Covid Anxiety

I have many friends and family that tested positive for covid in the US the past couple of weeks. They stayed cautious the entire pandemic, but are getting covid now probably due to the extreme transmissibility of the Omicron variant. One friend thinks she got it at the dentist. Another thinks he got it at an indoor restaurant that required proof of vaccination for entry. This makes me very cautious about socializing because I want to protect my parents and other older relatives that we’ll be seeing while we’re in the US.

We were so happy to finally be able to visit family and friends in the US after more than 18 months of the pandemic. We waited until we were fully vaccinated to travel, which didn’t happen until this past October. Once we arrived in the US, we felt relatively safe because of a high local vaccination rate and access to better healthcare than what was available on our island. And vaccines for kids 5-11 were approved a week after we arrived, so Charlie and Olive were able to get vaccinated too! But Omicron is changing everything. We had a record breaking number of positive cases today in the US. My brother and his wife were supposed to host Christmas dinner, but they started having cold-like symptoms on Christmas Eve so dinner was canceled, and they’re still waiting for their rt-pcr results now. Everyone I know that caught covid in recent weeks is under 50 years of age, with many young children testing positive. Luckily everyone was fully vaccinated so they have had relatively mild cold-like symptoms. While the current data shows that Omicron may be less severe than Delta, there isn’t much data yet on how it affects older people.

We’ve been here two months and have another month before we return to the Philippines. For the most part we’ve stuck to outdoor activities like hiking, and even then we wear masks unless there is absolutely no one else around. We’ve only met two friends so far — we stayed masked outdoors the first time, and the second time we had lunch with someone who lives alone and had been quarantining. I had plans to meet up with lots of friends, even ones that weren’t vaccinated, but with Omicron I’m much more reluctant to do so. I’m not worried so much for my immediate family; we’re all in good health with no underlying conditions, we’re all fully vaccinated, and we’d most likely have mild symptoms if we did catch covid. But my parents are my priority and I can forgo socializing in an abundance of caution to protect them.

Has your reaction to dealing with covid changed with Omicron? Are you changing socializing plans over the holidays?

Mixbook Photobook Review

Mixbook is one of the most highly rated photobook websites right now, so I decided to give it a try, and I wasn’t disappointed. There are hundreds of templates to choose from including holiday, year in review, travel, recipe, etc. that make it easy to create a beautiful photobook. They have an iphone app, but I have an android phone so I wasn’t able to use it. But the website interface is easy and intuitive to use, and I was able to do everything on my phone. The hardest part of the whole process was deciding which pictures to put in the book. I scrapped several projects I started until I finally decided on a theme of our life in El Nido during the pandemic. Once I had my theme down and all my pictures organized, I spent an entire day on the layout. If I had more time, I would have added captions, but I was pretty burned out after sorting thousands of photos and playing with layouts!

I placed the order on December 13th and paid extra for priority shipping because I was worried that it wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas. It arrived a week later on December 20th. Mixbook always has coupons –new members get 50% off and they regularly have sales directly on their website. I ordered a 11 x 8.5″ 73-page photobook that cost me $77 after a discount and including tax. The pages were nice and thick, and pictures looked exactly like what I saw on my preview screen. I had a lot of landscape photos, and they turned out so crisp and vibrant. The pages and binding were great quality. Everyone in the family wanted a copy! I would most definitely order from Mixbook again. In fact I’m motivated to keep my pictures better organized so it’s easier for me to make another book next year. It’s a challenge to buy Christmas gifts for my parents every year, but you can’t go wrong with a photobook.

If you’d like, you can view the entire 73 page photobook here! We did a lot of farming, animal rescue and built a children’s library, and every picture in the book was taken during pandemic times.


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5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Move Back to the US.

Since we decided never to reopen our small resort in the Philippines, we’d been planning on moving back to the US to spend more time with my parents as they get older. The pandemic really made us think about the importance of family as we were all kept apart, worried about each other’s health. We moved to the Philippines from Brooklyn to spend more time with Mr. Bee’s parents six years ago, so we wanted to move to Los Angeles to spend more time with mine.

