Posts in “Family”

Hello baby bump #3

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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I’m finally excited to share with everyone that we are expecting our third child this year! We had told some people when I was in the Philippines (Brent and I decided to share the good news in-person first, then on social media), but I think now is a good time to officially share this blessing with everyone, and it’s my birthday week! I’ve been feeling great since I hit my second trimester. No morning sickness at all. Although, I still can’t stand the smell of coffee… Sorry, coffee lovers…

Was this planned or was it a surprise, you ask? I’ve been praying to God to bless us with another child to add to our family, so nope. It was not a surprise. Haha! Brent knows that two kids are little in number for me. 😉 Last year, was a challenging one with our second child because of his bad reflux, colic, and waking up before 6AM daily. It was also sometimes challenging to take care of a baby and toddler close in age, but it is true that these kind of challenging moments will disappear one day. When I try to look back and remember those moments, I honestly can’t remember the feeling. I know I was exhausted and I do remember it was so hard for Brent and me.  But here we go again, starting another chapter with a new addition to our family. It’s weird to me that I don’t feel anxious and nervous thinking about taking care of two toddlers and a newborn… Maybe I should be, but right now, I’m just too busy with my two boys and focusing on parenting them before the new baby comes. I also believe that all I can do is trust God and His plan for this new little one.

Happy weekend and happy birthday to me! I’ll be enjoying a piece of cake! Sorry, Baby!
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(Hello Baby book by Mem Fox / Motherhood Maternity Top (from a friend) / Jeans from thrift store but here’s the similar)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17


Ninja Turtle Inspired Birthday + Filipino Skewered Barbecue Recipe

Thursday, April 6, 2017

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My eldest son has been liking “ninjas” a lot.  I think he’s been a fan of them ever since he was an infant. My husband would lift him up and have him pretend to jump all over the house (walls, sofas, etc). This year for his birthday, he was the one who kept telling me that he would like ninjas for his birthday. That’s why I planned to use a touch of Ninja Turtles and a colorful theme for his special day. I saw some ninja turtle birthday ideas when it came to food. I tried to make the fruit tray and saw Ninja Turtle cookies in a grocery store. We also played “Pin the Mask” on the ninja, thanks to my friend Karla who led the game. We had a great time with our friends and their kids, who are close to my son’s heart. I thought to prepare Filipino dishes like lumpia and skewered pork barbecue, so our friends could taste some FIlipino dishes that we love. Here’s a recipe of Filipino skewered pork barbeque in case you guys want to try it. It’s actually a street food in the Philippines, which I loved to buy often when I lived there. It’s perfect if you dip it with spicy vinegar and eat it with rice!! YUM!


(Special thanks to my sister-in-law Suki for the birthday decor!)

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Filipino Skewered Pork Barbecue


2 lbs pork, sliced

½ cup soy sauce

½ ketchup

8-10 cloves garlic, minced (I used garlic pressed, similar to this)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1-2 teaspoons sriracha (optional, but it’s good!)

2 teaspoons of lemon juice (fresh or it can be from the bottle of concentrate)

1 cup (or more) of Sprite (Yep!)

Bamboo skewers – Soak a night or at least 20 minutes before you use it. It keeps the skewers from getting burnt during grilling.



Combine soy sauce, ketchup, minced garlic, brown sugar, pepper and salt, sriracha, and lemon into a flat container (I like to use a glass baking dish), stir it well with a fork. Place sliced pork onto the dish and mix together with the sauce. Pour the Sprite evenly over the pork. Cover it and refrigerate it to marinate overnight.

After it’s marinated, skewer the pork with the bamboo sticks. Keep the sauce aside. Ready the grill at medium heat. While waiting for the grill to be hot, cook the sauce from the marinated pork with a low heat and stir. Wait for it to bubble while cooking. When it’s cooked, I taste it and add some sprite, ketchup and brown sugar depending on how I want it to come out. For my son’s party, I found it a little spicy for our visitors who were kids, so I added these ingredients to adjust it. This cooked sauce will be used to brush onto the barbecue while on the grill so it’s juicy and moist. Put the barbeque pork on the preheated grill and start to brush the cooked sauce on each side of the pork. Grill 10-12 minutes per side. Keep rotating it and brushing the pork with the sauce keep it moist. Cooking takes about 25-30 minutes. I used a charcoal grill to cook this, but you may use a gas grill too.


Try serving it with spicy vinegar and rice! It’s totally delicious!


