. Anyway, this petty little feature is one of the things lacking in our reliable car and it is pretty annoying.
  4. Reclining middle row seats– This is a must for long distance trips. Your passengers will be more comfortable a bit reclined while on a long journey as to sitting upright the whole time.
  5. Price– For middle class families like us we are also very concerned with the price. SUVs can very well solve all our vehicle problems but would surely kill our finances. These three cars we are eyeing have some of the traits of an SUV for a lot less.

Now we are still on the process of choosing which of the three we would get. We would go through the same process of comparing specs and reviews of these MPVs before we decide to put our money down.

 

For parents out there with plans on buying a family car, what features do you consider important? Do we have similar preferences?

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Maternity Leave is Over: What Now?

Prior to having kids I had been adamant and vocal about the need for mothers to take care of their babies themselves.  It was my intention and it is an ideal thing to do.  Reality bites though,  I have to work, as the case with many moms and dads out there.

Our kids grew up with nannies.  They spent most hours of the day five days a week with a nanny.  Our first child had a Filipino nanny.  She was loving and motherly.  She took care of the kids very well.  Yes,  she had three toddlers under her care.  Our second child on the other hand had a Thai nanny.  She had two babies to take care of.  She was a grandmother and also motherly.  I say we got to experience the best and the worse of both worlds. Both are similar in some ways yet so different in many ways. I will talk about this in length in my next post.

Anyway,  would we have it in any other way?  Well,  I don’t  think so.  We did not have much choice.  As both of us have to work full time (for the visa) , so looking after our then toddlers was simply out of the question.  I think many expat parents share my view on this.  In as much as we want to be there especially during this stage, we can’t,  and all we can do is choose the best option there is.

For Thai expats there are several options to choose from.

  • One is to ask a relative especially your mom and/or dad to look after your kid (for other culture this might be preposterous but for Asians this is acceptable and practical). They could apply for Non-O visa to be able to stay.  Siblings however are not eligible. This is the kind of set up particularly preferred by those whose parents are retirees or are just not working.
  • Second is sending your child to a day care that accepts infants and very young toddlers.
  • Third is hiring a nanny.

If you would like to know more about our experience regarding this please click here.

For expats out there,  which of the following choices above would you prefer?

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Life Starts At 40

There’s some truth in “Life starts at 40”.

A relatively healthy person frequents clinics or hospitals during his 30’s.  Pains and sickness seem to appear out of nowhere during this time. If these symptoms are left unattended could complicate into something serious, as often told by doctors to patients.  Our body is like a car.  After the warranted years, bolts loosen up and parts wore off.  As we near our 40’s, people start thinking of lifestyle change such as quit smoking, limit alcohol in-take, engaging oneself in a regular exercise, and eating healthy.  Reasons vary.

For us, we want to live long enough to see our kids grow and attain stability in life, and if our bodies permit maybe meet our grandchildren.

Among the lifestyle changes mentioned above, the latter two are the most challenging for us.  But since we need to start afresh on our 40’s we have to take on the needed changes.

  • Exercise your way to a healthy you.  We are home buddies and a bit of couch potatoes, sadly.  Up until this time we haven’t settle on a regular exercise routine.  Aside from this, we also found our super structured schedule 24/7 a great hindrance. We hope to get our acts together on this ASAP.
  • You are what you eat, so eat healthy.  We LOVE to eat. The health issues we are facing at the moment is food related. So this is definitely the first thing in the MUST Change List.

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Jill Duggar and Derrick Dillard’s Baby No. 2 Gender Reveal

They say being pregnant is like having one foot in the grave.  Well for me, it really felt like it. I had problems conceiving my second child to start with, and so the entire pregnancy was a roller coaster ride. Nevertheless, expecting a new member of the family is truly an exciting one.

I bet everyone in the Duggar family is excited to know the gender of Jill’s baby no. 2. Jill and her husband Derrick just announced on Monday, January 30th, via a TLC video, that, their second child…

is…a…BOY!

