Merry Christmas 2010

2 of the photos above (of the 3 boys and the one of Russ, Isabella, and myself) are courtesy of Owen Donnahoo of Most Precious Art Photography

Highlights of the Blessings of the year 2010:
"Every good and perfect gift is from above"


  • Isabella as a butterfly for SFBallet's Nutcracker production

Happy 11th Birthday Isabella

Our family's darling angel princess is now 11 years old.

I feel so blessed having a daughter who is my angel on earth. Isabella is wise beyond her 11 years. I learn so much from her everyday. She's the one who gave me the quote "too blessed to be stressed" during one of our library days when we were in Pismo Beach back in 2007 and it has become my mantra since. She also has a lot of sense of humor (something she got from her dad:) Our conversations are filled with fun bits of wisdom. We look forward to our daily drive to and from San Francisco Ballet as it is always filled with blessed and fun chats.

One of her recent out-of-the-blue remark during our commute: "Mom, I'm so glad God gave me to you and made the doctor not tie your tubes before you had me". You see, in one of our commute conversations I mentioned that after I had her brother Ian, I asked the doctor to tie my tubes so I won't have another baby since I already have 3. The doctor said he does not advise it since I was still young then. I told her I'm so thankful that the doctor didn't grant my request. According to Isabella it was part of God's plan:) Praise the Lord God indeed for the gift of an angel daughter.

True to the saying like mother, like daughter, Isabella and I share a lot of the same interests. We enjoy many activities together. We love going to the library, reading books over tea, writing, dancing, watching movies, shopping for matching outfits and shoes:) and even exercising and cleaning together. She is truly my angel on earth.

As a student, Isabella is an ardent learner. Her passion for learning gives her the discipline and motivation in everything she chooses to do. Her 6th grade Science teacher recently wrote: "I'm enjoying Isabella very much. I totally agree that she is very self-motivated. You are lucky parents indeed. In many ways, she seems years older than her peers, but she never shows frustration with their silliness."

(see previous comments here from her other teachers)

As most of you know, she has a demanding schedule with her daily ballet training at SFB. As soon as we arrive home from ballet, she goes straight to her study room to do her homework. And what's so admirable and awesome about it is that she goes to that room full of anticipation and enthusiasm in completing her work. Then she tries to finish as efficiently as she can so that she'll have time to show me the dance combination she just learned. And when I say efficient, I mean going above and beyond what is required. Like for example, in a recent assignment, the teacher asked for sentences using at least 8 of their spelling words. Isabella had fun writing a whole story using 13 of their vocab. words. Then I remember her brother Immanuel upon checking her math work that night, served her with his own concoction of freshly blended apple/jackfruit/pineapple smoothie. You see, being the only girl, Isabella is lavished with love:) She is also an angel sister to her brothers. And I am a mom in heaven:)

Overflowing with joy and gratitude

It is inspiring and heavenly to a mother's heart to witness her child's dedicated, conscientious, and passionate efforts. Isabella had more homework than normal last night (including a project for her core classes). As soon as we arrived from ballet (about 8:30pm) she's off to her study area (as always) (oh!... but not before the usual "show" of what she learned in had to be a short one this time). She finished all her homework and projects (past 11pm) and showed me her grades online....she's striving to maintain her straight A's....a passion for learning...for dance...for life....what more can a mother ask for? I am overflowing with gratitude..."Every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17)

Another delight to a mother's heart....when all her children continuously manifest sincere love and support toward one another. Isabella is blessed with wonderful, supportive, and able brothers. She has three excellent resources for homework checking when dad is unavailable (unfortunately this is not mom's department:)). Her first line of recourse is Immanuel (since he's the one here with us...brings to mind the meaning of Immanuel's name: "God with us"). If Immanuel is unavailable (i.e. "in music"), thanks to video conferencing she can take advantage of another great resource...Phil all the way in Pismo Beach. She has not gotten to her third option, Ian, as yet (though Ian was her first possible reference before he went off to Cal Poly). They all enjoy providing love and support to their little sister and to one another....truly a great joy and pure heavenly delight to a mother's heart and soul. Praise God!

"The Truth Will Set Us Free"

SFBallet students are reminded not to get their hopes up too much as there are a lot more students this year for the Nutcracker roles available. And yet Isabella is still unafraid and uninhibited to dream big. I am in awe of her confidence not because of her courage to dream big but because at such a young age her confidence is rightly placed. She believes that whatever role she gets is from God is therefore the best not just for her but for everyone concerned. This reaffirmed to me the time tested bible principle, “the truth will set you free”. In knowing and believing the truth that God gives us what is best, she feels free to dream big with confidence and without any fear, concerns or inhibitions.

