Thursday, July 2, 2009

Two Worlds

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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?

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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:



video

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

Til next time, cheers everybody.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

5 Things

4 comments
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!

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Um...is 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 hair....it'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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Let this be your introduction to the wonderful world of TRADE ME!


I love love love love Trade Me. From it I have gotten heaps of baby stuff and clothes and assorted other things I probably don't need but wanted anyway.

For those of you who've never come across Trade Me Before, let this be your first introduction. I'm tempted to buy the washing machine itself, if only to meet the lister in person (any guy with a sense of humour like this has got to be even just the tiniest bit good looking!

Oh and scroll down to see the Question and Answer portion - more good stuff down there. And dont forget to check out the pictures!

Cheers!

Click here for YOUR INTRODUCTION TO TRADE ME.

Happy trading!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Have you Seen this Woman? The Great Finding Mary Quest

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Have you seen the woman on the right?

That's Mary.

She was our nanny-cook-househelp-gardener extraordinaire in a former life, before we moved to NZ. She was practically family. She did the housework, cooked our meals, played games with Pilar, planted trees and other stuff in our garden, did the laundry, made our beds. She was fairly easy-going, loved to talk (oh how she could prattle on and on) and was patient with our daughter. Over time she morphed from "Yaya Mary" (Nanny Mary) to "Ate Mary" (Ate meaning older sister in Tagalog).

Sadly, I don't know where Mary is now. And I don't even know her last name (It's terrible, I know! The woman had been with us for YEARS!) Last I heard, she had gone back to her province to her folks. But she could be anywhere now - working with another family, living abroad, or even married with kids of her own.

I often think of Mary and what's become of her. She often comes to mind when my day gets shot to hell and I feel the grind of clearing up and cleaning up and chasing after toddlers and getting meals on time and all that sort of stuff getting on top of me. I am by nature, a person who goes by schedule. I plan out my week days ahead. I like order and my space and on most days quiet so I can think or write. I don't do very well with a lot of chaos and noise, which of course is what one would expect from a gaggle of kids (did I mention I help look after my sister's children? Did I also mention she lives just two doors down from me? and that she has 5 kids under 9? Yup, you heard me right. I'm not sure how she does it day after day. The lady is a saint.)

So anyway.... yesterday wasn't so bad, but it was quite busy. In fact, no disrespect to the 3rd commandment, it didn't feel like a Sunday at all. It was quite full on. I guess I must have felt totally guilty about the day before, when - aside from a quick jaunt to the grocery store -- my whanau (that's family for you non-Maori speaking folks) did absolutely nothing but veg in bed; gorging on Bluebird Chips, popcorn, muffins that Jaime and I baked for Pilar's morning tea (more of that below) and a full bar of Cadbury's milk chocolate (speaking of which, have you seen their latest commercial? I don't know what it's got to do with chocolate, but it is hella funny. Check it out here.)

So Sunday.... I found myself overcompensating in various ways throughout the day. There was laundry to be done (it just never goes away!), proper meals to be fixed, babysitting duties (my sister had asked if I could watch over her youngest for a couple of hours.), whole wheat banana chocolate muffins to be baked - which were fabulously healthy and yummy (Click here for the recipe from Sister's Cafe. ) I did some minor interior decorating by re-arranging the kitchen (little things make me very happy - I after all have been harping on about how tiny the kitchen is. But I made space - and now there's a corner for me to sit and read recipes or surf the net; and for Pilar to have breakfast while I go about my business in the morning. Yay! ) By 5pm I was getting a bit worn-out though. My sister's baby was okay the first hour, but by the second she had become a deadly combination of hungry, sleepy, on the edge with separation anxiety and totally freaked out by my husband's deep voice. She began wailing like a banshee and none of us could get her to stop, not even Santiago who would lean his head against her in his version of a comforting hug. Pilar tried distracting her with games. I moved her to the room across and put on lullaby music and the aquarium light. Still, no dice. I was getting more and more frustrated, especially as my son needed his nap too and refused to just go to sleep. He started wailing too, and there appeared to be no end in sight for both toddlers who by now had gone into full-keening mode. I was afraid the neighbours would call child services on me.

