5 Yearend Things I Do

The new year is always a time to start anew or to get stuff, set aside during the year, done.

Flickr photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/happyfilm/

Flickr photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/happyfilm/

As the year comes to a close, I find myself doing things I normally do not get to do on a regular basis.

Here are my top 5 to-do’s:

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The Art of Minimalism and Creating Liquidity

Photo source: Trudy Hylant of Art by Trudy

Photo source: Trudy Hylant of Art by Trudy

After over a quarter of a century of marriage and four kids, I have seen how stuff in the house has accumulated, piled up and taken up precious real estate space at home. It was not so bad when it was just the two of us back then. But as the kids started coming, we had to make room again and again and again for new furniture, their clothes, toys, books, etc. And, as they grew older and more fashion-conscious, their stuff also added up.

I have been looking around the house and I have come to the conclusion that I do not need all these stuff. In fact, I still have wedding gifts (yes, MY wedding gifts!) still unused in one closet. So I’ve set myself on a path to minimalism (as best I could) by getting rid of things I may never ever use or have more sets than I need.

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Kidney stones now hitting more teens

We spent Christmas Day 2011 in the hospital with our youngest son. The ordeal started out with excruciating pain. When M pointed out where his pain was coming from, I had a bad feeling it would be kidney stones. I knew. Because years ago, I also had the same pain. In that same area. I felt so helpless seeing him writhing in pain in the emergency room, knowing exactly what kind of pain he was going through. I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy.

Hospital personnel who attended to my son often had the same reaction upon finding out he was just a teen. “Ang bata pa!” (“So young!”). And I would agree because during my time, only people past their prime and approaching senior years were diagnosed with kidney stones.

To make the long story short, M had a stent placed inside him for months. His physical activities in school were cut down to barest minimum. We had to finish his graduation and summer classes before going for a procedure called Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) which used sound waves to blast the stones lodged in his ureter. A month later, he underwent another ESWL – this time to target the 2 stones in his kidney.

 

(photo courtesy of Kidney Stone 911)

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Christmas Lights Safety

This Christmas I am doing something totally different. I am going Christmas lights-less INSIDE the house.

I love Christmas lights and for many, many years, my tree was filled with them. Not only that. The bannisters of my stairs where I had strung evergreens, was also lighted up. But after all the horrific Christmas fire stories I have read over the years, I realized that I could be putting my family at risk with this practice. For example, what if the lights along the stairs shorted and a fire started there? We would be trapped on the second floor with no means of escape.

The only concession I have is outdoor lights which I purchased for our gate. And I made sure all the boxes bore the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) sticker that signifies it has passed inspection.

This is what my Christmas tree looks like as of now. If I find the time to brave Manila traffic, I just may add a bit more decor. But for now, I’m focusing on making the tree bright without having to add lights.

But if you really want to brighten up your home with Christmas lights indoors, here are some tips I got directly from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) website (emphasis is mine):

  • Check for the ICC Mark or the Import Commodity Clearance Sticker.Christmas lights with ICC marks mean they passed the mandatory safety tests of DTI. Thus, make them safe and reliable to use.
  • Beware of fake ICC Mark Stickers. Genuine ICC stickers are not pre-printed on the packaging of the products. A genuine ICC mark is a foil-like hologram sticker which bears the ICC seal and the serial number and year of certification.
  • Check for the year of certification on the ICC sticker. The latest ICC stickers were issued from 2009 onwards. Products with ICC marks issued before 2009 may have already deteriorated in quality and are not safe to use.
  • Check the packaging. It should have the complete name and address of the importer or distributor, rated voltage and wattage of the set, rated voltage and wattage of the lamps, the words “For indoor use only”, the batch/lot code and bar code, brand name, the standard used (PNS 189:2000) and country of origin of the package.
  • Check the outside diameter size of the wire. This should be 1.5 millimeters in diameter.
  • Avoid connecting multiple sets of Christmas lights. Up to three (3) 50-bulb sets of Christmas lights may be connected and up to two (2) for 100-bulb set of lights.

