Coco Goes to Kindergarten!

It just feels like yesterday when Coco started attending Pre-School! A week ago, he started attending Kindergarten! Thankfully, I had a full week of vacation before he started school. I came from a 2-week long work trip to South Africa. So we caught up a bit, played a lot, went on a picnic by the lake, and before we knew it, we needed to buy school supplies!

Supplies, supplies, supplies!

The Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) provide the list of supplies we needed. We logged on to the web page of his school and downloaded the list. The supplies he needed include the following:

  • 2– White Avery “View” 3 ring binders (1 inch size)
  • 4 – Wide-Ruled composition books (black & white)
  • 2 – Packs of wide ruled loose leaf notebook paper
  • 24 – Glue sticks (Elmer’s preferred)
  • 1 – Pair of scissors (Fiskars suggested)
  • 1 – Box of 24 count crayons (Crayola strongly preferred)
  • 3 – Boxes of 8 count classic crayons, Regular size (Crayola strongly preferred)
  • 2 – Boxes of 8 count classic crayons, Large size (Crayola strongly preferred) No JUMBOS
  • 3 – Packs of white unlined index cards
  • 2 – Packs of washable markers (Crayola strongly preferred-1 box classic colors & 1 box bright colors)
  • 2– Packs of dry erase markers with chisel tip (Expo strongly preferred-ALL BLACK-4 per pack)
  • 2 – Large erasers (2 or more in a pack)
  • 2-Packages of Mixed Construction Paper(9 by 12)

Strongly Encouraged Items:

  • 1 – Pair of headphones with strip across the head (no ear buds)
  • 2 – Boxes of Ziploc slider bags – Gallon Size
  • (suggested for ease of children’s use)
  • 2 – Boxes of Ziploc slider bags – Sandwich Size (suggested for ease of children’s use)
  • 1 – Pack of baby wipes or cleaning wipes (Antibacterial or Clorox suggested)
  • 2- Rolls of paper towels
  • 1 – Container of hand sanitizer, Large size
  • Paper Plates -Colored Copy Paper -Treasure Box Items

We were starting to get the hang of this process.

Off we went to Walmart to buy his school supplies!

It was Tennessee’s tax free weekend. We ended up saving at least $20 on taxes for our son’s school supplies! In addition to the school supplies, we bought a couple of shirts (with collar) that will serve as his daily uniform. This school thing can be a bit expensive. At least we don’t need to pay for any fees for him to go to school!

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Tools and Systems I Use for Writing

When I was younger, I thought of writers as near-mythical figures who would stare out into space, get inspiration, then start typing out awesome words, sentences, and paragraphs while huddled on their typewriters.

And when I was in College, I thought that writers got to sit at a café looking intently focused, concentrating in front of their palm top devices or laptops while drinking expensive coffee, and looking like sophisticated city dwellers.

I certainly paid my share of expensive coffee, though, I’m not sure if I fit the sophisticated city dweller image. Now that I have published three books (ahem!), I probably have some right to call myself a writer. So if you’re wondering what writers look like, look at my Facebook photos. We are normal looking, though whether we are actually normal people may be debatable.

The main criterion for being called a writer is that you write–a sentence at a time, a paragraph at a time, and then a book if you can manage it. But if you’re wondering about tools, systems, and processes that writers follow, here’s mine. I can’t really speak for other writers, so I hope that this could help you get started.

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Why I Write in My Native Tongue: Ilokano

It was almost an accident. I went back to my home province after college graduation. Then I met a friend of mine. He is older than I and he used to be a pastor. But he encouraged me to attend a meeting of writers in our province. I tagged along and attended a couple of meetings.

I didn’t really expect that anything would come out of it. They had self-published books containing poetry and short stories in our native tongue–Ilokano.

I could read my Ilokano Bible well enough and speak the language well enough but I did not have the skills needed to craft beautiful sentences in Ilokano. My education was thoroughly national–with Tagalog and English really dominating my communication skills.

Back in College, I took several English classes as my cognates. I took 3 units of Introductory Poetry and 3 more units of Business English. These weren’t really enough to bring my English writing skills through the roof. But I compensated by reading a lot, writing a bit, and joining our college newsletter as a contributor.

I have written some poetry that may or may not have shown some promise. At least it was included in the Literary Folio of our college.

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How I Published 3 Books in 3 Years

It took me two (2) years to finish the draft of my first book. I started writing it in early 2012 and finished the final draft in late 2013. By that time, it was ready for publication. It was edited by my good friend Butch, the same guy who introduced me to all the wonders of Lord of the Rings and helped me dive deeper into literature and writing.

Earlie, another good friend of mine, was working then as the publishing coordinator of a small startup publisher connected to our church. I filled out the book proposal form. It was approved and went to the press towards the end of 2013. By early 2014, it was out. Since my publisher was a startup, it didn’t have a good distribution network yet. So selling the book became a challenge.