In moments just like these Jaime and I have a running joke between us wherein we call out Mary's name, just like we used to those years ago. Of course we know she'll never come, but it takes us back to the days when she was around and ready to lend assistance at a moment's notice. Mary was the Godsend when we needed our own version of time-out to sleep, to read, to watch some TV uninterrupted, to go out on dates and movie nights, to re-charge.

Now, unless family is around to take over (Gramma! Lola! please come back!), there really is no one Jaime and I can relinquish duties to except each other, which of course works if you just want time to yourself, but doesn't quite cut it when you want to do stuff together. The saying is indeed true: Good help is difficult (and expensive) to find.

So Mary, wherever you are, I hope you're doing just fine. And if this should ever reach you (who knows? stranger things have happened!) we're sorry we ever took you for granted. I'm sorry (and so ashamed) I ever made fun of your funny accent. I'm sorry we couldn't take you along with us when we moved. And I'm sorry we never really got to thank you for all you did for us. Know that you are thought of by a family miles away, and that you haven't been forgotten. You are missed!

_________________________________________________________________
Okay I'm putting this out there...

We'd like to know where Mary is... and someone you know may know where exactly that is!

Help us find Mary!

If you do, I'll send you this super cute Curly Kiwi doll. It squawks when you hug it!
Not to mention you'll earn the gratitude of a thankful family.


Leave me a message or email melissa.jaime@paradise.net.nz - and tell me how to find Mary!

Friday, June 5, 2009

To Be a Dream Is So Much Fun!

2 comments

Ah the curious and wonderful things that children say!

Scene: Tiny, miniscule, cramped-with- appliances Kitchen. Mom is prepping dinner while Older Sister keeps Younger Brother occupied with a game of snake rope.

(Snake rope definition: two people holding a jump rope, wiggling it to and fro. )

Older Sister (in a singsong voice):


"To be a dream is so much fun! To be a dream is so much fun!"

Mom does not realise it at the time (she is too busy making sure meal is even remotely edible) ; however does think much later:

"that was kinda profound what daughter said at the time, wasn't it? Hmmmmmmm....."

__________________________________________________________________

No doubt, it's fun TO dream. Heck, I do it all the time. Some of the things on my dream list: a new kitchen (see above); a winning lotto ticket (this week the NZ Big Wednesday prize is $21M!!) ; getting paid to keep writing; getting even with people who've pissed me off in this lifetime.

But to BE a dream, someone else's dream - and actually be fun- well, that's gotta be some kind of wonderful right there.

I'm not sure how or where Pilar thought of this little gem. I'm not even sure she understands what it really means (or come to think of it, neither perhaps do I.) But I do know her dreaming it up (no pun intended) makes me feel quite proud. Already she's a better writer than her mother - coolness!

At the risk of overanalysing this, I looked up the definition of dream and according to Google its meanings include:

  • a series of mental images and emotions occurring during sleep; "I had a dream about you last night"
  • imaginative thoughts indulged in while awake;
  • ambition: a cherished desire; "his dream is to own his own business"
  • someone or something wonderful; "this dessert is a dream"

So... yeah, sure I'd love to be a dream. I could imagine how and why it might be fun, especially if you take it in the context of the last two definitions. Who wouldn't want to be a cherished desire? And think about all the fun to be had as someone or something so wonderful - you could probably get away with almost anything, and people would still love you for it.

I guess however that the best thing about being a dream is just knowing someone is thinking of you. And whether they're awake or asleep, does it really matter?


(Are you being a dream - and having fun while at it?)

"To be a Dream is so much Fun!" - Pilar, 6 years.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To sleep or not to co-sleep? Such is the Question...

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DSC00037


I write this from the comfort of my warm, snuggly bed. With me are my 18 month old son and, next to us, his snoring father. My daughter is here as well, though on a separate bed, but still within the very same room.

