It's one of those Annoying Family Newsletters

Hello, everyone! This year we're taking our cure from the economy and downsizing our annual newsletter. Here's a short and sweet list of memorable events in 2009:

* In January, Bonggamom cut off her long hair and donated it to Locks of Love.

* In February, Alfie took the kids to a Monster Truck Show.

* In March, Jammy lost his first tooth.

* In April, The Pea entered her first skating competition and placed second.
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* In May, Alfie gave 3Po and Jammy a mohawk haircut.

* In June, 3Po and Jammy moved into bunk beds. They also learned to swim.

* In July, Bonggamom went on an out-of-town trip, her first ever without the kids.

* In August, we camped in Napa Valley and took our first ever family hike.

* In September, The Pea started third grade, and 3Po and Jammy started kindergarten. The boys also joined a soccer league, with Alfie as their assistant coach.
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* In October, we got to cross off one item on our "Must-See-Places" list -- the Grand Canyon.

* In November, Bonggamom gifted Alfie with a much-needed GPS.

* In December, we'll all be in Manila for the holidays!

Happy Holidays, everyone, and we are looking forward to another memorable year!

from bonggamom and family

(For all you PhotoHunters -- that's my Twelve (twelve photos, that is) for this week's theme! Click here for more Twelves..... And don't forget to leave your links below so I can visit your blog!)

Cookie, Cookie, Cookie!

I realize I haven't been posting about food too much lately (actually, make that posting about anything too much lately), so I'm remedying that today with some mouth-watering shots of cookies that people brought to my friend Rox's holiday cookie party. Everyone had to bake 6 dozen cookies, and everyone got to take 6 dozen of other people's cookies home. Everyone baked a different kind of cookie, so we ended up with quite a delicious selection. Check out these beautiful striped peppermint cookies:

Get ready for 12 days of giveaways!

It's almost Christmas and the presents, they are a-comin'! Have you been naughty or nice? At Bonggamom Finds, it doesn't matter, because everyone gets a chance to win! My 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways event on Bonggamom Finds begins on December 25 and I'll be giving away one present for each of the 12 Days of Christmas. Don't forget to stop by and enter to win!

Photo Hunt: Fast

Holiday Ice Show

I love this photo of The Pea gliding on the ice. Now that she's in the Freestyle levels, she can go quite fast, and do some pretty moves on the ice: spins, jumps, arabesques (they call them spirals in the ice skating world) and such.

For more fast things, visit the Photo Hunt. And don't forget to leave your links below so I can visit your blog!

Would you tweet about a family tragedy?

It's not every day that a question you post on a BlogHer forum makes BlogHer's front page, and since mine did today, I thought I'd milk it for all it's worth and do some shameless self-promotion over here.

In my defense, the topic is an interesting one. On Tuesday morning I belatedly heard that a fairly prominent Tweeter and Momdot Community member, Shellie Ross (@military_mom), had found her 2-year old son at the bottom of a pool and tweeted about it. Along with messages of sympathy and support came accusations of neglect (how could you keep your eye off your kid?), callousness (how could you tweet at a time like this?) and exploitation (don't donate to her until we verify that the kid really died). I really wanted to know what everyone thought of it, and if you want to weigh in on the discussion (or read about what's being said), I encourage you to head over to BlogHer's Family Connections forum.

Me, a murderer?

A couple of weeks ago Alfie came home from Morrissey's concert in Berkeley with a bunch of stickers that declare "Meat is Murder", "Fish are Friends, Not Food" and "Jesus Love Me, Too" (with a picture of a cute little chick). Morrissey is a pretty militant vegan and has some pretty strong views about people who eat meat. I looked at the stickers and pamphlets -- and went on eating my chicken nuggets.

Am I cruel and heartless because I eat meat? I don't think so, and to my mind, being accused of cruelty and murder doesn't seem like the way to get more people to become vegetarians. If activists want to change people's behavior, I think they ought to focus more on the benefits to people rather than attack their values and get them on the defensive.