Cancun 2010

Sunday - 8/15
  • My sweet step sister, Suzie, took us to the airport at 4am in the morning for our 6:30am flight to Cancun
  • Met up with our special friends, the Marquez family (ate Janette, kuya Lando, their DD Jeazelle, and mommy Esther)
  • Arrived in Cancun at 3:45pm and checked in at Crown Paradise Cancun (CPC) all-inclusive resort at around 5pm

Monday - 8/16
  • Explored Mercado 28 via a public bus....Ian needed to log in to his Cal Poly portal to sign up for his classes....and of course some authentic Mexican shopping for the rest of us.

Tuesday - 8/17
  • 11:30 - AquaWorld
  • for some water sports

  • Unforgettable kayaking started to rain hard in the middle of our kayaking. The rough waves made paddling tougher and it took us longer going back but the scary conditions made it all more exciting.
  • Dinner at CPC Piazza Italian Restaurant

Wednesday - 8/18
  • left for Chichen Itza tour at 7:30am (2 1/2 hr. bus ride)

  • returned to the hotel at 6:30pm in time for dinner at Wayne's Boots Steakhouse - Phil, Ian, and kuya lando braved the mechanical bull
  • dancing at CPC Nitro Club

Thursday - 8/19
  • Russ and Isabella enjoyed the zip line
  • I enjoyed the pool exercise and relaxing in a hammock

  • The kids and I had a great time playing in the fun rough ocean waves while Russ caught up with some ZZZZ's
  • Dinner at CPC Sans Souci French Restaurant
  • Supposed Karaoke Night. Russ had been looking forward for some karaoke since we checked in but it wasn't meant to be. First, front desk gave us the wrong information making us miss karaoke night. Since this is our last night ate Janette and kuya Lando went with Russ to a karaoke bar (I was too pooped to go:) but as it turned out, the first karaoke bar was closed and the second one was having a dancing night instead of karaoke....the manager did indulge Russ one karaoke moment:)
  • Storm started to come

Friday - 8/20
  • checked out at noon
  • left for the airport at 12:30
  • once again my sweet step sister, Suzie, picked us up at SFO airport at 11:30pm
The resort is good but definitely not as good as Beaches resorts. It's hard not to compare when you have experienced a previous all inclusive resort the year before.

Our experience in Jamaica last year at a Beaches resort is much better in all aspects....convenience of water sports (we didn't have to take bus), bigger water park, much better food, and most of all, great service (we encountered some problems relating to poor service at CPC). But then again the price tag is less expensive than a Beaches vacation; so for the value, the resort is good enough.

All in all we had a great vacation. After all, a vacation is what you make of it....great friends and wonderful family....these are what matter most...these are what make a vacation blissful and a life heavenly. I am ever so grateful!

Panama Canal

Bridge of the Americas
connecting North and South America
that was divided when the Panama Canal was constructed

Miraflores Locks
Panama Canal

We got the chance to witness a cargo ship carrying automobiles from Korea go through the narrow canal with only about 2 feet clearance on each side.

It was being pulled by these custom towing locomotive directed by a Panama Canal pilot

Panama 2010: Amador Causeway

The Amador Causeway is a roadway and walking/biking path overlooking the entrance to the Panama Canal. It was constructed from the rocks that were removed from the construction of the Panama Canal.

After an hour of biking, Isabella and I shared a yummy chocolate banana split.... refreshing!

Panama 2010

We arrived safely here in Panama yesterday, Saturday, July 24th. We will be here for 2 weeks for Isabella's summer dance intensive under Ms. Yoira Esquivel Brito and Ms. Amparo Brito, mother/daughter ballet masters.

We are staying at a bed and breakfast in Panama City together with 7 other ballet families.

Everything is in Spanish and most of the people we spoke to didn't speak English. Isabella is so thankful for the few Spanish words she learned from Dora the Explorer show. Muchas gracias Dora!

Today we toured around Panama City and visited Mis Pueblitos (My Little Villages) featuring cultural replicas of three villages that represent the main cultural influences of Panama.

Spanish Village

Caribbean Village

Indigenous Village

This place reminds of Nayong Pilipino in the Philippines that also highlights miniature versions of the Philippines and its culture.

After the tour, we went swimming at a public pool.

We headed back to the bed and breakfast around 5pm. After shower, Isabella watched ballet on you tube and started dancing.

