Gratitude during hard times

Posted by Papa Sez | Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Canada celebrated Thanksgiving Day yesterday. While the kids were thankful for a four-day weekend, Mama Sez and I were both grateful for a colourful first two months in our new city, just like the leaves in autumn. The various shades of yellow and orange reflect the mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement as we face new possibilities, brown for the sorrow we feel as we mourn for the loss of our mother, and green for the hopefulness that all is well despite disappointments in a handful of people that we were counting on. Hard times is like strong air currents that winnows the grain from the chaff… that exposes one’s true character. Relationships are tested at such times and some would not go far. It is then those found to be true and enduring that must be celebrated instead of brooding hurt and anger over the ones that had gone awry.

"Autumn falls..." by Paul Bica
In the midst of our thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, we expressed our appreciation for the support and encouragement during this period of difficulty and adjustment. As in the nightly gratitude ritual that we have started doing again, we emphasized the many things that we are thankful for, particularly good health, good friends and togetherness.

The other thing that everyone was thankful for that night was Mama Sez's success in using the Modified Pollo Iberico recipe on her very first turkey cooking.  It was tasty to the bones!

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New Beginning

Posted by Papa Sez | Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer is officially over here in North America. Yes, you read it right. The family has relocated to Canada.

'Twas the longest summer ever for our kids, that started in late March in the Philippines when the school year ended and continued through early September when they enrolled in their new schools halfway around the world.

Indeed, it was again a summer filled with adventures and new experiences for the whole family. You can say that we outdid ourselves again, way beyond our island travel adventure in 2010, because this time we crossed the Pacific Ocean unto a different continent to start a new life.

You might have guessed by now the reason for the long pause in our blogging.  With all the preparations and tying up loose ends prior to the travel, and the adjustments and settling down that followed, it was just nearly impossible for us to sit down and write.  Although documenting and blogging everything we've been through to relocate a family of six would have been great, it was simply beyond our capacity as stress levels were almost always way up high!

In contrast, exactly six months ago before the peak of activities related to our relocation, Mama Sez was still inspired to write the poem below.  I am belatedly posting it now as it was really intended to be sent out to inform everyone about our big move.  Well, what else can I say but sorry for the delay.  I am hoping for your understanding and continued support for our family and our online efforts.

by Mama Sez, 23 March 2011

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One might immediately think that availability of information over the internet and television, and flow of information via social networks and cell phones would result in better public awareness about the need to conserve biological diversity. But it's not the case, according to a UN official, especially among the younger people who would be the decision makers of tomorrow.

There were no specific studies aimed at directly answering the question, but related studies on biodiversity awareness, urbanization trends, and habits as well as internet and television usage among young people were cited to support the claim.

I would be cautious about any conclusion of direct causation without direct study, but I can see the logic behind the correlation. How can someone conserve something that he or she is not even aware of?

Mama Sez and I have already made a stand on the need to limit television, computer and internet time for our kids. This is despite our current engagements online and the belief that much of the future developments would rely on the internet and related technologies. There has to be a balance; i.e. for our kids to be out there directly interacting with other kids and enjoy the outdoors while not falling behind what they need to know about technologies and the internet.

Photo courtesy of Bas Boerman

For television, it's way down there at the bottom of our list such that we don't even have one in our house right now. They can only watch specific programs or films at their grandparents' house, thus making sure that the purpose is interaction, relaxation and/or educational, and not merely to waste time and be "a-mused" (meaning not think).  It may sound impossible to do but we know of many parents who have done it or still doing it, so there's no question whether or not it can be done.

Give it a try.  We might see more naturalists, entomologists, scientists, athletes, generally healthy individuals and better informed leaders among the next generations by reducing kids' television, computer and television time (by the way, electronic games is included in this list). The planet would be in better hands by ensuring that the leaders of tomorrow have a balanced perspective of life.

Learn some tips on how to minimize kids' TV viewing from Mama Sez.

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For our kids, summer fun will never be complete without visiting a beach resort, and this year we chose Peninsula de Punta Fuego in Nasugbu, Batangas as our first beach destination. This is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Los BaƱos, Laguna, but with what’s in store for us, the distance was never an issue.