Yes, I disagree with inhumane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and cages. It's unnecessarily cruel, and the thought of eating a product of those filthy, crowded, possibly disease-ridden conditions is really not appealing. It's enough to get me to buy cage-free eggs and free-range chickens. And I'm happy to cut down on our meat consumption because it's good for the earth and good for our health. In fact, we've been eating far less meat this year, and we haven't really missed it in our daily lives. I'm happy to eat a yummy lunch of goat cheese pizzas with caramelized onions and peppers, or pack a hummus and pita in my kids' lunchbox, or have my favorite cauliflower and white bean soup for dinner.

But I'm not ready to give up meat or eggs or fish entirely! I'm comfortable with the fact that humans are at the top of the food chain. Besides, many cultures don't have the luxury of considering the feelings of the goat that they need to kill and feed to their kids in order to survive. Humans have been eating meat since the beginning of time, and I'm not sure activists screaming bloody murder will change that.

An Afternoon of Fashion and Fun

If I had my way, I'd stay in my pajamas all day -- and if I had any pajamas without snowflakes or Strawberry Shortcake or paisely swirls or stripes on them, I probably actually would. But last Saturday I was invited to Aspiring Couture's Winter on the Runway event and I realized that printed stretch cotton probably wasn't going to cut it. So I took my time, dressed up and got ready for an afternoon of fun and fashion.

Aspiring Couture is an online boutique featuring creations by various independent artists, and last weekend's show featured the best of winter fashion by Wise & Prosper, Mahtab Azimi, Selah D'Or, Jesica Milton, Liise Wyatt, Karly Orr, Sofie Olgaard, Gypsies & Lords, and Zoe Hong. I got to hang out in the press area and play the part of the paparrazzi, clicking along with all the professionals. I thank my lucky stars that I decided to make an effort with my appearance, because apparently even the photographers have a sense of style:

I've never been to a fashion show before (I don't think American Girl fashion shows count), and now I can see why people like going. It's a visual treat to be able to sit back and look at such beautiful things being paraded in front of you. Kind of like visiting a museum, but instead of walking around and admiring things, the artwork obligingly walks by you. What I really liked about the fashion show was that the clothes featured were clearly designer quality -- but they were also fashions that normal, stylish people can actually wear. Here are several that really stood out for me:

This dress would be the hit of any holiday party. Especially when there's dancing and shimmying involved! If you still don't know what the word "Bongga" means, I suggest you look at this dress. Now that's Bongga.

I thought this dress was so romantic and fresh, and I could immediately see The Pea wearing it to a holiday party ten years from now. I just hope her dad doesn't decide to follow her around with a floor-length cape and shotgun to scare off all her boyfriends.

At times, the star of the outfit was not the dress; my eyes were instantly drawn to these femme fatale booties by Eidia Lush.

Okay, maybe I wouldn't wear all their designs. You'd have to be super skinny and live in New York to pull this one off.

This is one design I love, but unfortunately it doesn't love me. Again, only for all the skinny ladies, All the Skinny Ladies.... (*sings to the tune of Beyonce's Single Ladies*)

The fashions on the runway (and on the blog) were simple yet stylish, elegant yet fashionable. Most surprisingly (and refreshingly), they're also reasonable. Most of the fashions I saw on the Aspiring Couture blog are priced between $100 and $300, which is pretty much department store prices! Even the most "inexpensive" dresses, the $95 Monroe and $90 Meibury by Mahtab Azimi, are the ultimate in designer chic.

I have to commend Allison O'Grady, founder of Aspiring Couture, for putting together such an enjoyable holiday event-- and for finding such a great group of designers. Thanks, Allison, for supporting these up-and-coming artists!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated to post about this event. I did receive a press pass and a sliver of luscious red velvet cake.

Photo Hunt: Undesirable

Crickets don't sound like the most delicious things in the world, but you'd be surprised how much a sprinkling of cheese powder can help. I can't say I'd ever eat them like potato chips, but many cultures enjoy fried insects, so they're not totally undesirable.

For more undesirable things, visit the Photo Hunt. And don't forget to leave your links below so I can visit your blog!

An apology letter to my blog

Dear Finding Bonggamom,

I've been neglecting you lately, and I'm sorry. I've been posting less and less, not because nothing's been happening in our lives -- I still get that "This would make a great blog post!" feeling once or twice a day -- but because too much has been happening in other parts of my life!