It’s not that we have only one bedroom in the house (there are 3.) And it’s not as if our bed is huuuge (Just a regular queen size.) This is just the way our family’s night-time sleeping arrangements seem to have evolved.

I know for a fact that this horrifies some people. Certainly upon hearing of our nocturnal set-up, ex-colleagues of mine quite emphatically stated “I could never do that!“; all the while only just managing to hide their distaste and incredulity for what I then gathered to be such an unfashionable practice. They then proceeded to extol the virtues of the opposite parenting philosophy of having a separate nursery and letting kids “cry it out” and “training them to fall asleep on their own“. The discussion mercifully ended with them imparting some well-meaning, good-intentioned advice — advice which I have thought of following on more than one occasion – but actually have yet to heed.

The reality is, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I just can’t bear the thought of letting my young child cry and cry and cry alone until he’s exhausted and all cried out. Surely, the world is cruel enough? And yes I do understand the concept of tough love – I believe it is necessary – but do I really need to put it into practice for a wee thing that doesn’t even know how to go potty yet and whose vocabulary consists of all but less than 10 words?

I just can’t do it. So sue me.

Funny but prior to all this, I always thought co-sleeping was a normal part of our Asian culture. I never thought to question the practice. I didn’t even know it had it’s own official term. I had no idea there was such heated debate on a topic I absolutely took for granted.

All I know is this: sure there are downsides. For one, it is more difficult for us two adults to share more, um, intimate moments. But that just means we can get more creative and enjoy the times when IT does happen even more. (I can hear my mother and my sister and my in-laws shouting “too much information!!!!! PLEASE!!) But really – add to that the fact that we firmly want to have just the TWO children - and co-sleeping becomes a mighty useful family planning tool. It just makes it easiest to not have, um, too many relations of the sort that lead to going forth and multiplying (know what I’m saying!??) when there are other (albeit sleeping) eyes and ears in the room. (And for good reason. No one ever, ever wants to wake up and see their parents nekked together. Of this I am 100,000% sure. We don’t intend to scar Jaimita and Jaime Jr for life - and I certainly don’t want to have to tackle those delicate, awkward questions just yet – there’ll be time soon enough for that later on!)

In addition, I’m sure you’d agree getting kicked in the face (or other delicate parts of the anatomy) – even by little people’s feet – isn’t exactly the bees’ knees either. Nor is it fantastic to have to sleep contortionist- style to accommodate another warm body in the bed (just how is it that these tiny persons can take up so much space? ?? There has to be some physical law to explain it. Mass is inversely proportional to space eventually occupied, or something like that.)

Granted, I may just be too cheap to install my kids in separate rooms with another heater to keep this bloody, God-awful Wellington winter away (yes, NZ is infamous for not having central heating. Can I get a what what??!) But please believe me when I say, in my decision to co-sleep, I have no express desire or wish to inhibit my children’s independence in any way, shape or form. God forbid!!! Someday I DO want them to fly the coop and hopefully go on to have mature, loving adult relationships and their own lives so that Jaime and I can continue living ours.

(May we ever be so lucky to sail onward and into our twilight years cruising around the world with nothing but more time and money on our hands, and the knowledge that our kids actually grew up…okay! )

The truth is — and this is all there is to it – I just simply like having my kids around me.

I doubt very much that in 10 years’ time my boy’s breath and fat feet and chubby, grubby hands will smell as sweet.
Copy of img085
I’m also pretty sure my elevated status as “bestest, coolest and funniest mom in the whole wide world” (her words, not mine!) will be skewed towards the opposite end of the spectrum once my daughter hits puberty and the maelstrom of raging hormones takes fast hold on a little girl I once knew. I know that inevitably the time will come when a kiss from mommy can’t – and won’t – make everything better; when I WON’T know everything (and will in fact, know NOTHING); and when most, or everything I do, will become waaaay uncool, gross or insufferable.