A year after the invitation, we finally got to visit this world class resort which boasts of an 800-meter fine white sand beach, infinity pools and other water sports amenities, 9-hole golf course and other land sports facilities, and comforting casitas and hotel rooms, some of which feature a magnificent view of the South China Sea. It also has a SPA facility, superb restaurant, function rooms, mini-theater and a lot others. Thanks to the hospitality and generosity of my best friend Marites G. Felicisimo.

Though a day of bonding was not enough for the kids to know each other very well and become true friends like their parents, they managed to enjoy the time spent together burying themselves in the sand, building sand castles, swimming, snorkeling, eating and chatting. Papa Sez managed to take his power nap on the lounge bed beside an infinity pool with the cool wind patting his cheeks and whispering to him “This is the life”.

Late in the afternoon, while the rest were busy enjoying the infinity pool, Zeki and I sneaked out for a little golf putting and tour of the golf course driving my friend’s cart. I was having a great time and that left me unaware of the time if not for the setting of the sun. It was already dark and time for us to bid goodbye to this beautiful place.

It was like a mini UPEntomSoc Alumni homecoming for there were six of us (UPES Alumni) who got together with our respective families. For the first time in so many years, we were able to update each other on what is happening in our personal lives. I cannot tell everything we talked about, otherwise this blog could become a best-selling novel; but briefly, I would like to share two heartwarming realizations.

1. Parenting can change one’s outlook, attitude and priorities in life. (i.e. a paradigm shift). It was very touching to see a friend whom I’ve known to be strong, domineering and brave suddenly becoming a willing servant to the needs of a child, with a growing weakness to the thought of losing him and with heightened circumspection in everything she does, especially driving (she now consciously regulates her speed), considering that a child she loves dearly depends on her. Another friend now gives time for medical check-ups and stress management so she can always be strong and well for her growing kids. In the language of personal effectiveness, this is like ‘sharpening the saw’. They were able to witness the change in Papa Sez as well, from being strict and uptight to a lighthearted fellow, playing with and caring for our children.

2. True friendship can withstand the test of time and distance. We may have gained weight, added wrinkles, lost hair or grew gray hairs but how we looked at each other remained the same. No words are needed to show how we respect each other, value our friendship and cherish the moments we were together because we feel it in our hearts. Regardless of the career path we have chosen, ties of friendship remained strong.

I LOVE YOU GUYS!!! Let's keep in touch and do this again someday.

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This is just to share our brief talk with Rica’s piano teacher as he sends us to the door after the lesson earlier this week. He said, “Rica, continue with your lessons and don’t stop playing the piano for someday you can replace Teacher (pointing his way). Whatever your profession may be, you can always play the piano or give lessons to children like what I do (he is a mathematician by profession who has passion for music). I will have you inherit my collections of books and all that I use to teach piano to children.”

We gave him our warm smile, said thank you and bid goodbye. As we walked home, I felt like crying because I was so touched with Teacher’s words. Consistent with what he told me during their first lesson, he sincerely believes in Rica’s musical giftedness.

I remembered Dr. Leonila Corpuz-Raros, the Mother of Philippine Acarology, my mentor, my friend. She saw me to be the next Acarologist who can continue with what she has started and who can have new beginnings in the field as well. She would also have me inherit her collections of specimens, books and journals…she believes in me.

For people of high standards, whom you look up to with high regard, to tell you they believe in you and in what good you can contribute to humanity is the best compliment you could ever ask for. It can erase any doubt you have in yourself and will motivate you to become better and pave the way in your pursuit of excellence.

As parents, we consciously show to our children our confidence in their capabilities because we understand that believing is being. Yes, we should be someone who believes in them, but we must not fall into the trap of false praising. When the child is made to believe that he is already doing great in something, he might think that no further improvement is necessary and consequently halt the development of his full potential. Another trap we might fall into is becoming delusional (believing into something our child is not and making the child believe in it as well). Start with discovering and enriching your child’s true talents then be someone who appreciates who he/she really is and who believes in his/her unique abilities.

For Rica it's music...and with her participation, we programmed her summer activities to include piano and guitar lessons.  We hope to showcase what she has accomplished by the end of summer in a recital and music video (can't wait to share it with all of you...hehehe).

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"Earth Day" every day

Posted by Papa Sez | Saturday, April 23, 2011

Official Earth Day activities in the Philippines were postponed by the government to April 25, Monday, to accord due attention to it as the annual date of April 22 coincided this year with Good Friday, one of the most important religious holidays of the country.