We ended the day with a quick trip to the mall with 4 other families (we took 3 taxi cabs).

Museum of Science and Industry

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I woke up early to attend church service while the kids got ready for a day of Museum fun.
After a nice breakfast at the cafe by the John Hancock building, we were off to the Museum of Science and Industry.

clowning around

John Hancock Observatory

Less than a block from our hotel is the renowned John Hancock Observatory. After dinner last Saturday, July 9th, we hopped on one of the fastest elevators to the 94th floor of one of the tallest buildings.

only to wash windows?:)

from Wikipedia: John Hancock Observatory is complete with full 360 degree views of the city, up to four states and over 80 miles. The floor-to-ceiling windows leave nothing between you and the view. The Observatory has Chicago's only open-air SkyWalk, where they took our 80 feet of windows and put in NASA-approved steel casing so you can feel what it's like to be outside more than 1,000 feet up.

I can't believe the kids got me to go with them. Actually, it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. We had a great time having coffee (strawberry milk for Isabella) overlooking a fantastic view and watching fabulous fireworks.

Adler Planetarium

Our 2nd weekend in Chicago was extra special. Phil arrived on Friday, July 9th. The following day, we met up with Russ' brother, Scott, and his family (wife, Danielle, sons, Zachary (19), and Wyatt (14)). They drove from Michigan to spend the day with us. It was a precious moment as it was the first time the cousins saw each other. We had a great time visiting the Adler Planetarium.

Chicago Trip - 2nd week

Highlights of 2nd week Chicago trip

Isabella's Class Schedule

9:30 - 11:00 Ballet
11:15 - 12:15 Character
12:15 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 Classical Repertoire
2:10 - 3:10 Jazz
3:20 - 4:20 Pre-Pointe/Pointe

9:30 - 11:00 Ballet
11:15 - 12:15 Pre-Pointe/Pointe
12:15 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 Classical Repertoire
2:10 - 3:10 Modern
3:20 - 4:20 Body Conditioning/Pilates

9:30 - 11:00 Ballet
11:15 - 12:15 Character
12:15 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 Classical Repertoire
2:10 - 3:10 Jazz
3:20 - 4:20 Pre-Pointe/Pointe

9:30 - 11:00 Ballet
11:15 - 12:15 Body Conditioning/Pilates
12:15 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 Classical Repertoire
2:10 - 3:10 Modern
3:20 - 4:20 Pre-Pointe/Pointe

9:30 - 11:00 Ballet
11:15 - 12:15 Pre-Pointe/Pointe
12:15 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 Classical Repertoire
2:10 - 3:10 Music Theory
3:20 - 4:20 Improvisation

Chicago Trip - Day 8

Day 8 - Sunday, July 4, 2010 - Shedd Aquarium

Chicago Trip - Day 7

Day 7 - Saturday - July 3, 2010 - Field Museum

Chicago Trip - Day 4, 5, 6

Isabella is truly enjoying her classes. She is the first one to take a shower in the morning and always rushing us to get ready. She is so thrilled and can't wait to learn and train. After we pick her up, while walking, she is full of excitement and can't wait to tell her stories and show what she learned. As soon as we get to the hotel, she puts on her pointe shoes and shows me what she has learned with total bliss. Then she changes to different shoes from ballet flats, to jazz shoes, to character shoes to show me what she learned in each class. She does this every night....something she has done in the past after every dance class. This reaffirms her passion for this art, putting to rest the bit of worry I had about "burn out" issue I heard regarding young kids taking intensives. She even prays loudly as we walk thanking God for this opportunity. Then she thanks me and calls her dad to thank him....brings tears to my eyes. She also thanks her brother Ian for being with us. Ian has been a great "bodyguard" for us. He is so concerned for us especially his little sister. He always holds her hand and makes sure she is safe all the time. He worries if we might be running late to pick her up. He even watched Twilight for his little sister:) I feel so blessed and I am so grateful.

Day 4 - Wednesday - June 30, 2010

Ian and I stopped at the church beside our hotel.

Then we spent time at Borders with our laptops.

Foodlife at Water Tower

Day 5 - Thursday - July 1, 2010
watched Isabella from Borders across the street from Joffrey.
shopping with Ian at H&M
shopping with Belle at Zara

Day 6 - Friday - July 2, 2010
Finally started feeling better. Still has lingering cough and asthma but thank God back pain almost gone.
Shopping with Ian at Nordstrom Rack and Anne taylor
watched Twilight
pooped when we got to the hotel....ordered room service

more photos to follow. Got to go now....visiting museums today.