The happy parents of Israel, now 2 years old, happily revealed together in a video clip that they’re having a another baby boy. Israel, who was too young to understand what was going on, was excited only because the people around him were excited too. That’s cute!

Jill said that she’s excited about the new boy on the way and she’s confident that Israel and his baby brother are going to be best friends.

The lovely couple tied the knot in June 2014 and were very eager to start a family as soon as possible. As reported back in December, Jill and Derick announced that they were expecting a second bun in the oven. And now, we’re happy that the son continues to develop well and is super healthy. Indeed another son is on its way.

This reality star couple, along with their two-year-old son, Israel, are expecting the new member of the family this coming July. 5 more months and another cute Duggar will be born!

Jill announced the news by doing a fun scavenger hunt, together with her younger siblings. Now that was fun! Congratulations to Jill and Derrick!

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Structured Busy Lifestyle vs. Child’s Play Time

“To a child playing is learning.” ∼ MitchRyan

Play is one of the most important factors for normal developmental growth in any child. It is a child’s world, as a matter of fact it could be the only world for them. In this world a child learns to solve problems, learn things around them like color, shapes, learn to do things like grasp, crawl, balance, and understand the concept of cooperation, negotiation, and give and take.  These in effect lead to the development of more sophisticated cognitive, affective, and psychomotor tasks along the way.
Modern times, however, has curtailed child’s play time to almost nothing. Our lifestyle is so structured towards getting things done that 24 hours is not enough. People are busy making a living leaving no moments for play and relaxation. Why is this? It’s because doing so is a waste of time. It seems like these days are all about competition, profit, and innovation. Although these are excellent goals, these on the other are all result oriented. Hence the process leading to the result is given the least priority which thwarts a child’s normal developmental growth. As parents if we want to see our children grow to become great individuals who have achieved their fullest potential then we must start looking into the process of making great individuals.

Now, here are practices which I think put child’s play time to a minimum.

  • Kids taking up too many after school classes and/or lessons on the weekends
  • Too much screen time
  • Obsession on having high scores (mostly parents)
  • Class ranking and competition especially during the early years
  • Early school years inappropriate curriculum. For example, some schools give emphasis on writing and listening, thus, the series of writing books, long hours of sitting. Kids are reprimanded for not holding pens properly and are branded having ADHD because they could not sit for long hours.
  • Too many homework

Reality bites! The degree may vary from one culture to the other but sadly these are true. These and many other practices run havoc on our child’s play time which, to reiterate, is one sure process for children to engage in a meaningful learning. Play should be treated as a form of lifestyle for children.

Playing is a child’s lifestyle.∼ MitchRyan

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How To Survive A Road Trip With Kids In Tow

family-road-trip

Road trips are one of the most common choices for family vacations. Of course, that involves spending more than a few hours in close quarters with your kids. Before you hit the road with your children, take a moment to plan out how to get to your destination without losing your mind along the way.

It might not be the way you first imagine a road trip with the kids – your thoughts probably turn to backseat shenanigans and endless questions along the lines of “are we there yet” – but it’s entirely possible to leave the stress behind when you take your children on a road trip. The secret to smooth sailing on a family road trip is to keep your expectations reasonable and do as much advanced planning as possible. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Confirm Your Vehicle’s Readiness

Suffering a breakdown on the road is always irritating, but it can turn into a real disaster when you have a pair of rambunctious toddlers in the backseat. Pay a visit to your favorite car mechanic before you hit the road. Have him check the air pressure and condition of all of your tires, including the spare, as well as check your mechanical systems (including the air conditioner and / or heater, and fluid levels) in advance, too.

Consider Signing Up For Roadside Assistance

AAA is still the gold standard when it comes to nationwide roadside assistance services, but there are other options in the same vein as well. If you aren’t already a member of a similar service, you should strongly consider signing up before your trip. It may be handy to download an app like EmergenSee, too. This turns your smartphone into a live recording device (capturing video, audio, and GPS data) and sends it to chosen contacts or law enforcement officials when you’re in trouble. Also, check with your car insurance to see if they offer roadside assistance.