While the move is commendable, I would like to emphasize the need for us parents to go beyond the one-hour Earth Hour or the one-day Earth Day activities and do the right thing every day so that our generation would be able to bequeath to our children a better world than what we inherited from our parents. Such call for action was trumpeted about a year and a half ago in a blog post to highlight the International Day of Climate Action.

logo courtesy of
In the same blog, I listed my top five concrete and practical actions that parents can do to help mitigate climate change.  The following is a quick rundown:
  1. Reduce energy consumption.  This is the concrete action that was promoted in the Earth Hour.  It has an immediate positive impact to the wallet on top of contributing to the long-term sustainability of our planet.
  2. Eat less meat, more vegetables.  This action had to do with the energy requirements to produce meat as animals are secondary consumers that lose energy as heat, thus inefficient in converting biomass from plants.  We also get the health benefits of eating more vegetables, nuts and fruits, while lowering the risks of certain cancers and lifestyle diseases by reducing meat in our diet.  You might even wanna go for an ecologically sound alternative to eating meat as protein source-- entomophagy.
  3. Buy local foods and products.  It's not just getting the freshest food on your table, but also helping the local economy become self-sufficient.  This concrete action minimizes energy expenditure due to transport and packaging.
  4. Travel less, travel efficiently.  Working closer to home has the obvious advantages of lowering fuel expenses and pollution.  But more important to parents is the time that can be spent with the family or doing more worthwhile activities rather than commuting to and from office.
  5. Educate, communicate.  This concrete action not only plants the seeds to better citizenship in our children and community, but also forces us to spend time talking to them. It's a great topic to discuss during dinner where everyone can contribute his/her own ideas.

To read the full arguments for the above listed concrete actions, click this link to the original article "Concrete actions parents can do to help mitigate climate change".

The benefits of the above recommended concrete actions that anybody, particularly parents, can do is at least two-fold in that the positive impacts are both in the short- and long-term. Moreover, these are actions that can be done every day and not needing any special events, venues, skills, tools, group or expenses to do. In fact, we can do it on our own. But our individual actions have a huge impact if more of us do it every day.

So please share this information to family and friends so they, too, may adopt these practical steps/actions to save our planet. You may do so by clicking on the "like" or "tweet" buttons below, or sharing it via email or reposting it in your Facebook or blog.

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It’s been two weeks since school days ended. I’m overjoyed with my kids’ progress and daily accomplishments as we all enjoy summer break and the warmth of Mister Sun. The planned summer activities we prepared have been our very useful guide.

Rica is doing great in her piano lessons and truly impressed her teacher right from the first session. Her teacher immediately decided to include Rica in the recital this coming month after observing her progress for two sessions only. Her teacher is very confident that she can beautifully play the piano pieces he’ll assign to her in such a short preparation time. He believes in Rica’s musical giftedness. It is indeed a blessing from God. Rica is also rehearsing several songs with Tito Jay (Lead Guitar) and Tito Ninong (Base) to be video recorded later to showcase her singing prowess. I can’t help it, I’m a proud Mama.

While Rica has written two poems, Leon is progressing well in his Sci-Fi story. Rica can properly wash small clothing and steadily adds to the list of dishes she can cook. Leon, on the other hand, knows how to wash the dishes already. Our scientist-inventor wannabe, Leon, has learned that becoming who he wants to be entails a lot of patience and hard work for until today he is not done yet with his research proposal, but of course he is not giving up.

Zeki is progressing fast with his alphabet with the help of this website I found. Nadine just had her first haircut from Mama Sez’s Salon.

The family had a day in the pool and the kids enjoyed the time with their cousins. While swimming pool resorts are just stone-throw away from our home, we would need to travel for more than 3 hours to reach the finest beach resort and this will happen next week. Punta Fuego here we come!!! The travel will be all worth it I know, because that beach is awesome plus we will be meeting friends and their families as well. Oooh, how I love summer!!!