We’ve been visiting the US for two months now, and I realized early on that I didn’t want to move back. Undoubtedly the pandemic changed us, having been so isolated for over a year and a half, and then coming to the US where life is pretty much back to normal. But imagining what our lives would be like if we moved back, isn’t the life that I want to live, and I didn’t fully realize that until I was here. These are five reasons I don’t want to move back to the US.


1) The cost of living – Everything is so expensive. We’ve stayed home most of our visit here, but even what we spend on groceries and gas is astronomical. If we do go out, museum admission is often $100+ for a family of four, not including parking or lunch. With inflation and supply chain issues, the cost of basics is even higher. Thinking about moving back and finding a house, needing two cars, and all the stuff we’d need to live here is overwhelming. And I can’t help but think that the money we’d spend on living an average life in the US could go so much farther abroad, not just in our quality of life, but in the passion projects we’d be able to support.

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Link Roundup – December 21, 2021

It’s been a crazy week for the Philippines and our island of Palawan, as it was directly hit by Hurricane Odette (known as Rai internationally), a Category 5 hurricane that did devastating damage. Due to the location of our island, it’s typically spared from the worst effects of hurricanes compared to the rest of the country, so residents were not prepared when Odette made direct landfall. Our island capital was without any internet, electricity and running water for 5 days. Bridges were washed out so people could not leave or enter the capital. There was a complete communication blackout from all residents, politicians, and newspapers as family and friends anxiously waited news from their loved ones. Mr. Bee and I have been running a Hurricane Odette Facebook group to collect news and firsthand accounts from residents about damage, as well as share travel updates, relief efforts, etc. on our island. We didn’t hear from anyone in the capital for 5 days, until 2 hours ago when internet was finally restored.

The Philippines has the strongest hurricanes in the world, and is the most vulnerable country to hurricanes in the world. Climate change has worsened the frequency and severity of hurricanes. Many lives were lost in Odette, thousands of homes destroyed, millions in infrastructure damage, and it’s a very sad Christmas for many. It’s hard to be on the other side of the world and seeing our island hit by the worst hurricane there in decades. But the resilient Filipino spirit is strong, and there are many local relief efforts by good friends already underway.

image via Palawan News

Here are some interesting links from around the web this week:


Omicron variant accounts for 73% of U.S. infections – CDC cia Reuters

Coronavirus FAQ: Is it OK for the kids to take a pic with Santa? via NPR

The Best N95 And KN95 Face Masks To Wear For COVID Variants via Huffpost

Parents Grapple With How Long to Wait for Their Children’s Second Shots via New York Times

Pfizer plans to test a third dose of its COVID vaccine on infants and young children via NPR

Moderna says its booster significantly raises the level of antibodies to thwart Omicron. via New York Times

Netflix’s ‘Maid’ was a revelation for what it showed on the small screen about mental illness: What doesn’t get talked about often enough is how the popular series highlights the struggles of having a parent with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. via NBC News


16 educational podcasts for curious kids via Medium

We Learned Our Lesson Last Year: Do Not Close Schools via New York Times

New CDC guidance encourages more testing to limit school quarantines via NPR

Harvard says no need for SAT, ACT scores for applicants through 2026 via Nextshark

Teachers say school shootings and mental health struggles have made this year their hardest yet via CNN


Experts Predict Which Baby Names Will Be Popular In 2022 via Huffpost

As child care costs soar, providers are barely getting by. Is there any fix? via NPR

Parenting Creative Children Towards Lofty (and Risky) Goals via Grown and Flown

An Age-Old Question About Santa Is Tearing One Parenting Community Apart via Slate

I De-Friend People Every December. Here’s Why You Should Too. via Huffpost

19 Wholesome Christmas Traditions People Do That Are The Textbook Definition Of “Warm And Fuzzy” via Buzzfeed

Stocking Stuffers

I love filling stockings with a combination of fun, practical, and edible things. I just finished buying stocking stuffers today, and if you’re still looking for some last minute ideas, here’s what I got for Charlie and Olive!


