Posts in “Family”

Family Weekend at Kemah Boardwalk

Thursday, March 15, 2018

kemah boardwalk family weekend 2

Over the weekend, we went to Kemah Boardwalk for some family time with my mother-in-law, who was visiting. We’ve brought our kids to Kemah a few times before and they love this place. The sights, sounds, and fun activities make them so happy! Weekends are the perfect time for us to spend time with Brent since he works all day during weekdays.

Kemah is a great place to bring your kids and family as there are different rides and attractions for the kids, which even adults can enjoy. They also have waterfront restaurants and a playground area for the kids to run around in.

kemah boardwalk family weekend 7 kemah boardwalk family weekend

My eldest two sons always have fun walking around in Kemah. It was great weather too, after we had chilly weather last week. I had a chance to wear a more lightweight chiffon floral dress from Pink Blush, paired with a thin leather belt and a pair of sandals.

kemah boardwalk family weekend 4

My mother-in-law wanted our eldest boys ride the carousel and they got excited when we finally got up to the second level of it. I think the second level is the best place to ride since you can see more of the sights around you.

kemah boardwalk family weekend 9

kemah boardwalk family weekend 3

When you plan to go to Kemah, you might want to check out this 25-minute boat ride on Galveston Bay, which is called Boardwalk Beast. It says to be ready to get wet since it hits speeds up to 40 miles per hour. We haven’t been on it yet, but I always see a lot of people going on and off the ride.

kemah boardwalk family weekend 6

Kids also love feeding the fish!

kemah boardwalk family weekend 10

Brent and his mom rode this wooden roller coaster together. I’ve never seen a roller coaster made of wood, so this caught my attention when I first saw it a few years ago. It can reach speeds of up to 51 mph. I’ll pass if you ask me to ride. 😉

kemah boardwalk family weekend 8

Hope everyone is enjoying the daylight savings time! Happy weekday!


Talking about handling tantrums and more (VIDEO Q&A with my husband)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

talking about tantrums and more child psychologist cover

I was supposed to share this video on my Instagram story, (that is why it’s in a vertical orientation) but I thought it would be more helpful if it’s on my blog so my readers can also watch and hear. This is a continuation of our Q&A from Valentine’s day activity we did in Instagram story couple weeks ago. My husband rarely participates in my social media photoshoots or campaigns (haha) but when it comes to his field in child psychology, he is happy to share something that can be helpful for both parents and kids. He shares his advice regarding how to handle tantrums, why yelling is not effective, and some thoughts on depression, since that happens in our stage of life. This is a very quick video, but it has lots of great tips!


Cultural Differences (When Filipina meets Kano)

Friday, February 2, 2018
cupids valentines day hello island mama family adventure photoshop

“Cupids”… I hired cupids to make sure this man will celebrate Valentine’s Day!

It’s February everyone! Girls, are you excited for Valentine’s Day and receiving flowers? Or perhaps, you don’t have a date? Well, that’s totally fine! Nobody even gave me flowers or Valentine’s cards until I met Brent after college. It’s so funny, yet amazing to look back at those times when Brent and I started to date. Our relationship was mostly long distance since he was in Thailand teaching kids, while I was in the Philippines working. That time in our relationship was difficult, but God used it to build trust between us and strengthen our relationship. Now, we are married!

I never really thought of dating a man who was from a different cultural background than mine, or even dreamt of living in America (which I talked about from this post about my American citizenship). Yet, here we are! We had so many adjustments to make learning about each other’s cultural beliefs and habits, personalities, and even our own families. What I love about Brent is that he is open-minded about diversity and is really friendly with Asian people. He had been traveling and working in China and Thailand for a few years, before he went to graduate school for Psychology here in America. We have both seen our cultural differences in everyday life, especially when we entered marriage. As we are bound to honor each other in marriage, we learned to compromise, even when it is difficult. I wanted to share a few Filipino cultural habits that Brent has seen and experienced, after marrying a Filipina like me. 😉

Balikbayan Box

Have you heard of this? Well, this is a large moving box that you put different items inside, to send to your family in the Philippines. Whether it is secondhand clothes, toys, canned goods, pretty much anything. My husband is always confused about why I’m sending dishwashing soap inside the box. Why not?? 😀

Normal voice

My family and I may sometimes talk loud as if we are in different rooms, even if we’re together in the same place. Sometimes, my husband wondered if my mom and I were fighting, but we were actually just using our normal voices.