So. Until then, let me indulge and have my kids here right beside me, tucked safely away (yes, we’ve read the literature on the dangers of co-sleeping and what NOT to do). Allow me the brief, fleeting pleasure of having my children just an embrace and cuddle away, for when the night outside our bedroom windows just seems so dark and big and scary (hey, even big people get frightened too.) Life is long; their childhood so very short. One day in the not-so-distant future, they will retire to their own rooms. I suspect it won’t be as straightforward or easy for me initially, but I would never begrudge them their own space.

For now however, it’s three’s a crowd in the family bed, plus one more on the side. You can agree with it – or not – but I say, here’s to enjoying it while it lasts.

( Now….. move over lil’ buddy. Mommy’s gotta get some zzzzzzsss. After chasing you around all day…she SO needs it!)

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Until next time everyone. Good night and sweet dreams.

Here and there - on School Presentations, the Pahiyas Festival and an Immigrant's Plight

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Girl looking out the window

This term my daughter’s school has been focussing on cultural celebrations. I liked the idea of that so much, I volunteered to come in and talk about the Pahiyas Festival, which is celebrated every 15th of May in the province of Lucban, Quezon in the Philippines. My own grandmother is from Lucban (home to the most amazing sausage – Lucban Longganisa oh my god yum yum why can’t we get it here in New Zealand waaaah!!) and so I have had the good fortune to come along at least once to this Festival, albeit many years ago.

Keeping in mind I would be speaking to 5 and 6 year olds, I stuck to the most basic facts. I created a beautiful (if i do say so myself) powerpoint presentation outlining the:

  • when and where. (See above)
  • the why. The festival honours St. Isidore the Labourer who is the Patron Saint of Farmers; and is a way for the townspeople to give thanks for a good harvest; as well as entreat him (and God) for another good year to come.
  • the how. The townsfolk decorate their houses with fruits, vegetables, flowers, other agricultural products and “kiping” which are very colourful wafers made from rice. A procession, often bearing a likness of St. Isidore, wends its way through the town streets where each house is blessed in passing by the local priest. At the end, the best decorated house wins a prize.
  • The meaning of Pahiyas - two things: “jewel” and “precious offering.”

Flower Power on the house!pahiyas4

Making the Kiping is a labour-intensive and fascinating process. A special grain of rice must be used, and while the Kiping is made, complete silence must be maintained lest the rice wafers crack (apparently this is a long-held superstition – and one which is completely adhered to!)

Kiping can actually be eaten – some of it is given away to revelers and tourists and the rest is taken into the households for consumption.

It was so lovely to see the children in the class very interested – the colourful pictures made sure of that – and they had so many questions on not just the Pahiyas festival itself, but about the Philippines in general. Here are some samples of curiousity at its most eager and finest:

  • What time does school start in the Philippines (gosh from memory, we had flag ceremony at 7:30am followed by morning exercise — to which P’s teacher gasped and said “that’s so early! school here doesn’t start until 8:55!” Imagine if I went on to tell her that in my grade school years I woke at 4:15 every freakin’ morning for six years because school was THAT far away – and on the school bus, no less!)
  • What’s the time difference? (the Philippines is 5 hours behind NZ during DST, 4 hours without it)
  • What languages are spoken in the Philippines? (English and Tagalog primarily, although there are several dialects spread throughout the 7,100 islands – to which, again, Teacher Katie said “7,000! (To class:) Do you know how many that is? That’s a lot! I didn’t know that! Wow!”
  • Are you Catholic??? (it was just waaay easier to say yes, as the school is a Catholic one and i’m not sure the definition of a “lapsed catholic” would go down well, if at all, with said teacher and her little students!)
  • Do they celebrate mother’s day in the Philippines? Grandparents’ Day? Fathers’ Day (yes to all of the above – i think?? Does the Philippines have Grandparents’ day? If not, I reckon we should write Gloria, aka President of the Republic, a letter!!)
  • Has Pilar ever been to Pahiyas? (sadly, no, but we did go to Liliw once – I think that’s a nearby province? to buy shoes!!!)
  • Why do they eat plants from the ground? (which really puzzled me, as they eat kumara – also known as sweet potato — which of course, is a root vegetable, as well as carrots, potatoes, taro, etc. etc. Hmm. perhaps this little boy’s parents may need to explain where the food from the grocery comes from…)

There were more questions (for the life of me I can’t recall them all), and the presentation took longer than expected, but that was all good by me. The sparks of interest were extremely gratifying, and I loved that I could share a little bit of my homeland with children from my adopted country.