Nonetheless, I learned so much from the process. More than that, it gave me confidence in my ability to write and to assemble my material into a publishable format. Although I have published a book, I continued to write and looked for ways to expand the materials that could eventually be used for a book.

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My beginnings in writing and publishing

I have published 3 books in the Philippines since 2013. It was a long journey, but totally worth it. Here are a few reflections on the craft and journey of writing and publishing.

I remember loving books even as a young boy. My parents are ordained pastors, which meant that if there were church events and conferences, they tagged me along. Because those events meant lots and lots of meetings, my father usually let me buy a book or two from the book display outside the church where the conference was being held.

While other pastors’ kids my age would be chasing each other and playing in the playground and yard of the church, I would find a nice place to sit and read the book that I recently bought. I thought nothing of it then, but looking back, I must have looked like a nerd with a book sitting in a corner while the other kids played.

During second grade, our teacher once let us organize three sacks full of books. We opened one sack after another and discovered a hundred or so books from the USA. I didn’t understand a lot of the social context of the books, then, because they talk about life in the USA. But I distinctly remember looking at the black-and-white illustration and text of those books, the musty smell of old books, and the worlds and meanings that those words represented.

It felt like heaven for a second grader.

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How to prepare for your first winter

If you’ve spent some time in Baguio City or Mountain Province in January or February, then you have an idea of what cold is like. You cannot take a bath without a heater or hot water. Your breath steams early in the morning and the fog!

But that is nothing when you experience your first winter in the United States. It is cold, nope not Baguio Cold, but refrigerator, freezer cold!

If you are new to the US you better prepare for the cold of winter!

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The Art of Accumulating Pasalubong

Every Overseas Filipino know the importance of stocking pasalubongs for loved ones in the Philippines. Some even send balikbayan boxes regularly. You probably see many balikbayans at NAIA with lots and lots of baggage and boxes, especially during the Christmas season.

Pinoys who have spent many years in the USA have probably come up with their system of buying and accumulating pasalubongs. But for newcomers, it may be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips on the art of accumulating pasalubong.

First things first: decide on a budget and stick to it!

Do not bankrupt yourself because you want to give something nice to family and friends. I repeat, do not bankrupt yourself! Decide on a budget and stick to it. Read my post on keeping up with the Joneses.

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3 FREE Ways to Communicate with Loved Ones in the Philippines

Before the advent of the Internet and all the free ways to communicate online, friends and family of overseas Filipinos had to go to a payphone, line up, and wait for their turn to talk. If that doesn’t work or if their town does not have an RCPI outlet or a payphone, the only alternative is to send letters that would take weeks or months to be delivered.

Now, thanks to all the internet technologies at our disposal, we can contact friends and family all over the world. You don’t even need to pay extra if you have a device and an internet connection.

A phone call to the Philippines from the USA is very expensive. But it’s important for us to see the faces and hear the voices of our loved ones. And if we can do it for free, that’s even better! Here are the three free ways that we communicate with our family and friends in the Philippines.

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How to Apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Disclaimer: The article that follows tells the story of how my wife and son applied for their Individual Tax Identification Number (TIN)s. It is not meant to be taken as financial or tax advice. This is only for educational and informational purposes. The reader is encouraged to do their due diligence.

After my first year of working in the United States, I had to file my income tax return. I had my Social Security Number, our HR Department withheld my tax every payday. All I had to do was to file my income tax. I decided to do it online through TurboTax. It was easy–all I had to do was upload my form W-2, which our HR provided.

There was a catch, though. I was taxed as a single person because I could not claim my wife and my son as my dependents. They did not have Social Security numbers and they couldn’t get it either. They are considered as dependents of a non-immigration alien. What that meant is that my wife cannot work at all.

I, on the other hand, was being treated as a resident-for-tax purposes.

Good thing, I got in touch with a few Filipinos who had been in the same situation as we were. They told us to explore the possibility of getting an ITIN for my wife and son. That’s exactly what we did in November 2016.

If you have family members who are dependents, but you want to claim them as dependents in your tax returns, then this information may help you.

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How to Save Money on Your Child’s Haircut

Kids haircut in America costs at least $12, plus tip, it would be around $15-$18. Our son gets a haircut probably 8-10 times in a year. That would be about $120 to $180 yearly.

When I was a small boy, my father cut my hair. I know that I looked pretty good as a kid. But I don’t really remember what my haircuts then were like. As I progressed through my elementary years and my father got busier, I started going to a barber. I usually got a “flat top” or a “barber’s cut.”

When I felt like I had haircut problems in America, I started looking for the right barber. At about the same time, my wife and I decided that I could cut our son’s hair in the comforts of our home. That’s important tip for y’all out there. Always consult your wife in all important matters such as your child’s hair!

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