We like to eat

I know all people love to eat, but Filipinos really love to eat all the time! If we have birthday parties, holiday parties, weddings, you name it, we love to make or buy different meals to share with everyone. We can’t do something like only celery and carrots for snacks… I mean those veggies are healthy, but really, we Filipinos love big meals!

Close family

Brent used to ask me, “How many aunties and uncles do you have?” In my culture, we like to call older women and men, Tita or Tito, as a sign of respect. Even if someone may be a more distant relative, we try to call them aunt and uncle. We also love to hangout with second cousins, third cousins, and so many other relatives!

Rice forever

Americans eat certain foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Filipinos on the other hand,we can eat our leftover dinner for breakfast, rice for breakfast, and rice for the next meal. We always eat rice! Ahh, I love rice, especially the fried rice that I make! But like I said, marriage is compromise, so I try to cook other meals that don’t need rice.

Mall Marathon

The first time I went with Brent and his family to the mall, they only stayed for 30 minutes or so. We Filipinos do differently. I’ll use my mom as an example. She can stay at the mall for more than 2 hours or until closing time. Who wants to hang out at the mall with my mom? Not me, I have kids!

Are you dating or married to someone from a different culture? What’s the biggest adjustment you and your man experienced?

hello island mama cultural differences filipina and american

Seriously, this was our real conversation here…

Me: Can we have a photo together?

Brent: What for?

Me: For a Valentine’s Day post!

Brent: What do you want me to do?

Me: Just smile, or maybe try to hold my face like you are about to kiss me?

Brent: Nope. I definitely won’t do that!

Ahh I love my husband!

Have a Happy Heart’s Day month!


Finding your daily “me-time”

Friday, January 26, 2018

finding your daily me-time helloislandmama adventure captain america photoshop

As a parent, we all have different struggles with how to find time for ourselves. Before I had my third son, I tried to wake up a few minutes before my two eldest, so I could start my day quietly. But now, since our 5 month old still wakes up a few times at night, I’d rather wait for our human alarm clocks (our two older boys) to wake us up. I thought to share a few ways that help me recharge as a full-time mom with my three boys.


finding your daily me time helloislandmama (4)

House messes and to-do lists such as laundry can be overwhelming to think of and can easily distract me as a stay-at-home mom. But my husband Brent, always reminds me to give our kids time to bond, whether it is a few minutes playing with their Legos or sword fighting… I can really notice afterwards that they are more independent and happy when I give them my time to play and bond.


finding your daily me time helloislandmama (2)

Like I have mentioned in my post about “Mom life with 3 boys under 3”. Brent and I learned to circulate the kids’ toys so they will be excited when they see the toys they haven’t seen for weeks. This keeps them occupied and gives them some time to play on their own. I kept the big toys in their playroom, but I made 4 boxes and separated different toys into each box. I thought to put different colors to make it more exciting to the kids’ eyes. I find this simple way of circulating toys makes the house less chaotic from mess too. Plus, I believe that kids can concentrate on playing when there are no huge mountains of toys on the floor.


finding your daily me time helloislandmama (1)

Since my 5 month baby is getting into a naptime schedule (Twice a day! Hallelujah!). I tried to put my eldest boys on the same nap time as him in the afternoon. This is such a big “me time” solution to get 100% silence and get things done, such as cleaning, chopping ingredients for dinner, blogging, or shooting for a product, etc. I feel thankful that my boys continue to sleep for at least 2 to 2.5 hours! (Knock on wood!)


finding your daily me time helloislandmama (5)

I grew up in a family that had the TV on throughout the day. My husband Brent who studied child psychology opened my eyes to the fact that TV can be very addicting and not healthy for a child’s brain, especially for young ages like our boys. We try to use screen time on Fridays (as a reward or for popcorn night) or weekends. They love Daniel Tiger and Animal Planet. During normal weekdays, letting them watch is my last resort if I’m totally overwhelmed and I need some space. If I I do, I let them watch a quick Youtube video with my supervision (I often show them videos about how to learn Tagalog words, I like to use this Youtube channel). Another effective way is when I let them browse through books like “The Grounch Lady Bug by Eric Carle” and use this Youtube video of the book to let them hear a narrator reading the story for them. All the while, they listen and browse the book. You can simply open a new tab, so they can’t see the Youtube screen.