When my husband and I took the leap and decided to start a new life here in NZ, I promised myself my kids would always know where we came from. In the beginning (and it still feels that way sometimes), it was like limbo – trying to adapt to a new culture while still holding onto our own seemed a balancing act that could go waaaaay off kilter at the slightest provocation. Everyday was (in fact, still is!) East vs. West, down under.

My son, who was born here to parents of permanent residency status, is a Kiwi. He’s got the citizenship, the blue passport, the whole nine yards. It’s in his birth certificate – Citizenship: New Zealander. I can’t get my head around the concept. Don’t ask me why. I know there is no reason he can’t be both Filipino and NZer, and I suppose I will get used to the idea in time (probably in 2012, when the rest of the family obtain citizenship, and have lived here long enough to become Kiwi-nised ourselves.)

The fashionable term in use at the moment to call the likes of us is Kiwinoy. I suppose it’s not very, um, sexy? but hey, it’ll do. I am glad to be here. I’m just making absolutely sure that – for me and my little family, “here” also includes quite a little bit of “there” . Which is why I volunteer at my child’s school and make the time to create powerpoint presentations and teach Tagalog classes. NZ is our new home; but home is also where the heart is, and I can’t deny a part of my heart will always be in Manila.

(And speaking of Manila… hopefully we’ll be there Dec. 2010!!. Thanks to Tita Bong G. for allowing me to re-post pictures from her trip to this year’s Pahiyas Festival.)

On playlists and players – music for the young ones (and young once!)

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So my 6 year old daughter has an ipod.

I can hear some of you saying “whaaaaaat?”

Now, she’s not allowed to take it to school. And we didn’t buy it for her specifically. She has “inherited” it from her father, who won it as a prize for being a top manager of his former company (he actually won two). Also, the music that’s on it is moderated by both parents. We know what she’s listening to, and that it’s age-appropriate. We uploaded the tunes ourselves. From a wide range of sources really. There are the usual Disney ditties, some Hi-5 favorites, songs from the great musicals (Les Mis, Phantom, Once on this Island, Cats), a few classical and instrumental pieces (mostly for sleepy time), a BoyZone best of album (gasp gasp), and Tagalog classics (can’t go wrong with Ewan and Pumapatak nanaman Ang Ulan!) I also came across these fantastic CDs (go the local library!) that I recommend for anyone with kids. They’re great listening for the young once, too.forthekidscoverFor the kids Too!

Some of my favorite tracks:

  • The Rainbow Connection – two versions, by Sarah Mclachlan and Jason Mraz respectively;
  • Mahna Mahna (which incidentally, we found out, was originally part of the soundtrack for a pseudo-documentary about wild sexual activity and other behavior in Sweden – BUT P. DOESN’T KNOW THAT AND DOESN’T HAVE TO JUST YET!! ) by Cake;
  • la la la la lemon by Barenaked ladies;
  • Sing by Ivy;
  • a really cool version of Twinkle Twinkle Star by Chantal Krevuziak (remember her from Armageddon??) and Raine Maida;
  • I’m different (which P absolutely loves) by Butterfly Boucher;
  • Catch the Moon by Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell

…. and heaps more . Highly recommended!

Other songs yet to be uploaded are those from the the Saddle Club Series (”hello world, this is me, life should be fun for everyone”), which P pointedly reminded me of earlier today.

Needless to say, P loves having her own portable music player. All the music she likes is finally in one place (no more riffling through CDs!) And it’s so handy when lugging the kids around in the car – just plug it in and it keeps them occupied throughout the trip.

