Books at My Bedside (2)- pre-reading children’s books

~Books at My Bedside will be a series of posts wherein I will share books I am currently reading and enjoying.


18235928_10155409529029171_1934131272_oSince our little Q is not so little anymore and is gradually taking on longer books, my job as “board of censors” has become bigger. I have a pile of books waiting to be pre-read before Q gets his hands on them. (This is another reason why I have very little extra time for reading my own grown up books anymore). When Q’s reading options were just limited to board books and picture books, I used to just scan and read them while standing in a bookstore and then decide whether to buy them or not. Now, since he is taking on longer picture books and some chapter books, I do some research beforehand to get a general idea of a particular book before I go to the bookstore or online to buy it because reading it in the bookstore while standing will already be time-consuming and sometimes, just close to impossible. After I get the books, I start pre-reading them when I have the chance. Though painstaking, I enjoy this task tremendously. So many great children’s books out there and I am very excited to introduce to Q some of the ones I have already pre-read.

Books in pre-reading queue:

The Twenty-One Balloons – William Pène du Bois

Fairy Tales – E.E. Cummings

Homer Price – Robert McCloskey

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E. L. Konigsburg

Fog Island – Tomi Ungerer

Ginger Pye – Eleanor Estes

Books already pre-read*:

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle **
The Cricket in Times Square – George Selden
26 Fairmont Avenue – Tomie de Paola
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me – Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl
The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
The Whipping Boy – Sid Fleischman
The Steadfast Tin Soldier – Hans Christian Andersen
Many Moons – James Thurber
Mirette on the High Wire – Emily Arnold McCully
Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
The Sign of the Beaver – Elizabeth George Speare
*I’ve pre-read most of these books quite some time ago and I’m afraid the stories and the themes (and underlying themes) are already hazy to me. Also, in the last year or so I have learned and read more about guidelines and the right criteria in choosing children’s books so I might have to pre-read one more time or review right before I give it to Q just to check if I have overlooked something.
**A Wrinkle in Time is one of several children’s books reviewed by author Michael O’ Brien in his book,  A Landscape With Dragons, one of the resources I am using in selecting children’s books.  Read more here why A Wrinkle in Time will not make it to Q’s bookshelf.

Books at My Bedside (1)

~Books at My Bedside will be a series of posts wherein I will share books I am currently reading and enjoying.

* * * * *

I read several books at once and that’s not because I’m trying to prove something. I jump back and forth from one book to another because I am simply incapable (short attention span?? ADD??) of sticking to only one book and finishing only one book before I start on another one except maybe, occasionally, for riveting novels. (Also, the choice as to which book to read largely depends on the mood I am in at the moment, among other reasons.)

Speaking of novels, it’s been a while since I’ve read a novel. If I remember correctly, the last 3 novels I finally (after a looong time) finished reading (also at the same time) were Sula by Toni Morrison, Persuasion by Jane Austen and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. This was maybe 2 or more years ago (probably the tail end of the era called “Me-Time” haha) And the stories and details of these novels are now hazy to me (I do remember the heavy feeling two of them gave me. Ugh.). For the past 4-5 years, it has been children’s books that I have been obsessed with. 🙂 From picture books to chapter books- I am excited about all of them. I think novels, for now, are too demanding for me. My being a full-time homeschool mom and our gypsy life simply cannot accommodate an unputdownable novel. Also, I am not disciplined enough to stop, put down a page turner, and do chores. 😀 And since I need to constantly learn anything and everything about homeschooling, faith and family, the books that I have been currently busy reading are in and along these areas. The novels will just have to wait for now.

I will share here the books I am currently reading and only heaven knows when I will finish reading them because as I said, I juggle several books at the same time but I am determined to finish reading them all! 😉 (Although, I think one does not really “finish” reading some of the books in the list below because I, for one, go back to these kinds of books time and again to reread some meaningful parts or to refer to some nuggets of wisdom or to simply reread the entire book again for no compelling reason but that it suffuses me with its goodness)


Books at my bedside (and in my Kindle):

A Landscape with Dragons (The Battle for Your Child’s Mind) – Michael D. O’ Brien

Ten Ways to Destroy The Imagination of Your Child – Anthony Esolen

How to Pray at All Times – Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (translated by a Redemptorist)