Any other tips or effective ways to have few minutes of your own time?



Dreaming of tropical weather (+ photo editing tips)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 1

How’s your weather, my friend? How’s mine, you ask? Cold. That’s why I was inspired to create this image of my boys. This time of the month last year, we brought our two eldest sons to the Philippines for the first time. Even though it was the longest and most tiring trip I ever had (and to think I was pregnant at the time), the 20+ hour trip was worth it. We enjoyed the tropical weather and the fresh food and fruits that my mom and my brother prepared for us. I really miss the beach and how relaxing it is to stay on the island of Marinduque.

I wanted to share today a few behind-the-scenes images at how I created this fun and tropical style image of my boys. Scroll down for some photo editing tips!
dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 4

Use the same location if you are using natural light for the shoot dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 5

Use a tripod and remote to make the shoot easier, especially if you need to assist your kids. I also like to plan beforehand what position they will be in for the photo idea. For my baby, I want him to look like he is climbing a tree, so I carried him to get the angle and positioning of his body that I needed. I used clone in Photoshop to remove my hand.

dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 6 dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 7

For the legos, I still try to take photos of them in the same location, so I can avoid doing lots of adjustments for the lighting. I love to use the pen tool to remove the background and transfer the lego onto the the main background.

dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 8

I try not to show the whole faces of my children here on my blog and Instagram, since my accounts are public.  I love to use props like this toy camera my eldest is holding to cover parts of their face.

dreaming of tropical weather hello island mama adventure 2

Hope you enjoyed this post for today! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my blog. :)


Baby’s Pajamas / Toddler Blue Short Sleeve (similar) / Toddler Blue Short (similar) / Toddler Khaki short

Safari Duplo Legos / Toddler table and chairs


11 Favorite Books for the Baby + DIY Book Container

Saturday, January 6, 2018

favorite baby books DIY book toy container no sewing1

If you come to our place, you’ll see the books of my kids everywhere. Brent and I love to read books to our kids, especially before naptime and before bedtime. It’s part of our kids’ routine and it’s one of our favorite bonding time activities. Books have been my life saver too when my two toddlers need to have quiet time or a calm-down moment (this is also to help me 😉 ). Since my baby is turning 5 months, he’s showing some interest at the pages of the books I’m browsing through and reading to him.

Here are 11 of our favorite books for our baby, which my two toddlers loved when they were babies too.

  1. Can you choo choo!
  2. Good night Moon
  3. I love you stinky face
  4. First 100 Words
  5. Red Truck
  6. The very hungry caterpillar
  7. Dear Zoo
  8. Baby Einstein: Mirror Me!
  9. Toes, Ears, & Nose! A Lift-the-Flap Book
  10. Peek-a-WHO?
  11. The Beginner’s Bible All Aboard with Noah!: A Lift-the-Flap Book

favorite baby books DIY book toy container no sewing 2

I also thought to make a book/toy container out of an Amazon box without sewing. I have a thing with cardboards, it’s hard for me to let them go. 😉 Check out my other works using cardboards such as DIY Playhouse, DIY Play Kitchen, and more.



Fabrics (for outer part and for the inside of the box)

Natural Jute Rope

Glue Gun and Stick


favorite baby books DIY book toy container no sewing 5 favorite baby books DIY book toy container no sewing 7


Start by folding the upper flap of the box inside and seal with tape. Choose the main fabric you want for the outside of the box. Cover it with that fabric and trim the excess. I did some folding as shown in the image shown above. Make sure to pull the fabric as you stick it with hot glue so it won’t get loose.