In another press release, the DTI added further announcements regarding Christmas lights (excerpt below, emphasis is mine):

A set of Christmas lights is a regulated product under the DTI-Bureau of Product Standards (DTI-BPS) Product Certification Scheme (Annex A). It requires the manufacturers and importers or distributors of this product to secure the Philippine Standard (PS) license or the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) certificate, respectively, based on the Republic Act 4109 (Standards Law), the Department Administrative Order No 01:1997 and DAO 05:2001.

Please take note, however, that the DTI-BPS has not awarded the PS license to any manufacturer since 2007. Therefore, no sets of Christmas lights with the PS mark should be found in the market.

As of 08 November 2011, the DTI-BPS has issued the ICC certificate to 16 importers/distributors with 26 brands (Annex B) to use the ICC mark on the packages of their sets of Christmas lights. The sets of Christmas lights of these importers are certified by the DTI-BPS to be reliable and safe to use. Moreover, the DTI declared that only those importers that have been issued the ICC certificate from 2009 to present could sell their sets of Christmas lights with the ICC marks (Annex C). Thus, no sets of imported Christmas lights with 2008 or earlier than this year when the ICC was issued should be found in the market.

The DTI also cautions buyers to check for the valid ICC seal. I got this photo from one of their downloadable forms that shows the valid ICC seal compared to the invalid ones.

 

This is the valid ICC seal on the box of one of the outdoor lights I bought

 

For DTI-certified Christmas lights, click HERE

To tell a valid ICC mark apart from fake ones, click HERE

Have a safe Christmas season, everyone!

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Baby Steps to a Greener Lifestyle

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Confucius

It has been on my mind for some time already but I finally started the journey. I have decided to start greening my home.

We don’t realize it but toxins are everywhere and we are breathing it in, ingesting it, applying it on our skin and polluting our air, water and soil as well. Everything from makeup to household cleaners to garden pesticides and laundry detergent contain toxic ingredients that pollute and damage not only our surroundings but our own bodies and body systems.

For many years now, I’ve always put a little bit of Lysol disinfectant in our mop buckets to disinfect our floors. And I used to buy Lysol aerosol cans to spray around the rooms when someone was sick, in order to kill the viruses. Many of my household cleaners (I won’t name all of them anymore but you know these brands as they’re readily available in supermarkets) like my toilet bowl cleaner, mildew sprays and drain decloggers, are tough on the nose and lungs and some of them have that really acrid smell. Now that I think about it, those fumes could not just be harmless if my body is reacting to their smell. Could I have been killing the germs but killing bits of myself and my family as well? I now wonder…

I remember that my maternal grandmother wiped all her furniture and countertops with Lysol daily. She died of lung cancer. I’m not saying Lysol caused her cancer but surely my Lola must have ingested so many toxins during her lifetime to contribute to her condition.

One of my brothers-in-law in the province has made it his advocacy to do things the natural and organic way. Several years ago, on one summer visit to my in-laws’ place, I noted how he had created a composting pit on the side of the house and in one corner of the garden stood a greenhouse filled with vegetables and herbs of all kinds. Frequent conversations I’ve had with him over the years involved his stories about difficulties maintaining the greenhouse pest-free without the use of chemical pesticides. Most of the vegetables and fruits my in-laws eat at home are freshly picked from the greenhouse. On a recent visit, he told me how he is now helping farmers in the province plant organic rice and how it involved a great mindset shift but the results are clearly paying off in terms of cost savings and harvest yield.

With more and more homegrown industries now starting to offer organic and all-natural products, I can’t make any excuses anymore as there are so many alternatives to commercial cleaners. Baking soda and vinegar, for example, have been widely known to be effective disinfectants, cleaners and odor removers but I don’t know that many who actually use them in these ways. It seems so much easier to reach for those cleaners in grocery shelves, right?