Summa Theologica – Thomas Aquinas

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

An A-Z Guide to Food Additives (Never Eat What You Can’t Pronounce) – Deanna M. Minich

Marcos Martial Law Never Again by Raisa Robles

The Uses of Enchantment (The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales) – Bruno Bettelheim

Sexuality Education 101: Education in Love, Sex, and Life (a multi-grade teachers and parents guidebook) – Torralba, etal

The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life – Thomas Moore

The Story of a Bad Boy – Thomas Bailey Aldrich

The Read-Aloud Handbook – Jim Trelease

Oh dear, I didn’t realize they were this many. 😀 The good news is some of these books I’m already halfway through or about to finish. So many books, so little time (and energy)!

The previous batch I finished (were read on and off, at the same time, within a 2-year period) was not nearly as many as the above list:

Educating the WholeHearted Child – Clay and Sally Clarkson

Honey for a Child’s Heart – Gladys Hunt

Steady Days – Jamie C. Martin

For the Children’s Sake – Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Homeschooling for Excellence – David and Micki Colfax

For the Love of Literature (Teaching Core Subjects With Literature) – Maureen Wittmann

In another Books at My Bedside post, I listed the children’s books and young adult chapter books I am pre-reading before I introduce them to Q.


book finds (1st quarter)

Yey! Getting the natural high again from books! These are our book finds since the year started:

To reinforce our Filipino and Philippine History learning (and still using literature-based approach)  I ordered some children’s books  from The Learning Basket and we are so happy with our purchases:


The Golden Loom (Palanca Prize Winners for Children)


back cover of the Golden Loom

A Lolong Time Ago: A Prehistory of the Philippines, Halo-halo Histories (Book 1) by Michelline Suarez, Joonee Garcia, Divine Reyes and Benjor Catindig

We haven’t seriously started on this book yet since we’re still working our way through The Golden Loom but I must commend the creators of this book for their effort to make an otherwise boring subject interesting and funny.

Si Jepoy Dyip at ang Siga ng Bayan by Jomike Tejido


A picture book that comes with fun 3D paper crafts

Read more about this 6-book series here.

Bandila: The Story of the Philippine Flag by Merci Melchor, pictures by Auri Asuncion Yambao

Having slept through all my history classes as a student, I’m sure many historical facts have escaped my attention. In this book about the Philippine flag, I learned many new and interesting things and one of them is that the person who designed our current flag was General Aguinaldo himself, during his exile in Hongkong. Speaking of Aguinaldo,  I saw him in a much different light (not a flattering one) after I saw the eye-opening movie, General Luna. 😦

(Last year, we also got the Reader’s Digest Kasaysayan books to better educate ourselves and teach history to our son accurately. The reading level is not for young kids but since the photos are of very good quality, Q enjoys leafing through them. Great for parent-child reading time or as jump-off points for conversations about Philippine history. We also purchased a very well-written and comprehensive book by Raissa Robles about a very important part of Philippine history that every young person needs to know about and every parent should make their kids read to supplement if not correct what’s being taught in schools now using revisionist history textbooks.)


Back home, while taking a respite from our traveling, we visited St. Paul’s and got these:


I do not need to scramble for examples of role models when it comes to teaching my son good values and leading a Christ-like life.

I also got these really inexpensive Emotional and Social Well-being Series booklets. They are short and straight to the point. When I am at my wit’s end in explaining things to a strong-willed 7-year old or just sapped by behavior issues, I pull out one of these for backup :D:


Last but not the least are the books we got from a gold mine of a second-hand bookstore, Booksale!


Barron’s Amazing Fact-packed Fold-out Atlas of the World


I don’t know but there’s something about book foldouts and pop-ups that is so enticing to me. 😀

A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear


the title page

The idea for this book is quite interesting and is detailed on the Introduction page. DaddyO’s not a fan of this book. He agrees that IT IS nonsense. Hahaha

The Legend of the Blue Bonnet by Tomie de Paola

A folktale about the origin of the blue bonnet flower and a story of a little girl’s sacrifice that greatly helped her tribe, the Comanche People. I took extra care in reading and explaining this book’s story to Q as it also depicts the Comanche tribe’s worship of many spirits.

