Thursday, July 2, 2009

Two Worlds

My sister-in-law tells of an encounter with a local taxi driver, a migrant like ourselves. He's from Malaysia but has lived in New Zealand for many years.

This man tells my sister-in-law that his children don't consider themselves Asian -- at all. They make fun of his accent. They don't understand the old ways. They don't want to.

This, admittedly, is one of my fears. I'm afraid that not only will my children know little about their roots; but that they will be disinterested or worse, disrespectful of them. I'm scared that despite my best attempts at fostering and inculcating a deep sense of love for our country of origin, none of it will stick and I will end up with kids who look Asian and yet disavow any connection to that part of the world.

God Forbid.

Perhaps it's the weather, but as yet another fierce winter day passes; as the chill of the season creeps into my bones, thoughts like this increasingly fill my brain and I find myself laden with a strong sense of nostalgia and homesickness. I long for warmer climes, for summer evenings spent catching up with old friends, for Sunday lunch and afternoons with family. And even as my heart explodes with the ache of wanting all these things; my mind betrays with wayward thoughts of how what is familiar and safe to me - all the things I grew up with; the sights and sounds of a noisy, huge metropolis; the highways and backroads I used to navigate and know like the back of my own hand; the stomping grounds I used to haunt; the food (oh, the food!) so difficult or nearly impossible to get over here -- all these things are in fact, alien to my children. They've either not seen or heard or tasted or experienced many of these, or else only have a vague remembrance. My daughter was only 4 when we took the plunge and moved down under. My son was born here, and we haven't been back since. Manila would be as unfamiliar to them as New Zealand is to me. And all the things about living here that I have only just been coming to grips with will now, in fact, become their own anchoring reality -- even as my own anchoring reality slips further and further away, each day that we remain on NZ soil.

I love our new life here and yet like many first generation migrants, I will always be torn. I'll always have one foot in, and the other one jutting out just ever so slightly in the direction of some 5,028 miles north. While we've done well enough to cope and settle in, the truth is I'll always have one eye in the direction of what I left behind, even as I continue to look ahead and forge bravely into this new world. Sometimes however I do wonder if in my constant looking back, whether I am in some way impeding the forward momentum with which I must move on. After all, I can't keep living in the past. And yet, I can't - mustn't ever -- forget, or leave it completely behind either. I also can't help wondering - in a parallel universe, what would our lives be like if we had stayed? What would that look like? In the end, would all have been for the better? Worse? I will never know. And for that fact alone, I know I must stop asking.

We are scheduled to return to Manila in December 2010. It's something to look forward to. You can bet we'll make the most of it. It will be a time to catch up with old friends; have lunch with family and all our titos and titas and pinsans and pamangkins. If we can, we'll laze around the beaches and be warm. We'll stuff ourselves with Taho and Litson and Jollibee chicken with sweet-style spaghetti topped with hotdogs, and Tropical Hut hamburgers and Auntie Anne Pretzels and Goldilocks polovoron and fat juicy, ripe, Philippine mangoes. We'll drive by and through the suburbs bursting with Christmas lights and bright parols; eat Bibingka and Puto Bumbong dripping with butter and heavy with coconut shavings; and catch Misa del Gallo at least once (I doubt we'd make the whole nine-day novena.). We'll also make time to pay our respects and visit their Grandparents' graves. We'll make memories worth holding onto - and repeating. Hopefully that will go a long way to ensuring that while my kids reap the benefits of this new life, they also come to know all the things to which they should hold fast and dear, and why that must be so.

A wise man once said, "He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination. " (He also said "He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and smelly fish. " Somehow it sounds cooler in Tagalog.) As my kids navigate their way through life, I hope this is something they'll always keep in mind. May they always keep a part of the Philippines alive in them. May they keep returning. And when they look in the mirror, may they see themselves as Filipino still, even as we continue to celebrate and embrace all things Kiwi, and all things which our adventures in New Zealand bring.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Who Writes these Cartoons Anyway?

My daughter is sooo into Lion King 2 these days.

I have to admit, I like it too. I like the storyline, the characters, the songs (Pilar's favorite is
"We are One; mine is "Love will Find a Way -- " yes cheesy I know but so what?? If you don't get at least a little tug on your heartstrings when you hear them you have either not raised a child or you are dead inside.)

The only beef I have with this cartoon - and I am using the term "beef" here pretty lightly - is the language used. It's not like it's got swear words or anything like that. Just that it's got some words that are pretty BIG in terms of childhood vocabulary.

Okay okay so that probably is a good thing - Pilar's word knowledge just upped tremendously; and she's being introduced to concepts she'll eventually have to familiarise herself with anyway, if she is to be at all human and alive. But I wonder if it's too early and if she's ready? How do I know? What's the gauge? How does a parent tread the line that very finely separates over-parenting from just good ol' keeping- the- kids -safe- and- innocent of things they aren't supposed to know just yet? Dear God, where is the warning label that says not suitable for 6 year olds???

(for that matter God, who ever said
I was ready for any of this?? What was YOUR gauge, just out of curiousity?)