Make Your Kids Safe

Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the car and/or booster seats your kids need before you set off. Confirm they’re installed properly. You can find a local authority for this service by visiting SeatCheck.org. Alternatively, just inquire with your nearest fire station – most of them handle this safety check for free.

Bear in mind that the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to use rear-facing car seats for children under the age of two. Kids should always be strapped in when the car is moving. If your children need a break from their seats, plan these kind of stops into your travel plans to give everyone a break from the car.

Always Have A First Aid Kit

Bring along all the usual items you might need to deal with minor ailments: Band-Aids, antiseptic, fever reducers, medications used by your family members, and perhaps even a little extra toilet paper for unplanned bathroom breaks.

Schedule Your Departure Wisely

If your kids are experienced backseat sleepers, think about kicking your trip off at either bedtime or in the early morning. Feel free to leave them in their PJs and enjoy a restful, quiet start to your road trip. Also, consider travel plans of others. Are you traveling during a busy holiday time? You may want to avoid heavy traffic by leaving at a time when you’ll hit big cities at their least busy times. Sitting in a traffic jam while on a road trip with kids is NOT fun!

Comfort Is A Priority

Make sure your children are dressed in clothes they like for the trip. Wearing PJs or other comfy clothes is always recommended. Shoes that are easy for your child to get on and off by themselves is another good tip. This makes stops easier on mom and dad. You should also bring along any familiar items that will help the kids feel at home (stuffed animals, blankets, and even favorite pillows) to encourage sleeping in the car.

Assign Seating

If you’re hauling a large family in a large vehicle, keep your family dynamics in mind when placing people in their seats. Break up fractious siblings by putting them into separate rows. This will be appreciated by both the youngsters and the adults who are driving. You’ll also want to consider keeping smaller children who frequently need help close to the front or near someone capable of helping the younger passengers.

Pack Snacks

Bring along as many healthy snacks as you can comfortably manage. Stay away from sugary, high-energy foods; your kids don’t need any surplus pep for a long car trip. Perfect road trip foods include raisins, bananas, rice cakes, Cheerios, and crackers. Try to avoid snacks that are messy or crumbly and that don’t require utensils to eat. But be prepared for messes, pack wipes and a small car trash can.

Plan Some Welcome Surprises

Kids love a surprise, and a road trip gives you ample opportunities to cook up some unexpected delights. Look for fun stops your family can make on your way to your destination. If you can spring something like a trip to a candy store or a water park on your kids they’re less likely to get bored and grumpy afterward.

Visit the dollar store to buy up a supply of small toys and treats. To keep everybody amused on the trip, let each child pick out something new for each hour you spend on the road. This stash of goodies also makes a great incentive and encourages good behavior! If you’ve got enough time, try wrapping up the treats in advance to make each pick more exciting – and time-consuming – for your kids.

Bring As Much Entertainment As Possible

While too much screen time is a bad thing for your kids, that rule goes out the window when you’ve got a long road trip to get through. Feel free to bring along smartphones, tablets, and portable DVD players to keep the children amused. Make sure you load your devices up with apps, songs, and videos you know your kids will enjoy. And bring headphones for each person!

Don’t Challenge Your Kids’ Endurance

The grownups might be ready to handle six hours of uninterrupted drive time, but that’s not going to fly with youngsters. Plan on stopping at least every two hours, if not more frequently. A clean rest stop can be a life-saver – the first time you pull into one. After the first half-dozen, your family is going to get bored. Plan out stops at local parks (the sort with slides, swings, and other kid-friendly equipment) as a refreshing alternative.

Preserve Bedtime Rituals

Although you’ll probably be tempted to jump right into bed after a long day on the road, try to keep up as many of your standard bedtime routines as you can. Bathe, read, nurse, and do whatever else you normally do at home to get your kids ready for a good night’s sleep. Bring the pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals in from the car to make the kids’ vacation room feel as homelike as possible.