The Magic School Bus Science Exploration and The Magic School Bus Science Plants Seeds: A Book About How Living Things Grow

To supplement and inject more fun and humor in our Science reading.

Dinosaurs by Gail Gibbons

I gave in to this one because Q said he wanted to copy the drawings. Every time we go out and buy books, Q has to get a dinosaur book which I have already put a limit to because he already has SO MANY dinosaur books and every newly bought dinosaur book offers no new information anymore. I think he pretty much knows everything there is to know about dinosaurs…at least at his age.

I’m Tyrannosaurus! A Book of Dinosaur Rhymes by Jean MArzollo, illustrated by Hans Wilhem

I got this one not because it’s a dinosaur book (although for Q, that’s a plus) but because Q loves making up his own rhymes, songs, and short poems. This might give him some ideas and make up more.

Crow Boy by Taro Yashima

A book about isolation and forming a wrong opinion of other people. It’s a wonderful story about embracing one’s uniqueness despite peer pressure or the need for most people to fit in and sometimes, standing one’s ground with dignity and humility despite ridicule. This is a common occurrence everywhere and even more so among school kids.

I look forward to finding more great books and sharing them here in my future posts. We are also excited for the arrival of our school books from Kolbe Academy (and some interesting ones from Amazon!) and start a new school year. So, that’s another thing to look forward to! Weeee!

Our Gypsy Life Resumes (Part 2)

What kept us busy in the big city:

  • Lego Robotics




  • Rakugo Japanese Sit-down Comedy


  • Terracotta Clay Workshop with Mr. Radel Paredes



Q, who loves to create with modelling clay and is rarely without a clay in his hand, became so frustrated with the tough-to-handle terracotta clay. According to his fellow homeschooler (I was elsewhere when this happened), he created a dinosaur but was not very happy with it. He got upset and rolled it back into a ball. He ended up making a less complicated creation: a goblin’s head 😀


This has been thoroughly air-dried but has not been placed in a fire pit yet as it should be

  • Our homeschool support group’s second Vision-Mission-Goals Setting session


  • Q and Dad with other homeschoolers attended a classical piano concert



  • 1st National Homeschool Day 



Too bad DaddyO had to work and miss this. 

  • excursion, play dates, among others…


IMG_1348 IMG_1310

  • Moms’ Day Off


coffee (or anything equally nice) + good conversation = happy moms

  • Fun with cousins



cousin love!

  • “The Two Boys Club”

Daddy O and Q’s regular dips at the pool (We also hit the gym. Me, a total of 3 times, hahaha)

Whew. All these hustle and bustle in a little over a month, in between errands, homeschool work, housekeeping and laundry! 😀

18049793_10155377527459171_435814522_o (1)

Thank God for automated laundromats!

Then it was time to pack up and leave…again.


Four to five hours away awaited our new “home”. When we arrived, I was so tired I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for days but rest was not mine to have just yet.  I had a new house to scour and make into a home. I had boxes to unpack. I was back in an all too familiar rhythm once again. The staying and going. The leaving and settling– this is our dance. This is our life.  And it’ll be like this for a while.

Our Gypsy Life Resumes (Part 1)

After a little over two months of being back home, we were packing our bags again and preparing for another chapter of our “life-on-the-move”.


DaddyO’s Papa and Q’s grandpa, who likes to send us off on many of our trips, dropped us off once again at the port

In February, Daddy-O accepted a consultancy job in another NGO. His work will involve some traveling between 2-3 cities. It also requires him to be regularly on site in one of these 3 cities, Bogo City, hence, our need to take up residence here for the next 5 months. But before we moved here, we spent a month in the big city for Q’s Lego robotics class (Introduction to Robotics and Programming) at Compass Education.


Q so focused on his task. He enjoyed every session he had at Compass. This is an area he is passionate about and he is really thriving here!