Anyone here tasted this skewered barbecued pork before?


Gift Ideas for 3 Year-Olds

Monday, March 27, 2017

My eldest son is turning 3 years old this month. Truly, time goes by so fast. He went from a baby to a big, sweet (and hyper) boy, who is also a good helper.  I still remember when I was pregnant with him. It was different than with my second child because I was actually pregnant not only with my eldest, but with another one as well. I also remember Brent’s facial expression when I shared the news with him. His jaw dropped and he couldn’t talk for a few seconds. Haha! I wasn’t familiar with the type of pregnancy I had until I experienced it myself. It was called Vanishing Twin Syndrome. Even though we went through that, God has always been good to Brent and to me. He is always there for us, helping raise our children. If you have met my eldest, he is sweet, although he can be very active (He has so much energy!). As some people say, boys will be boys. 😉 Here are a few gift ideas for 3 year-old toddlers that you will want to check out.


ONE Waterfall Discovery Wall

My kids totally love water! I think this is something we would like to consider getting him, especially now that winter is over, and he and his brother can play outside.

TWO Play-doh

My son loves to play with this together. He requests for us to make snakes or alligators, while his little brother only requests for a ball.

THREE Play-mags

Another cool thing to check out is this magnetic toy, where you can build towers and other structures. I saw this on a playdate with a friend and my son loves it.

FOUR Magnetic Letters and Numbers

They got this last year and I use this mostly when I’m trying to cook. I let them play with these on the fridge door while I cook.

FIVE Books (Harold and the purple crayon)

Books are always a great gift idea. My eldest loves storytime, which I’m so happy about because I’m not into books. 😉 Here’s a book he got from his cousin. He loves this book because of its creative story.

SIX Water Paint Reveal Pads 

No-mess painting for toddlers! I first heard about this from a friend who suggested I get it for my travel to the Philippines. I didn’t have the chance to get one, but it’s a good thing Korea Airlines offered a similar item for our kids in the plane. They totally LOVED it!

SEVEN Magnetic Wooden Block Set 

I think this is good toy to build their imaginations. I would like to have this for him!

EIGHT  Trampoline

My boys have this and they love it. It’s a good way for them to release their energy, and is better than having them from jumping on the bed and sofa 😉

Do you have any gift ideas you like to give for a toddler? I’d love to hear them. :)


Highlights Of Our Trip to the Philippines

Monday, March 13, 2017

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We finally made it back to Houston, and Brent and I are definitely missing the tropical life and good food from the Philippines. I actually felt that I got spoiled while I was there with my family. My mom and brother cooked food for us (all of them were yummy!) and my brother drove us around with the kids. The most amazing thing of all for me was that I got to rest whenever I wanted! This is because my family and relatives would help take care of my kids, and they loved doing it. 😉 It was my dream vacation. I thought to share some of the highlights that my family and I enjoyed while in the Philippines!

Tres Reyes Beach

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This beach is in my hometown of Marinduque, a small island province in the Philippines. We drove from my family’s house in Marinduque to the town of Gasan. From there, we rode a boat that took us to the island where Tres Reyes Beach is located. Brent really loves this place, and it was my kids’ first time going there. They were scared being in the boat, but once they were on the beach, they immediately started playing with the kids who lived there. If you are planning to go there, we found a “bangkero” or boat driver that you can inquire about. We paid 1,000 Pesos or $20 USD round trip.

Duyay River

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It’s a simple river that has a man-made pool, which overflows like a mini-waterfall. I like how they made small cottages for visitors where you rest, hangout with the family, and have a lunch or snack. The water is pretty cool, but once you are in it, it feels good to swim in! There are a couple of families there who still wash their clothes in the river and dry them on the big rocks by the water. We paid 30 Pesos (less than a dollar) per person to get there.


Filipino Food

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This is Miki, my kids and my husband love it!
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Halo-halo “mixed together” – a Filipino dessert

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(Grilled Milkfish – this photo was taken few years ago when my mom was here and made it for my husband’s family)

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“Ginataang Crab” (crab with coconut milk)

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Sweet and Sour Fish

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Fresh Shrimp

My mom is a good cook, especially when it comes to Filipino foods; most of the moms in the Philippines are! I loved when she made us “Ginataang Crab” (crab with coconut milk) and grilled milkfish (a boneless fish with delicious stuffing inside). This is something that visitors should try when in the Philippines! Brent also loved to eat fresh fish like “Blue Marlin” or other fishes that my mom bought directly from the fisherman near where we lived. There is also a restaurant in the town of Boac that serves delicious Filipino foods. It is located in the Boac Hotel in Marinduque. Unfortunately, there are no good Western foods in this province,  but if you are in the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, there are plenty of Western and other types of food that you can choose from.