Several months back, on a talk show I was half-watching while doing something else, I saw an interview of someone from Messy Bessy, a line of non-toxic, all-natural, biodegradable products that are all made in the Philippines! At that time, my brain simply filed away the information. But on a trip to EchoStore Podium a few weeks back, I saw many brands now offering all-natural products including Messy Bessy products and EchoStore’s Home Basics line. I got myself a small Messy Bessy Eucalyptus All-Purpose Cleaner with peppermint scent to take one home. So far I’ve used it on my bathroom tiles and countertop. Loved the peppermint scent so much that on my next trip a few days ago to the bigger EchoStore Serendra, I came home with all these:

(L-R) wood cleaner/conditioner, anti-roach spray, tea tree mold and mildew spray

 

(L-R) Eucalyptus all-purpose scrub, dishwashing liquid, window cleaner

I’ve done away with Lysol, for one. My unopened container here will be donated to Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where I think it is still being used to disinfect patient rooms and hallways. I’m also trying out now some gugo-based shampoo/conditioner products as well as an all-natural feminine wash. I’m on the lookout too for an all-natural and effective deodorant.

I am far, far from my ideal green home yet. I’ve just started on household cleaners. But there are so many more toxic products that I must find acceptable substitutes for: makeup, laundry detergent, beauty products (I even need to replace my Safeguard soap eventually!). But got to do all these slowly and get the kids to buy into my changes or else I’ll face a mutiny at home.

I believe that saving Mother Earth (and more so, saving our own bodies from toxins) is something that should be at the forefront of our awareness these days because of so many toxins around us, including pollution. It’s truly a challenge to move to organic and all-natural products. And it can get expensive. But in exchange, it could translate to less hospitalization/medical costs.

It may be a little too late for me, at my age, to reverse all the toxicity I’ve ingested over the decades (hopefully yoga can help me detox more of it) but if I start now at home, I will be doing my kids and the rest of my family a big favor by sparing them from as much body toxins as possible.

If you’re already into organic and natural products, I’d love it if you could leave me your suggestions here or tell me what you’re doing in your own home.

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Tomatis Philippines helps alleviate hearing difficulties

It is so much easier to tell if something is wrong with our kid if the manifestation is physical – a toothache, rashes, fever, and so on. But sensory difficulties are a lot harder to detect, especially if our children do not verbalize their difficulty or the impairment is not too bad so as to totally affect how a kid functions or socializes.

One of the difficulties I faced when one of my boys was still small was an inner ear problem. We brought him to Otomed in San Juan where he underwent hearing tests. Test results showed that he could only hear several decibels higher than the average person. It was not a severe problem but his hearing was definitely slightly impaired.

Did you know that social behavior is affected by hearing difficulties? That shy kid you have who doesn’t want to socialize may not be able to hear well and so does not want to engage strangers out of fear. That kid who is not doing well in school may be very bright but could not follow the discussions in the classroom because he cannot hear the teacher well.

Take a look at the list below and see if your kid exhibits any of these. If he/she shows some of these symptoms, your child may have some hearing problems:

  • short attention span
  • easily distracted
  • oversensitivity to sound
  • misinterprets questions
  • confuses similar-sounding words
  • frequent need for repetition
  • inability to follow sequential instructions
  • poor sentence structure
  • reading/writing/spelling problems
  • fidgety behavior
  • clumsy, uncoordinated movements
  • poor sense of balance or rhythm
  • disorganized
  • restless/hyperactivity
  • low frustration tolerance
  • low self-confidence/shyness
  • difficulty making friends
  • tendency to withdraw
  • irritability
  • immaturity

Some mommy blogger friends and I were recently introduced to the Tomatis method recently. The Tomatis method, developed by Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. The Tomatis Effect is his discovery that links the ear and the voice. His extensive research revealed that when the ear functions at full capacity, a child actively listens, has better muscle control, and a better grasp of language and abstract thinking. Obviously, when a child cannot hear that well, the opposite effects manifest.

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