We were so blessed to find a place to rent in the big city for the duration of Q’s robotics class. We were able to rent a fully furnished place at a very friendly price. “Very friendly” is actually an understatement.  The place was way more than we asked and prayed for! And worth a lot more than we paid rent for! That is why we are very grateful to the owner (Daddy O’s cousin) for his generosity and the full trust he gave us.  It was not just a decent place but very upscale for our standards. 😀 Although not our dream living space as we are more the bucolic kind of people and we don’t really have a natural affinity for anything posh haha but a month in a comfortable, convenient and safe place like that, hey, we can’t complain! I mean, the swimming pool, gym, kid’s play area and 24-hour security were not too shabby at all. 😉 Not to mention the view we enjoy nightly from our glass panel bedroom window (high up on the 17th floor): the beautiful city lights.


My phone camera did not give justice to the view but I must say, it was a wonderful bedtime treat.

We also felt so blessed and relieved that we didn’t have to buy furnishings again or haul our own stuff (in storage in the island until our Bogo move) to the big city.  The place was also nicely situated in the heart of the city and everything was accessible to us.



We are not the condo-living kind of people but I think that if one must choose to live in the middle of a big bustling city, this is one of the best options.

Since we were in the big city for a month, we had quite a full calendar apart from Q’s Lego classes. We took this opportunity to meet up with our wonderful fellow homeschoolers as many times as possible and join as many activities as possible 😀 I will write about the month-long fun we had in the big city in the second part of this post. 😉

Between Adventures: Home, Christmas and Alexander

Leaving the island was not emotional for me. It was a blur, to say the least… at least at the time I was in the middle of it all –the sorting and packing. I was edgy and under pressure. The emotions and nostalgia came later when I would see photos of our island life that had just come to an end. A laid-back life that we dearly miss. But during the days leading up to our move, everything was a bit overwhelming– the packing and sorting, preparing for our Christmas activities with our homeschool support group in the big city (plus our own family’s Christmas preparations) not to mention the stress I felt for yet another boat trip back home, anticipating crowded terminals with passengers going home for the holidays.


At the port. Our boat bound for home was delayed for 9 hours!

But all ended well. I lost my voice once, I got sick again (happens to me almost every time we move) but I survived! Yey!


Our homeschooling community Christmas activities

But of course, little did I know that more was in store for me…

For a little over 2 months, we were between adventures. Before our new life in the new place (not very far from the island) commenced, we were back home for a while,  spending Christmas and enjoying the company of relatives and old friends.



And of course, in between all the Christmas gatherings and other activities, I had to deal (again) with the spring cleaning and upkeep of our real/actual house, our nearly-neglected-always-locked-up-because-we-are-not-around house. It was a couple of days of junk and dust and lots of antihistamines for me. In the midst of all of these, I managed to travel back and forth (with the boys) between my home city and Daddy O’s and squeezed in a quick trip to the big city (an overnight boat away) to attend a meeting with fellow homeschooling parents. Then, our not-so-little boy Q got sick again, three separate times in the 2 months we were home. All the traveling and frenzy took its toll on the poor thing. Three blood tests, an ear and a viral infection later, he was back to his rambunctious self. 😀 Thank you, Lord. Still fresh from the tiring island life finale, I was experiencing once more a slow stress build-up.

As if all this excitement was not enough, Daddy O and I did something that made our Q a very happy boy but brought mayhem to my mommy life: we got a puppy. A decision that, we later admitted to each other, was not well thought out. 😀 Our excitement (and the puppy’s uber cuteness) muddled our judgment. I’m not playing the blame game here but let me just say that Daddy O greeted me with a grin on his face when I had just come in from a really early morning flight from the big city and an hour and a half bus ride (which did not help in giving me a clear mind for the decision-making that was about to happen). I had barely put down my bags when he excitedly showed me a photo of a dog and told me like a wide-eyed little kid, “Let’s check this puppy out!!!”. We were going to give it to Q as his late Christmas present. Daddy O’s excitement was so contagious! I instantly got giddy with excitement myself. So I skipped breakfast and we sneaked out and went to see the puppy. After a fuzzy deliberation, we paid for it, put it in a shoe box and went home and surprised the little boy. Oh, Q was immediately smitten! And without a moment’s hesitation, he lovingly christened him Alexander. (Up to this day, even if the puppy continues to be demanding and a lot of trouble for me since I’m not really a dog person, we cannot just give up on taking care of him and decide to find him a new owner. It’ll definitely break Q’s heart. We have to commit.). We now had a puppy but, uh-oh, we didn’t have basic puppy supplies and a place for the puppy to sleep in! So unprepared we were! So, in the days that followed, we were running around like mad going to the vet, buying dog food, a dog crate, dog shampoo, and all that jazz. It turned out to be fun, I have to admit but boy, was it exhausting… and expensive! As we were beginning to realize how demanding having a puppy was and how much it was costing us, Daddy O and I started kicking ourselves and shaking our heads while repeatedly saying, “We did not think this through”.  But for some reason we always ended up smiling. Hahaha.