Filipino Bathtime

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My kids totally loved the experience of taking a bath in a “palanggana” outside or or “timba” (basin) if they are in the bathroom. It brought joy and laughter to their faces. It was such a good feeling for me to see that they were able to share in this experience from my childhood.

Lunch at Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut)

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My grandparents who passed away, have land in a small place called Duyay (still in the province of Marinduque). We went there to bring the kids to see the more country-side life with the coconut tree areas and to have lunch in a bahay kubo (nipa hut). It was great to have a simple meal with my family together with chickens, pigs, and dogs around us… Maybe a snake as well. 😉

My Eldest Son Attending A Filipino School

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(my youngest son looking for his big brother)

My eldest son had the chance to join a daycare class where my family lives in Boac, Marinduque. He was always excited to go to school and be around the kids ever since I mentioned the school to him. Even though my kids’ father is American, I always try to speak to and teach them my native language Tagalog. I also teach them Filipino songs and about Filipino culture ever since they were very young. Even though the classes were short, I think it was a good experience for him to interact with other Filipino kids and teachers. I’m also glad to have met fellow moms in the classroom and make friends with them. They were very sweet to my son.

Filipino playtime
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One of the items on my agenda for my kids, was to for them to play some Filipino games  with the kids there like “jackpot / rubberband game”, chinese garter, “tumbang preso” and running in the field. My eldest son was also able to have an early 3rd Birthday celebration. It was a simple gathering, but we all wanted him to experience celebrating his birthday with Filipino kids and food that we normally prepare for birthdays there.

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( NOT happy about our ride 😉 )

Being able to visit my hometown again was something that my husband and I are so grateful for. We realized just how fortunate and blessed we are to have a good place to live, food, and the things we have here in America. It was also a great for my kids to see a different part of the world to witness the culture and lifestyle of the Philippines, a third world culture.

Have you ever been to the Philippines? What activities and food do you want to try there, and where would you like to visit there?

P.S. We are still in jetlagged! Since it’s a big time difference, my kids have been waking in the middle of the night and have been having a hard time going back to sleep. Hopefully they will be back on their normal schedule soon!


Flying With the Toddlers (Philippines here we come!)

Monday, January 9, 2017



I’m SO excited that we are going to the Philippines soon! I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, to finally bring my kids to my hometown. They’ll be able to meet my family and friends there, eat the best mangoes, hear more Filipino words for them to learn, see beautiful coral and white sand beaches, and see… traffic. Haha! I am worried about a lot of stuff though, like with transportation. Normally, we use public transportation in the Philippines, but they don’t have car seats or seat belts (except for taxis unless the seatbelt is not broken). Anyway, I’ve been busy lately trying to finish a list of what things I must bring and plans for when we are inside plane for more than 15 hours! Here are some of the most important items on my list.


Choose Aisle Seats – I like to choose aisles, so it’s easy to get out if I need to go to the restroom or walk a little bit with kids.

Bring A Copy of Birth Certificate – They always ask for this in the airport so I’ll be sure to bring this along.

Use the Ergo Baby Carrier – At first, I thought this was only for babies, but turns out I can use this for my eldest son too! But for this trip, I’ll use this for my youngest son.  It keeps him close to me and prevents him from wandering or getting lost. This is SO helpful during travel especially if everything around me is getting busy.

Avoid Long Earrings and Necklaces – These are a big no-no around my kids! They might play with them and pull them. That’s why I just prefer to wear a watch around them, and that’s all!

Wear Easy On/Off Shoes (Similar shoes) – I would love to use flip flops, but it’s going to be cold in the airport and plane, so I better wear slip-on shoes that are easy to remove and put on.

Separate Snack Bags – My eldest son has a small backpack where I’ll put snacks in since they’re light enough for him to carry. I love to use ziplocks to separate snacks like cheerios, craisins, and fish crackers.

Bring Random Toys – I looked for random small stuff to bring for my toddlers so that I can distract the kids inside the plane. It really works a lot. I’m also planning to get new cheap toys (like $1) so they will get excited. Surprisingly, cheap toys are more entertaining for my kids.