If those existential questions weren't enough, Pilar's asking me what certain words meant made me feel quite inadequate, because while I knew what they DID mean, I couldn't for the life of me provide definitions I thought would a.) make sense b.) not frighten her or c.) deter her from asking even more questions I couldn't answer.

(aaargh! anyone else get this dilemma???)

Well, what kind of words am I referring to anyway? Let me see....

there was:
  • Avenge
  • Lurking
  • Rogue
  • Pound of Flesh (bit too early for Merchant, I reckon??)
  • Conniving
  • Exiled
  • Persecuted
  • Banished
  • Deception
  • Disgrace
And a smattering of a few others. Now, add this to the main story themes of revenge, forgiveness, redemption and love in the face of extreme opposition, and it makes for quite a list of things my six-year old's had to wrap her head around in just one movie.

Do you think this is too much? Or pretty much on the same level as the story of Christmas and Easter anyway? Is this a case of too much too soon, or best to get it over with already? Should I keep the lions at bay for just one more day? Or isn't it that we are never quite ready for anything anyway, and it's better our kids learn tricky things from us, than from anyone or anywhere else?

In any case, here at least is one thing I know for certain my kids picked up from watching the Lion King 2:

If you don't find THAT cute, you really are dead inside. :P

Til next time, cheers everybody.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

5 Things

So yes, I must admit I have been feeling yucky lately. You could even say I've been under the weather. I didn't use to put much stock in Seasonal Affective Disorder, but am now a convert and believer. It's winter here, it's freakin' cold (though not snowing), and for a girl from the Tropics, it's too much for this body to handle.

The US National Library of Medicine notes that "some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up."

Well gosh and darn it, you don't say. No wonder I've been stockpiling on chocolate and stuffing myself with rice and bread.

I figure it's time to celebrate eve
n the smallest things and not focus too much on how bitchy I've been feeling. So here's a quick post on 5 things from this week to celebrate:

#1. Santiago actually went to the potty for a poop-poop! The FIRST TIME EVER EVER. Given I've had recurring nightmares about this for some time now, I reckon a glass of wine is in order. My headstrong, temperamental toddler put up NO fuss - he only required that he bring his favorite toy car to the loo. You can bet when that little turd (the ACTUAL bowel movement, not my son!!) swished into the water, the heavens opened and a shaft of warm sunlight peeked through the crap that was my day (no pun intended.) Now if I can only get him to do this with #1, we'll be SWEEEEET.

#2. Both my kids have actually been in bed by 7pm for a week now, ASLEEP. I slap on Kenny Loggins' bedtime album and by the time we get to Pooh Corner, it's lights out (Thank you Kenny. I thought you ceased to rock, but apparently , you can still BRING IT.) The only downside to these early nights: Pilar is up by 5am, and Santiago follows shortly after. Can a mother never cut a sleep-in break??? sigh.

3. NO SWINE FLU (touch wood!!) This despite being in contact with the contact of a possible confirmed case. So far, only sniffles and a bit of a cough among us all. This I can deal with. Actual pandemic............ not so much. May the disease-free streak continue...please God?!

4. Comprehensive grocery bills for under $150. Hey, when you're living on one income and a little supplement on the side, this is HUGE. We're talking major achievement here for a couple of self-confessed (former) profligate spenders. I do wish I could say we'd won the lotto....that will be in the post for next week's things to celebrate (COME ON UNIVERSE - COMPLY!! I swear I'll donate generously....)

5. The increase in our exercise. We now walk everywhere (well, almost.) Which is good, as Jaime's doctor's already warned us about his cholesterol levels.

So there you have it. I initially named this post "10 things" but now can't be bothered to think of 5 more. I hope you've got 5 things (or more) to celebrate this week - it ain't over yet!

Til next time. cheers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Secretly Heart you, GlamMom!

4 comments it wrong to have a mom crush? Cuz I'm afraid I may be just the tiniest bit infatuated.... with a woman I'll call GlamMom.

(Is this bad???)

I've been seeing her almost everyday now, ever since I started walking the kids to school. She's not hard to notice. For one, she doesn't drive a people-mover. Nope, no station wagons, mini-vans and the like -- she drives a shiny black 3 series BMW. And she's always very fashionably - and impeccably - dressed. The skirts are never too long or short; the jeans are tailored to fit; the dresses fall just so. It's cliche, but I swear, she looks like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine. And the's long and brown and curly and shiny (I have this thing for hair because I grew up with a 'fro. Let's just say it never did suit and is the reason why to this day I sport a short cut. )

GlamMom so far has never appeared as if she were capable of having a shitty day. She manages to look cool and hip and so goddamn purdy even as she drives her equally good-looking school age kids down the road to school. Honestly, I can't decide if I love or hate her more.