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School has ended and our kids are looking forward to two months of summer fun and learning. Our eldest child, Rica, is 11, and the youngest, Nadine, is 2 years of age. Considering that our four kids have different interests, talents and developmental needs, we are planning a different set of summer activities for each. For a quick view, they are summarized in the table below. Enclosed in parenthesis in the first column is the frequency of the mentioned activity, while the numbers enclosed in parenthesis after our child’s name is their respective age. Expected output for each activity is also indicated whenever applicable.

Papa Sez and I believe in what Stephen Covey (author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) has shared - i.e. without involvement there will be no commitment. So we made consultations with them, especially the school-aged kids, before finalizing this table to ensure that the planned activities captured their interests and the targets set are achievable. When asked about activities that they consider FUN to do, ideas from Rica and Leon kept coming.

They decided to discontinue formal art lessons from their Tito Jay because apparently Rica has been contemplating on guitar lessons that she wanted to request from Tito Jay.  They thought that two lessons from their uncle will be too much to ask. They even volunteered the household chores they wanted to learn this summer, so that our helper can relax a bit.  Humility aside, we realized that we have added two considerate beings on earth.

There are activities specific to a child for talent enrichment or skills development. Some activities are interactive while others would require them to work on their own. There are indoor as well as outdoor activities. It is obvious that we are trying to strike a balance among several considerations like fun/excitement, talent enrichment, skills development, learning, family bonding, budget and many others.

We have openly expressed our view about the negative effect of too much television viewing (computer use included) on child development but because we also recognize that in the information age, computer literacy is part of the need of growing children.  Therefore, a regulated computer time is permitted on top of the weekly movie time with the family.

The table may seem overwhelming with activities but please note the frequency of each such that the activities listed will not happen all together in a given week. Swimming lessons, for example, will be over in two weeks and will be replaced by another activity of their choice on the third week.

Rica is already preparing her weekly timetable, awaiting the final schedule of her piano lessons, and this will be featured in the next post. The agreement is for them to have a fun and fruitful summer but not to exhaust themselves too much and forfeit the main goal in the process. Leon’s checklist of activities and applicable expected output will also be prepared so that he is able to track his accomplishments.

The Computer Time Log is posted to effectively regulate computer use...They are already enlisted for their swimming lessons...Leon’s tomato seedlings are almost ready for transplanting...They are energized and eager to start the summer ball rolling!!!

Having a preprogrammed summer activities will help parents ensure a worthwhile summer experience for their kids. This will also help you identify what is expected of you and give you time to prepare. Having a line-up of ready activities will prevent your kids from bugging you with “We are so bored Mom, what do we do now?” Discussing the plan, especially with the older kids, will make them understand what to expect and what is expected of them.  Always remember: No Involvement, No Commitment!

On top of everything, be sure to have fun yourself…Have a happy summer!!!

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We were all very excited this morning getting ready for malling. Papa Sez has to meet a client somewhere in Pasig and we agreed that I bring the kids to SM Mega Mall while he’s in a meeting. We’ll buy a few stuff, dine-out and perhaps see the art gallery. The kids started to choose their clothes and I started to ready the baby bag, packing clothes, milk and diaper for the little ones when all of a sudden a commotion erupted.

Our eldest Rica halted Zeki who was trying to pull his towel that was being stepped on by Nadine to prevent the latter from losing her balance. I later found out that the three-year old Zeki was teasing the two-year old Nadine, so the latter was trying to get back at his older brother by stepping on his towel. This scene is normal for a family with four growing kids... and we even thought that it’s cute.

When Zeki saw his shirt that I’m about to put in the baby bag, he protested with a loud voice that he doesn’t like to bring an extra shirt because he is a big boy already and only babies bring extra clothes. I just told him to lower his voice and explained that the shirt is necessary for accidental mess that may happen even to adults. Zeki then loudly insisted that he takes his bath together with his older brother Leon, which I immediately acceded to.

Everything was going well until we heard Leon complain about Zeki wanting the tabo or water dipper only for himself. Oh dear, it's Zeki again…and this is not cute anymore! When he was done putting on his clothes, he yelled his complaint that we were taking so long to leave. We asked him again to lower his voice and told him that if he cannot control himself from shouting and causing trouble, we will cancel the family malling. Probably because of this threat, he started yelling and crying to pressure me to give a commitment to bring him to the mall in complete disregard of his behavior.  It went further downhill from there on with everyone, including the nanny, already being bullied into submission to his whims.