Who can resist that face? ❤


Transporting the newly groomed little mutt from Daddy O’s city to Mommy’s city in a private car which cost more because public bus transport wouldn’t allow dogs to be with the passengers. Animals are placed together with cargo in the underbelly of the bus!


Q still getting used to the puppy. He still gets tense and uneasy handling him but he loves the pup to bits.


The master of the house.


Q learns to feed Alexander.

I had a love-hate relationship with the puppy mainly because I did most of the work in taking care of him and oh, good heavens! the toilet training, THE TOILET TRAINING! I just about lost it the first week the puppy was inside the house. I think the trouble that this new family member gave me was the cherry on top of this homecoming!

And here’s the craziest thing- we are a gypsy family. How we will be moving around with a dog in tow remains to be seen. We really did not think this through. Hahaha. But all shall be well!

(As of this writing, Alexander is temporarily in the care of my brother back home. It has been almost 2 months. Daddy O has gone home once to check on him and made sure he got his scheduled shots at the vet. We intend to go back and get him once we have settled in our new place).

our paradise

I found this (post below) in my Drafts folder written in May 2016.  I did not realize until now that I never published it. It was one of those days–I was being whiny and I had to let it out through writing  and then…maybe I caught myself, felt ashamed and decided against posting it. Haha. But I have decided now to post it anyway. Let’s say I just delayed the gratification. But I did redeem myself at end of the article.

It’s funny to be reading this now when we’ve already left the island. 🙂 But I am so glad we took everything in stride (some of the time, we didn’t haha) and we were able to “survive” the challenges.


Today, I will keep it real. I want to sit down, write and WHINE.

I have been dying to do this since, well, since I’ve had things to whine about.

But I am glad it took me a long time to do it because this time, when I’m actually going to do it, it will be for a good reason.

Let me begin the whine fest-

  1. It has not been easy–this almost nomadic life of ours. Q is 6 years old and he has moved homes 6 times (this means temporarily leaving our real home to adjust to Daddy O’s work). I can be an adventurous person and being always on the move can be fun but there is something about my space being constantly disrupted that just makes me want to go…


 I tried to process why this is so and I realized that it is not so much about our “home” being a different one every year or so but that moving around too much is doubly challenging because we are homeschooling. When my space at home (and Q’s study area) where I work and create has a different look every so often, when books and files are moved around several times, I lose my focus and I feel I am not very productive. I do not handle interruptions and changes very well. But we have to move. Sometimes I feel I have very little choice in the matter.

2. We travel for hours and in different modes of transportation to get to places (esp to the city) not to mention boat trips to the mainland getting cancelled when there are weather disturbances.We are affected by strong winds during typhoons which we are not used to. We are not able to cut down on expenses and save up because, instead of Q and I just staying put in our very own home, we are here in the island with Daddy O paying for rent, buying new sets of houseware and furniture, spending on travel fares and paying for hotels when in the city, etc.

3. We do not have the comforts and necessities here that we have back home especially necessities like good hospitals, comfortable transportation, educational places that could supplement and support our homeschooling like museums, libraries, bookstores, art and music schools, good sports facilities, etc.

4. We do not have our little home library within reach. Other much-needed school materials were left behind because shipping them all here is just out of the question.

5. We are trying to cut down on our use of the airconditioning in our rented rooms, so the unbearable island summer heat is frying our brains.

6. Most interesting of all, we are right smack in the middle of a town whose culture, owing to the many shady foreign tourists coming in droves, is slowly and evidently becoming loose. Raising a child in this kind of environment requires a lot of vigilance.

There. I’ve listed them. That actually felt good, therapeutic even. 😀

BUT despite my long list of whines (that wasn’t even all of it!), I have my boys. We have each other. We roll with the punches.  We are together, not apart. And we have faith that God will protect and guide us. When I am anxious and ungrateful, I remind myself of this. Thinking about other people’s miseries, I should actually be ashamed of myself for even complaining at all.