I've told hubby all about this, so he knows about my little obssession. He also knows it's gotten so bad, he has bumped me up to official stalker status. Case in point: Just the other day Santiago and I spent the better part of 10 minutes trying to be inconspicuous while waiting in the nearby vicinity of GlamMom's car. All so I could have a peek at what outfit she had on. Her BMW was parked at the end of the road (she must have been late dropping her kids off to school) and I deduced she would be back because she left her bag in the car (it was in plain view! honest!!!! It's not like I totally peeked or anything!) I stopped, parked the pram on the pavement and then proceeded to give Santiago a biscuit, his bottle, his beanie, anything that might justify the interruption in our walk home. Still, no GlamMom. I was running out of rabbits to pull out of the proverbial magic hat. I continued stalling as best I could...."Look Santiago, a bird!" (hey, sometimes seagulls skulk about on our street. Really, though there were none in sight that morning.) "And look over there -- can you hear the dump truck collecting rubbish from our street - it's making that beep-beep backing-out noise! Isn't that cool? (not really mom.) And, um, what about this....leaf pattern on our neighbour's shrubbery?" (Yeah ok I was getting kinda desperate...anything that might remotely interest a 19-month old!)

Finally, dejectedly, I decided it was time to go. GlamMom would not be gawked at that morning. It was getting cold - uncomfortably so. Also, I didn't want the neighbours to get more than just slightly suspicious I was loitering about on their front lawn for no apparent good reason.

So we made our way up the hill. Not willing to admit defeat, I glanced back every few seconds just in case GlamMom did materialise (hope springs eternal and all that.) And - lo and behold - there she was in all her GlamMom glory! Well, her back anyway, which I barely managed to glimpse as she slid into the driver's seat and drove away to whatever else she did in her GlamMom world.

And what is that world like exactly, I have been wondering? What DOES GlamMom do? Does she work? As what? Part-time or full-time? In the city? Or is she a SAHM? Does she have a husband? What does he do? Does she have other kids?

But perhaps more importantly (for me anyway) WHY DO I EVEN CARE???

I'm not sure why this fascination with this woman. I've been thinking of the reasons behind why I've gotten to this level of crazy.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with my transition from full-time, well-paid employment to now stay-at-home mom, and the seeming steep drop in status that accompanied this decision. (You did what? In this economy? Are you CRAZY??) I've wrestled with doubts, fears, anxiety; I've soul-searched and dug deep and been over it and under it and through and out and over it again and again. And you know what? On some days I still don't know if it was the right choice; while on others, I know there is absolutely no other way I would have wanted things to be.

Some days it's so clear cut; on others I can't make heads or tails of whatever's going on at any given moment.

I guess I got really lucky the first time around with a baby that rarely cried and only threw a tantrum ONCE (believe it. It's true.) Now that I've got a headstrong, temperamental, full-on toddler who screams, throws things and perpetually tests the limits of my patience, I'm brought up short and feel like I'm back to parenting 101. What am I doing wrong? Am I doing, or not doing, something that makes him behave like this? Is it the influence of his equally rowdy cousins? Am I pathetically incapable of making any inroads in disciplining my own son? Or is it just my patience that's lacking? Would it be better to leave him in someone else's care who can better manage? Or is it now more than ever that he may need a parent's loving, but firm hand? Even now I confess to a sense of dread at the thought of going through potty training, my imagination already spewing out scenarios of the possible battles that could ensue.

I don't profess to have the answers (do enlighten me!) I'm navigating the parenting world without a compass or erstwhile instruction manual, despite having been down this road before. I have no $(%&($ clue what I'm doing. Which brings me back to the subject of our little rant/rave.... GlamMom, who makes everything seem so effortless, all the while looking fabulous while doing it.

Herein perhaps lies the secret to this fascination. While I'm not a slovenly, foul-mouthed (ooh check that, at least on most days) alcoholic, drug-addled, emotionally stunted abusive floozy, I don't cart my kids around looking like I'm being shot for a spread at Parents Magazine, never mind Vogue. I don't look too bad in my everyday wear of choice (jeans and a skivvie), but I would probably not hold a candle to GlamMom's ...Glam. How does this woman do it - in life, for real??

I must remind myself that GlamMom, no matter how Glam and gorgeous, is only human. She must have her off days too. And she must share - if not the very same, exact worries or anxieties I do -- the same emotions and feelings shared by the rest of humankind: love, joy, sorrow, fear. GlamMom's gotta have her own set of problems too.

It'd be reassuring to think that like me, while GlamMom may love her kids more than life, she would probably confess that she doesn't necessarily like them ALL the time. That like me, sometimes maybe she swears in frustration at yet another tantrum and meltdown at the supermarket. And sometimes, I suspect, when she drops her kids off at school, she probably breathes a small sigh of relief, happy in the precious few hours she'll have to herself while they're away; even as she knows how joyful she'll be to have her kids back safe and sound at the end of the day.

Maybe I will get the courage one day to rock up to GlamMom, say hi and start a conversation (Oh my God, what is this, high school???) Maybe one day we'll get to trade mom stories -- that'd be cool. I'd love to know who GlamMom is, and whatever gets her through the day.

Who knows, we may have even more in common than I think. That'd be cool. Waaay cool, indeed.
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