Bring a Laptop/Tablet and Download Family Videos or Cartoons – Brent and I don’t let our kids watch TV or anything with a screen often, only for emergencies or for something special. However, since sitting inside a plane can be boring and tiring, I’m using our old family videos to show my kids if they are acting out of control. I also downloaded music videos and cartoons and fun games.

Bring a Bib – Bibs not only help avoid stains on my kids’ clothes, I use them to hold their snacks so they are hands-free. Brent and I LOVE this plastic bib that we have (similar to here), and have been using it ever since my kids were only 5 month old babies! 

Bring an Empty Water Bottle (with hook) – I always like to bring an empty bottle and hook it onto my backpack. I fill it up after the security check since they don’t allow a lot of water before security check.

Feed the Baby on the Way Up and Down – I’d like to save snacks for the times the plane takes off and lands since that’s time that my kids feel uncomfortable and scared.

Bring Favorite Stuffed Toys – I definitely cannot forget these! My kids love their OWL and FROGGIE. They make them feel secure and help them to fall asleep when they are holding them. I know what you’re thinking. Am I not enough? Haha kidding!

Bring a Toddler Neck Pillow (similar travel pillow)- My eldest son will have his own seat for the first time, so I thought I’d bring a neck pillow for him since it will be a long flight.


This picture is from the time I flew alone with them going to LA last year. It was tough, but not more crazy than I expected. Good thing this time, we’ll be flying with my mom, so she can assist me with our 15+ hour trip!


Any other things I should bring? Any advice and tips? Let me know. :)


Welcome 2017!

Monday, January 2, 2017

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(Another year to force my husband to take pictures with me. Thanks for the patience, Brent. 😉 )


(My kids with their Tito/Uncle. Yep, he looks like Brent!)


(Egg rolls rolled our night!)


(Filipino Leche Flan)


(Two of the beautiful ladies in my life. Mother-in-law and Mama)

Happy 2017 to all! Here are some of our photos from New Year’s Eve and the first day of 2017. My husband’s family drove down to celebrate with us. We had a simple dinner with egg rolls that my mom and I made. They were rolled with a lettuce (Vietnamese style) and my mom made a delicious homemade sauce to go to it! Spaghetti was my request this year, even though my husband is not really a fan of it. But to be fair, I made two kinds of spaghetti sauces: one was Filipino style (a sweeter sauce with meatballs and hot dogs – I know it might sounds weird to others, BUT I’m Filipino! ;)) and the other a normal sauce is just with meatballs. “Zzzz” Haha kidding! Oh, we also had Filipino leche flan with strawberries on top! Yumm!!

Happy New Year and may our lives this year focus on love, faith and hope with God!


Merry Christmas from our family!

Friday, December 23, 2016


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Here are some of our photos for Christmas family photo session! It took me awhile for me to pick which photos I’ll post today, since my kids were running around and didn’t want to stay in one place 😉 Check my previous post here to see our Christmas photo card! :-)

Kids – Mid-top Canvas Boots / Black sneakers (similar) / Dark Wash Jeans (similar)

Brent – Brown Leather (similar) / Grey wear-to-work shirt (similar)

Em – Black Pants (similar)  / Black Bootie (similar)


Merry Christmas everyone!


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


Our Christmas Greeting Cards

Monday, December 19, 2016


Yipee! We survived having our Christmas greeting card photos taken, although it was a rollercoaster! 😉  If you have seen my posts on Snapchat and Instagram Stories a few weeks ago, I shared a couple behind-the-scenes looks during our shoot with these two adorable, yet active toddlers. They were running around and didn’t want to stay in one place! But thank God, my mom was there to entertain the kids with the help of their best friends Owl and Froggie (their stuffed animals). Another important thing that we brought were snacks. Oh boy, do they love to eat all the time. It was helpful to use a tripod and clicker as well while my mom entertained her grandkids.

In the end, I’m happy with how the photos came out. I think it’s best to take  A LOT of pictures so you have many options to choose from. We tried to take photos one hour before sunset so that our pictures would have golden light. It was beautiful!!  Printing tip: Always make sure to send JPEG files (which I mostly use) to your favorite printing company in CMYK mode. It makes a difference with the colors and brightness!


Have you seen our Christmas photo cards from last year? It’s like the behind-the-scenes images from this shoot, except for the reflux baby. 😉

P.S. I forgot to ask Brent to proofread the text for our cards. I missed “s” in “The Smiths.” 😉

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Hello Island Mama is a makeup, DIY, design, and lifestyle blog by Em Smith. She is the mother of two 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

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