Gratitude, Priorities

It’s no fun to be around me when I start complaining. Ask Daddy O. 😀 I know that the more I complain the more I attract the same undesirable situations over and over again. So I try to be more aware of my thoughts and my speech.  This may sound cliche but yes, I am now more intentional in cultivating “an attitude of gratitude”. Gratitude does allow you to see things in a different and much better perspective. This helped me deal with the challenges that came with our moving around a lot.

Daddy O and I have our priorities straight especially when it comes to family and parenting. From the very start, we vowed that we should try not to be apart unless it is highly necessary. We really do not need to be moving homes so many times, you know. Q and I could opt to stay in our home city and Daddy O can just go home during holidays and we can just Skype! But NO, we don’t want that. That for us is not the best way to grow together.

So, now, here we are. We three musketeers are cramped in rented rooms in the island (because the rate of house rents here are based on the paying capacity of foreign tourists, therefore, atrocious for us “locals”.)


Island homeschooling.Q loving his fort that his dad built for him.

A family growing and learning together and making memories no matter the circumstance… that’s what’s more important. When I said earlier that I have “very little choice” in our moving around a lot, that’s actually not true. I have every choice. And I choose to have my family with me even if we will live in a tree. 😀


We have been in the island a year now. We have one more year to go. I am still adjusting, after all this time. I still feel that I might have a nervous breakdown any day moving around in a tiny living/work space not to mention the daily battle of putting up with neighbors’ noise (making noise seems to be a local custom around here) and shady landlords. And, oh, the mess and clutter created by my perennially busy 6-year old inventor. I do love his creations but it’s not easy to deal with mess in a small space. But I can now reel myself in and not easily unleash my whining. When I take a deep breath and say a prayer of thanks, the whining is tamed and silenced. Thank God. So, I try to focus on the upside—

Aside from our family being together, we live near the beach!  The breath-taking beauty of the beach here just melts troubles away. We don’t easily get the colds and stuff like that here because the sea breeze is a natural healer. The air is always fresh and the seafood is also fresh (and so affordable!). Because there are not many distractions, we are more physically active here. We take walks, we swim, play frisbee and lawn tennis and ride our bikes. The three of us are also able to connect with each other more deeply. Life here is simple and laid-back. We have made new friends and a lot of new experiences. And the most valuable thing of all, Daddy O’s humanitarian work has allowed us to look and examine our own lives with much introspection.

Writing this article made me think of 3 important things:

First, to remind myself to be grateful and that our “sort of nomadic” life has many good and wonderful reasons.

Second, we (Daddy O and I) must always be conscious that our priority (family being TOGETHER) remains on top and that we should live and adjust our life around that priority.

Third, to remind myself that learning not only happens in a physical space like inside the home. Learning happens everywhere and the best learning occurs in the real world. And our homeschooling can be done anywhere, even under not-so-ideal conditions.


Many friends and relatives say that we are lucky that we get to live in paradise and our backyard is this:


our expansive backyard

Well, that’s true. 🙂 Although I also tell them that it’s different when you actually live here compared to just spending a few days on a holiday. I say that not to put a damper on them but to be realistic. But it’s the same everywhere. There is a downside and an upside wherever you find yourself in the world. And if I think about it, real paradise is not really the place where you live. Paradise is that beautiful thing inside you that feels like home and never loses its charm. And that beautiful thing, that paradise, that home for me are my boys and my life purpose.

Love and executing love, especially for your family, is not always a smooth ride. There are challenges but you know that at the end of the day, you have chosen what is most important to you and as for all the hardships, you just take the bull by the horns.


sticking together wherever, forever


Probably the next piece of rambling article I’m going to write will already be written in our new home. Yes, we are moving again  (long story short: right now, we live in a compound with crazies, so we have to move). The 7th time since Q was born. Still in the island though (our 3rd home in the island), but in a bigger space this time. No longer a shoe box but a house. A gated 2-bedroom house with a porch and a garden. Yey! And we are so excited! I guess this is the blessing that comes when I stop (or bring down) my whining. 😉