Fortune Cookie Bracelets – This 4 pack of bracelets that come in fortune cookie shaped containers were too cute to pass up. Each fortune cookie comes with a charm bracelet and a fortune inside. The fortune cookies can be used as keychains, and there’s an included cootie catcher too. There are over 100 different bracelets to collect in these blind bags.


Parachute Toy – Bring back old school fun with this 5 pack of no tangle parachute toys that don’t require any batteries!



Lego Dots Bracelet – The Lego Dots collection uses small Lego pieces to customize bracelets, jewelry boxes, pencil holders and more. The bracelets are affordable stocking stuffers for the Lego lover in your life. The purple Magic Forest bracelet on the left is $4.36 and the bff set on the right runs $5.99.


Teeturtle Reversible Plushie – This adorable Tiktok famous plushie has a happy face on one side and a mad face on the other when you turn it inside out. It’s available in many different colors and animals (cat, turtle, wolf, etc).

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A Message in a Bottle

Charlie turned 12 last week. There was a homeschoolers day at the Long Beach Aquarium and I purchased tickets weeks ago not realizing that it was on his actual birthday, but it worked out. The kids had a great time at the aquarium, even more fun at the adjacent park, and then Charlie found a message in a bottle in the ocean!



There were two letters inside the bottle dated August 17, 2018 from a mom and dad to the baby they miscarried. The  letters were wet, but we were still able to unfold them carefully and read them. This is what the letters said:

“I know I didn’t get to hold you in my arms, but at least I got to feel you inside my belly, even if it only was for six weeks. I love you so much, and I know one day I will get to see you. You will always be in our hearts because you took a little piece of my heart with you. I think about you every day and always wonder what you would of looked like. I know you will always be with us and you make it known by showing up in my dreams.

I will forever be sorry for not giving you a chance, but just know that Daddy and Mommy, love you to the moon and back, You will forever be our biggest and our favorite adventure. I also know that even though your brothers didn’t get to meet you, they would of loved you and spoiled you so much. I know they love you to the moon and back. Love mommy.”

“Hey nugget, it’s your dad. Just writing to you for the first time. One day we will get to meet each other. I’m here with your mom. We didn’t get a chance to do the balloon thing, but we will next year. We love you. I’m sure if you were here, everything could’ve been amazing. I’m sorry we didn’t give you a chance, but hopefully one day we will. You showed me how it felt to be a dad. You are beautiful and I am sure you would have been a great and cool kid. Wherever your mom and I end up, we won’t forget about you. You will live through other things in life. Cannot wait for you to show us signs that you’re still here. I love you always, your dorky, cool dad.”

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Libby – The Library App

I can’t believe that I’ve never written a post about the Libby app before because it has been life changing for us living on an island with no libraries or bookstores. Libby is a free app by Overdrive where you can borrow ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and get access to third party sites like Craftsy. You can even send the books to your Kindle — when I borrow a book in the Libby app, it gets sent to all of our Kindles. The Libby app is connected to your public library card, and bigger library systems have larger collections. For instance my library card is from the Central Los Angeles branch, and it enables me to borrow 30 books at a time and put 15 books on hold. My friend’s card from Chicago lets her borrow 10 books at a time, and I think the New York card lets you borrow 50 at a time! We’re making 3 more library cards on this trip because sharing 30 books between the four of us just isn’t enough!


This is what the home screen of the app looks like. You can easily sort books by popular tags; I like to search by “available now” so I can borrow a book immediately in my selected genre.


Libby Librarians have curated many specific book guides that are constantly being updated by genre, current events, holidays, etc. For instance in the children’s guides right now, you can find collections called Winter Celebrations, Diverse Reads for Grades 4 and Up, Libros en Espanol, Social Justice for Kids, Celebrating Comics, and so many more.

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