Though it was very tempting, Papa Sez and I tried so hard to avoid punishing Zeki. We understand that this is just another tantrum episode and it’s a good thing we are still at home. But still we need to show him (and Nadine as well as she now likes to copy whatever Zeki does) that we say what we mean and mean what we say and his misconduct will not be rewarded. 

The family event was cancelled and this brought Rica to tears. She is a very cooperative child and yet she was also penalized. We explained that this has to happen to teach her brother a lesson and she should fret no more because it will definitely push through in some other time. A little delay for discipline’s sake would not hurt and that it'll be better next time. It was also pointed out that being part of a group, there are things beyond our control. Her brother’s behavior and the consequence of that behavior is beyond her control.  But because she is in control of her response to the situation, she can choose to cheer herself up and decide on alternative activities for the rest of the day. 

As I write this blog while waiting for my husband's return, Rica was busy writing a story, Leon was reading a magazine, Zeki was playing with his blocks together with a playmate, and Nadine was chatting with our neighbors. Child temper tantrum spoiled our supposed to be fun day at the mall, a small price to pay for discipline.  Anyway, we managed to have fun time at the comfort of our home with everyone wishing that our cancelled malling will happen soon and things will be better next time.

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After a hectic day with two recognition programs for our school kids, Rica and Leon, who were both Academic Excellence Awardees (Gold Medalists), two meetings and a birthday dinner for our two-year old daughter, we still managed to wrap the day watching a Tinkerbell movie. It wasn’t our choice but it was what’s available in my brother’s collections that we haven’t watched yet, which turned out to be perfect for the day of recognition and birthday.

The story began with the birth of a new girl fairy. It was Rica who pointed out that fairies are born with every baby's first laugh. This particular fairy found out that she's going to be one of the tinkers, the fairies who make and fix things. She was then named Tinkerbell.

Watch how she found out she's a tinker and see her disinterest in her own talent right from the start (go to 04:50 in the video below).

She later longed to visit the mainland but learned that only nature-talent fairies are allowed to do so. Though she was good in doing the task assigned to her, employing her talent, she was never contented; she wanted to be something she was not meant to be. She tried her hand at nature skills but miserably failed in all of them. In fact, Tinkerbell destroyed all the preparations for spring in the pursuit of her misguided dream. When she realized the importance of her role as a tinker through her conversation with Terrence, the light-keeper, she decided to fix all the damages she made in no time such that spring can push through as scheduled. She invented machines that speed up the process of decorating flowers, lady beetles, etc., and summoned the rest to help her out. Spring pushed through, Tinkerbell redeemed herself and was even allowed by Queen Clarion to visit the mainland.  An adversity that turned into an opportunity.

The movie taught us many lessons but I will discuss two that I recommend to parents to seriously ponder upon: (1) how to discover and appreciate one's own talent, and (2) the importance of working in synergy. Let us guide our children in discovering their own talent and appreciate it rather than they wanting to become somebody else because they don’t see the value of their own talent and potential contribution. Feeling secured about their role in a group, a family, a community, or an institution will allow them to work in harmony with the rest toward the attainment of a common goal.

(1) Talent is something you were born with.  Discovering, honing and appreciating it is very important in your happiness and success. This is what we teach our children and what Tinkerbell failed to do in the beginning. We do not want them to pursue things just because others are doing it; otherwise they'll get frustrated and may become who they are not. Early in their childhood, we want them to try lots of different things to be able to discover their talents so they would know how to enhance that talent and to be grateful for having such.  

Your talent is in action when you produce a great deal of output with less effort on your part but with so much happiness in your heart. When enhanced with the necessary skills and combined with knowledge, talent becomes strength.

(2) Synergy means 1 + 1 = 16. This is not poor mathematics but an illustration of the catalytic, unifying and empowering impact of creative cooperation exhibited by the fairies who worked together to save spring.  When Tinkerbell learned to value differences, respect them and focus on her strength, she was able to prove her worth and opened new possibilities.  She was able to work in synergy with the other fairies and they were able to accomplish a mission next to impossible.  Appreciating the value of each and every individual’s contribution empowers everybody to deliver more than what is expected of them…that includes appreciating your own value.  

Let us inculcate in the minds of our children the value of knowing and believing in thyself, the beauty of each person's uniqueness, and respect for these differences.  Believe in the miracle of synergy wherein the whole becomes more than just the sum of its parts.