For the interior, I used a free canvas bag that Brent brought home. I removed the zipper part and handle, and covered the inside of the box with it. Again, trim the excess fabric. I left about a ½ inch of fabric to glue over the top edges of the box

Lastly, use a natural jute rope to put an accent and add natural charm to the container. That’s it! You can also use this container for diapers or small toys.

favorite baby books DIY book toy container no sewing

I hope this tutorial inspires you to recycle some boxes and make them useful at home. :)


Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas Hello Island Mama Photo Card DIY hello island mama Christmas family photo 2017 a

Merry Christmas everyone! I can’t believe there only 2 days to go before Christmas. I hope everyone finds peace and embraces the season with loved ones, even if it’s one of the busiest time of the year. Since I rarely post my whole family’s faces on my blog and Instagram to set some boundaries, here are my beautiful boys who always make my day so alive (starting at 6:30 AM or earlier…) and my man. Having family and kids makes my Christmas more meaningful and exciting! One of the other reasons I love Christmas now is that we can have a family photo session, even though it is quick (like I shared some editing tips in my previous blog post). Obviously, our baby was photoshopped since he sleeps unpredictably. 😉

Thank you for continuing to stop by my little blog. I hope everyone has a safe trip if you are traveling for Christmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas time with your family and loved ones!


Baby’s First Christmas Shoot + Photo Editing Tips

Saturday, December 16, 2017

babys first christmas shoot photo editing tips (3)

Our baby will be celebrating his first Christmas in the next few days!! Since our baby arrived last summer, he has given us so much joy, especially for his older brothers. Having another baby taught Brent and me to be more mature, though it is really hard most of the time. However, we can’t wait for all of them to play together next year!! It will be awesome… And loud! 😉

We had our Christmas family photoshoot last week and it was the quickest shoot ever (less than 15 minutes). I wanted to share with you all a DIY Christmas box that we used as a prop with the boys. My friend Sabine suggested wrapping a box to use as a prop, for a family shoot. It was a great idea for the toddlers to make sure they stayed in the same place. Since I love doing fun and creative photo manipulation, I thought to apply some editing for our baby’s photos. I thought it was cute!

Here is a simple and quick DIY gift box to try for your Christmas family shoot.

babys first christmas shoot photo editing tips (4)


Kraft Paper



Hot Glue


I used a medium sized box in which ideally, my baby would fit inside. I did not put him inside though and I don’t recommend that you actually put your baby inside either. :) Wrap up the box with kraft paper or any Christmas wrapper of your choice. I wrapped the box on the inside as well just in case the camera can see the inside of the box. I used thick ribbon and hot glue to make sure everything was set for the shoot. That’s it!

babys first christmas shoot photo editing tips (1)

babys first christmas shoot photo editing tips (2)

If you ever use Photoshop or are planning to learn about this software for your Holiday card, here are some tips from yours truly:

  1. Take a lot of shots of you and your props from different angles. I also use a tripod and remote to make sure everything is in the same frame and to make the shoot fast and easy (before the boys wake up!).
  2. Take photo of you and your baby in the same location to get the same lighting.
  3. I like to use a vector mask so it’s easy to remove the background or to undo it. Sometimes, I also use the pen tool.
  4. I consider the shadow of my baby as well to make it more realistic, when I overlap him onto the main image.

babys first christmas shoot photo editing tips (5)

babys first christmas shoot photo editing tips (6)

P.S. I also love to style myself, wear a pretty sweatshirt from Pink Blush, and put some makeup on (I love this brand! 100% natural that works! ). Santa hats are also cute to add for the shoot! :)

I hope my little man brightened your day today! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.

God bless, friends!




Hello Island Mama is a makeup, DIY, design, and lifestyle blog by Em Smith. She is the mother of three boys and a wife, who loves to inspire and encourage others through her works and stories. Originally from the Philippines.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

follow me!


Popular Posts

  • Hello Spring + behind-the-scenes of creative photography
  • Halloween Costume 2017
  • DIY Cardboard Playhouse (Inspired by Nipa huts)
  • Succulent Thank You Gift Idea With Free Printable Tag
  • Family Weekend at Kemah Boardwalk
  • Tutorial: Blue And Burgundy Smokey Eye Makeup