So what's your competition, you may wonder? What sort of new mistresses have been vying for my attention? Well, there's real life, of course. Volunteering for 3 kids' classes has taken up a big chunk of my time, as do their after-school activities, especially during this holiday show season (The Pea just finished her Nutcracker performance last week, and she and Jammy have their holiday ice show this week). I wish I could say that I've been increasing my housework efforts, but Alfie will pounce on this lie so quickly I won't even have time to turn on the vacuum cleaner. Actually, what with houseguests and dirty soccer uniforms and lice-ridden bedding, I have been doing quite a bit more laundry these past few months, but it's all been sitting on the folding table, gathering wrinkles, in our laundry closet.

I continue to write for the SV Moms Blog, SavvySource and Filipina Moms Blog (and I have to admit that sometimes I save my "This would make a great blog post!" moments for posts on those blogs, and you've lost out). I've also added a couple of new commitments to my blogging activities (Did I mention I'm a Sprint Momspotter? and a Group Manager for the SavvySource Silicon Valley Parents Group?). But really, dear Finding Bonggamom Blog, the biggest time-suck has been doing product reviews and giveaways on your little sister, my review blog, Bonggamom Finds. Traffic to my review blog, Bonggamom Finds, has been growing and so have the product pitches.

So what has Bonggamom Finds got that you don't, dear blog? Some reviews have been compensated, but most aren't. All I get from these are free stuff to try out, which I don't consider as payment for writing posts; rather it's a tool to aid me in writing posts. Some of the free stuff is pretty awesome, but the time I spend reviewing a product or writing a post is not dependent on how much the product is worth, and I've raved about $3 products just as much as I have about $100 products. And I'll admit, it's flattering to be contacted and pitched, just like a country bumpkin might be flattered by the attentions of the rich city slicker who drops by her little corner of the world. But honestly, I get my review blogging kicks from discovering and falling in love with new products that people pitch to me, and from being able to give away products to lots of people, and from seeing my blog stats grow.

But it's getting quite overwhelming, and more and more I'm feeling the need to pay more attention to you. I want to just update family and friends on what we're doing. Just post amusing stories and fun photos about our life. Just reflect on my experiences as a parent who's trying to keep her sense of self. In other words, just blog.

I still love you; you've always been there for me, to absorb my frustrations and my need to shout out to the world how great my kids are, or how my life sucks. Thank God you're not going anywhere!

Love ya,

You're Invited to a Style Lab Twitter Party

Great news: Bonggamom Finds is partnering with Ubisoft to bring you a Twitter Party that's stylish and girly and oh-so-fun. We're talking fashion, makeovers, and games girls play. We're talking moms, daughters, sleepovers and manicures. And we're talking prizes!

What: a Style Lab Twitter party
When: Tuesday, December 15th, 5:00 - 6:00 pm PST
Where: Chat with us on Twitter using the hashtag #games4girls (you can use services like Tweetchat or Tweetgrid to follow the conversation)

Head over to the Twitter Party post on Bonggamom Finds to see the great prizes you can win........

What do you get your child's teacher for Christmas?

Each year since kindergarten, The Pea has declared her current teacher to be "The Best Teacher Ever", and I must admit I've adored all her teachers so far. The fact that they are full of praise for The Pea and her talents probably has a lot to do with it, but they've also been open about areas where she can improve and how we can help her progress at home. I credit her teachers for making classroom learning fun and exciting, and for challenging The Pea to be the best Pea she can possibly be. 3Po and Jammy are having similar experiences with their own teachers and at this point I can safely say our school is blessed to have great teachers, and my kids will have great learning experiences no matter which classroom they end up in.

So when the holidays roll around, I like to think extra-hard about what kinds of presents to get them. We don't have a big budget for holiday presents, but I always like to get my kids' teachers a little something. The eternal question is, what? What would a teacher appreciate? Candy or baked goods is always my first impulse -- but imagine getting 20 boxes of chocolate! The same goes for #1 Teacher mugs, soap-on-a-rope and other useless trinkets. If you've got the same dilemma, here are 4 ideas that work for me:

1) Contribute a small amount of cash along with other parents in the class and get a gift card to Starbucks, Target, a spa or some other . As a room parent I have never advocated specifying a set amount of money since I know different parents can afford different amounts; I think any amount you can give, be it $5 or $25, will be appreciated.