Follow these simple tips to get your family vacation off to the right start!

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Here’s The Thing With Sentimentalist

A clingy personality is annoying at times.  I’m one of those individuals who couldn’t let go of things no matter how old or rubbish they’ve become for the sheer reason of sentimental value.  So that means for the years I have stayed on Earth I have accumulated tons and tons of things.  Our house is so full of stuff, from old telephone bills to old worn-out clothes, from broken chairs to decommissioned appliances and broken car parts.

Now the situation has gone ridiculously crazy. My stuff plus my kids’ clutter are unimaginably messy. Surely this calls for an immediate measure to keep the situation at home to a level of sanity.

To help myself, I made a personal guide to be strictly followed at all cost in case I’d go “Aah it’s such a waste to throw this out” or “This will still do” or “I can still use this next year.”.

Here’s the list.

  • Buy affordable but elegant furniture, custom chairs and tables, which complement with the rest of the house. It’s alright to spend on something once in a while.  Don’t be guilty.
  • Hold a garage sale for those old but still goodie things.  They need it more than you do, so let go.
  • Mark and keep important documents in a single drawer
  • Shred old documents with important personal details before throwing them away
  • Throw trivial papers like tickets, receipts, and the likes
  • Sell to recycling shops plastics that you thought of recycling or re-using but haven’t done until now

Aside from these, I repeatedly told myself these to justify my actions.

“If you’re not using it, then you don’t need it.

If you’re not using it, then it is such a waste.

So let go and let someone use it.”

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Be Guided Know What’s On Your Grocery Labels

There are lots of labels on every product in a grocery store—fat, sugar, calories, low-sugar, low-carb, glycemic index. How do you decipher some of them in order to know what you’re getting?

Every label tells you something about how animals were raised or how crops were grown. It can also tell you a little bit about the regulation related to that label—whether it’s government or self-regulation, for example. There are also processes that the label can key you in on—for example, if antibiotics or growth hormones were used. Other labels may also tell you about the human element involved in your food—whether workers and farmers receive fair wages or fair prices.

For example, grain fed on a label only suggests that animals are fed a diet of grain—but it isn’t a guarantee. Grass fed, on the other hand, indicates that animals have natural grass or forage—but they may not be raised in pastures.

This graphic breaks down all of those labels for you, proving a helpful guide as you do shopping for your family, your health, and the earth.

How to Decipher Confusing and Misleading Grocery Labels

 

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Garden In The City

Garden In The City
Garden In The City

City living is comfortable and preferred by most but there is something in the country which, if given the chance, I would definitely have in the city, gardening.  There seem to be no place for it anymore.  Scarce and pricey lots and spaces have made it impossible.  Owning a big place in the city has become a privilege.  So the idea of gardening is just seem infeasible.

But then again there is nothing impossible to creative and resourceful minds. Coupled with a desire to have some organic food on the table, I made my own garden in the city.  Re-using large plastic water bottles and containers, wooden cabinet, and even my kids’ baby bath tub, I planted some veggies like malabar nightshade, bitter melon, cilantro, ginger, garlic, tomato, and bell pepper.  Since then, my family has enjoyed some great, tasty, hot soup from my garden’s produce. This is my first attempt, so things are a bit topsy-turvy.  However I plan to organize things and maximize the our teeny-weeny veranda into a mini jungle as my kids would say.  My garden may not look like what it is in the country.  But for me this is a garden, a garden in the city. No matter what situation we are in we could always turn it around to our advantage.

Aside from this, there are other few things we can do/learned from gardening.

  1.  It’s a good way to teach children about plants- parts, needs, and how to take care.
  2. Watering plants is a household chore that even a 4 year old will enjoy.
  3. Planting is a tangible and great way to instill in children the love for nature.
  4. It shows children the value of eating healthy, organic food.

 

Are you into gardening? What’s yours? The real one or a garden in the city like mine.

 

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