These lessons from the movie have the same essence in the response I made to my son’s query: “Mom, I am happy that I got a gold medal, but is Recognition Day important?”

Coming from Abba's Orchard School, a pure Montessori school since his Junior Casa days where pupils are not given numerical grades and are not ranked, today is his first Recognition Day ever and his second gold medal. The first one was when he won first place in a Spelling Bee. In that school they were taught to compete only with oneself so they continue to strive for excellence, and at the same time they are encouraged to cooperate with others. Because they continued to live this Maria Montessori value, I was not surprised that even as transferees, they were able to adjust well and excel academically.

This was my response; “Yes Leon, in this school they are recognizing pupils with scholastic achievement, with consistent good manners, as well as those who excelled in Quiz Bees and Sports Competitions. This motivates children to perform well in those areas. But more than medals, plaques and trophies, we want you to strive to be THE BEST THAT YOU CAN BE and NOT focus on trying to outdo others (i.e. comparing and competing with others). We do this by focusing on your talents and making them your strengths. You contribute more to the family and to society when you do more of the things that you do best, respecting what others do best but not to the point of wanting to be exactly like them.”

Note: One of Leon’s key talents is being a learner so we provide him the resources and opportunities for learning. He is also a science enthusiast and we support the experiments he wants to perform to test his ideas. He also has naturalistic intelligence so we let him explore his surroundings even if it means more insect bites. His interpersonal intelligence allows him to share his ideas to his playmates and every new person he meets. We know that he can never be an athlete so we don’t force the issue on him. He takes swimming lessons and plays ball games for skills development but we know that athletics will never be his strength and this didn’t diminish our love for him, not even a notch.

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We celebrated Earth Hour in three different locations in the past three years. In all cases, we witnessed the indifference of neighbors in our immediate vicinity. I actually started writing this post in the wee hours of the morning after the event, but decided not to proceed to give some more thoughts about the disappointment the kids, Mama Sez and I felt in the recent Earth Hour.

Having known that the Philippines was number one in the past two years in terms of participation in this world event also contributed to the disappointment. Was it for real? Was it just for PR, full of noise but no substance?

When one reads carefully the claims of "resounding success", the figures actually reflect what we've been observing in the past three Earth Hour events. The estimates of at least 15 million Filipinos participating is about 15-17% of the population and that would mean only 1 out of 6 Filipinos. In 2010, we observed that ours was the only unit in a six-door apartment complex that switched the lights off. My estimate would be lower this year in our current location.

I guess we were hoping for wider participation in our own neighborhood and the high expectation turned into disappointment. My brother-in-law told us that night that Alabang households have been participating well in the past years. There might be a wide range of values in terms of percentage or degree of participation with certain communities still not seeing the impact their involvement would have in their own lives now and in the future.

It just means that we have so much to do to improve the present numbers and actually transform communities into aware and involved citizenry ready to contribute beyond the sixty minutes per year for our planet. We must realize that we are all in this together ...and together we can make it happen.

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Our support is beyond Earth Hour

Posted by Papa Sez | Friday, March 25, 2011

Our family has been supporting Earth Hour for the past two years. This year, it is no different and we're glad that the campaign is moving beyond the one hour a year of communal action for our planet.

With human population hitting the 7 Billion mark by the end of 2011, we should all look into what each one of us can do beyond the Earth Hour tonight (8:30 to 9:30PM when we all refrain from using electricity), and campaign for better daily practices keeping in mind our individual impact on the planet.

We will be writing about some ideas on how we can contribute beyond the one hour tonight. So please keep posted.

For now, spread the word and share this post to your friends so more people can get involved. Together we can make our planet a better and safer place to live in for all of us and our children.

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Related Posts with Thumbnails

About Us (circa 2009)

Our journey led us to this place. A little more than 10 years ago we began our journey as husband and wife. Three years later, we found ourselves with two bundles of joy- a daughter and then a son. They're the children we've dreamed of having.

About five years since the birth of our son, an unexpected gift came- a younger brother to our school-age kids. And soon enough, a baby girl arrived to round the family membership.

Brave was a term used by a friend to describe us. Challenging... and loving it -- yeah, this journey is not for the faint of heart.