2) My friend and fellow Office Max blog panelist Heather (the Tween Teacher), wised me up about giving school supplies to teachers. I had no idea that so many teachers had to pony up their own cash to buy school supplies for their kids! So ask your teacher if she needs anything for her class -- be it a ream of paper, a couple of ink cartridges or a box of file folders -- and get it for her. Or get a gift card to an office supply store.

3) Who doesn't like flowers? Flowers always make me feel special, and a vase of flowers on the dining room table always makes me feel a wee bit closer to Martha Stewart -- and I can't think that any teacher, male or female, would feel any different.

4) What are we giving teachers this year? Nothing. To be more precise, I'm planning to buy something from Manila and give it to my kids' teachers when we come back in January. I'm sure I can find some native pendants or scarves that won't cost a lot of money but are unique and meaningful because they come from a country that The Pea has ties to.

If anyone has other good teacher gift ideas, I'd love to hear them! Let's work together to make sure no teacher gets a ceramic apple paperweight this holiday season!

This post was inspired by teacher/author Phil Done's experience of receiving a present shaped like a box of candy, freezing it and taking out months later, only to find out that it was actually a tie. It's all chronicled, along with other hilarious and touching stories, in his latest book, Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind. Read my review of this book on Bonggamom Finds, and head on over to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog to read how this book inspired other moms.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Phil Done last summer; the views and opinions expressed in my review are my own.

My holiday to-do list

I have invitations to three holiday events this weekend. Each invite says something to the effect of, "Come, relax and unwind with friends before the holiday rush sets in".

Before? Seems to me we're already in the thick of the holiday rush. Fortunately I've already got all the presents for the kids and family sorted, but even with that out of the way, I still have a long list of things to do. In a perfect world, I'd get all of the following done:

* Decorate the house for the holidays.
* Sign, address and mail holiday cards.
* Help 3Po and Jammy rehearse their roster of songs (17) for their kindergarten holiday concert
* Watch and cheer 3Po and Jammy when they perform in said concert.
* Watch and cheer The Pea when she performs in the Nutcracker.
* Watch and cheer The Pea and Jammy when they perform in their Nightmare before Christmas skating show.
* Bake treats for 3 class parties, 2 cookie exchanges and 1 skating party.
* Attend all 6 holiday parties above.
* And a couple more that sound like a lot of fun.
* Drive around with the family looking at all the holiday lights.
* Have breakfast with Santa and pose for a photo or two.
* Buy presents for the kids' teachers, teachers aides, cleaners, gardener.
* Gather canned goods, toiletries and linens to donate to various food closets and shelters.
* Buy toys (or raid my gift closet) for toys to donate to Toys For Tots, the Giving Tree, and other various holiday charities.
* Take the kids to the Family Giving Tree warehouse to sort and wrap toys that will be giving to needy kids this holiday season.
* Collect medical receipts to submit to our prepaid medical expenses plan.
* Return all library books.
* Host a holiday giftguide and giveaway extravaganza on Bonggamom Finds, complete with cute little widget that people can post on their sites.
* Keep up with all my blogging commitments.
* Write some posts for SV Moms and Savvy Source to tide me over the holidays, when internet access will be sketchy at best.
* Lose 5 pounds.
* Do boring stuff like get the car washed, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the floors and other housework.
* Pack suitcases.
* Do laundry so we'll have something to pack into the suitcases.

I'm sure there a couple of other things I've left out that will come out of the woodwork to bite me (Mama! You were supposed to help my class with our toilet paper wreaths today!) And I have to accomplish all that in the next fourteen days, before we leave for the Philippines.

Maybe Santa can lend me a couple of elves to help out with the laundry. Come to think of it, I don't actually need to do the laundry. I'm not above packing dirty clothes into our suitcases and laundering them when we get to Manila.

And I think we're going to skip the house decorating this year. And a couple of other items on that list. Or maybe I should try to get everything done; I might just lose those 5 pounds, along with my mind.