Seeing P listen to it every night in her bed reminds me so much of myself when I was younger – although as I laughingly told her, I didn’t have an ipod player — back then, I would bring my entire radio set under the covers with me; and for my favorite songs I had to tune into the different FM radio stations, wait hours (sometimes even days!) for the DJ to play the songs I liked, and when they finally made it across the airwaves, had to quickly press the record button so that my cassette tape could capture the song, hopefully in its entirety and without the DJ talking over the first bit.

How times have changed!!

I ain’t complaining though. It’s made it easier for me to share music with my daughter. I’m hoping that by giving her the means to have her own time and space for it, she will grow to love music as much as I do, and that it becomes part and parcel of who she is. Whether or not she inherited her mother’s singing abilities doesn’t matter – as long as we have that common ground between us.

I know music saved me many times growing up as an angry, confused, angst-ridden teenager coming to grips with a father’s terminal disease. When I couldn’t find the words, music became the outlet. I was lucky to be surrounded by it; from classic standards (care of mom and dad) to the music of the 80’s, the 90’s and beyond (care of older siblings, cousins and friends. )

At the moment P’s music, as children’s music goes, is filled with sunshine-y, happy themes of rainbows and flowers and love and unending friendship. As she grows older I know this will change (oh how it may change!), and that some of her musical choices may not be to my liking. But just as I was able to express, and even discover (and re-discover) facets of myself in the different genres and artists and lyrics and musical styles I listened to over the years, so will she. And I hope as that happens she will like who she finds; or at least, even on bad days, still be good friends with whom she meets in the musical middle.

What’s on your playlist today?

If you have any ideas or know of any other songs I can share with P (and S. as he grows older) — please, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Monday musings – on playgroups, making friends, and creating space

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One of the great things about living in Wellington is the abundance of things to do with the kids, often for a tiny fee (if any.) Winter and its gale-force winds are no deterrent – indoor playgroups, musical sessions and storytimes abound aplenty at libraries, community centres, churches.

I haven’t really had the chance to take my son to any of these. So S and I quickly piled into the van together with my sister and her two youngest kids, and off we went to Monday playgroup.

For the princely sum of 50 cents, we got two solid hours of interactive play, food and drinks for the kids and an inside look at fascinating behaviour – and I don’t just mean the children’s.

S had no problem fitting in and enjoying – the place was a veritable mecca for small people. Think two rooms of open space with sections for different kinds of play – toy kitchens, a slide, mini sandpit, art area, cars and trikes (complete with mini gas-station) – the works. I, however, was flailing. As much as playgroups are for kids to develop their nascent social skills, they were also invented for parents to meet similar folk and have some adult “me” time in the company of friends.

So as the room filled with more parents and their offspring, I cast my eye about for a likely prospect to start a conversation with.

Should I perhaps go over to the Asian moms, who by virtue of former location or ancestry may have more in common with the likes of me? They’re speaking in a language I don’t know and looking like a pretty tight group.

Maybe the moms with toddler sons then? Surely we can compare notes on raising boys. That’d be great, only none of them stay still long enough, running after their brood. I doubt I’d get a word in edgewise.

How about the fathers? They seem a bit lonesome in the corner. But then what if they start thinking I’m hitting on them and their wives find out and then they form a coalition and I’m banned from playgroup even before my playgroup life begins? Aaaargh!

This is bordering on ridiculous. Talk to someone for goodness sake. Surely you can string a sentence together - you interviewed people for a living not so very long ago!

But for the rest of the two hours, I barely talk to anyone else except my sister. Sure I exchange a lot of nods and smiles. Even come close to telling some mom off – her much older son pushed mine down and refused to share a toy, and she pretended it never happened. But the swell of the crowd, the noise, the forms in constant motion make me slightly dizzy and leaning towards agoraphobic, so much so that I long for the quiet of the library just next door.

In my almost three years in NZ, I have not made that many friends. A sobering realisation. But settling in – getting a job, a house, arranging schooling for P, and then finding out soon after we were going to have a Kiwi; and the grind of daily life – the chores, the errands – all that somehow ate into the time for more social endeavors. Any free time was invariably spent with family. And mates at work don’t really count – there’s always internal politics involved, and in the sales environment we operated, there was always competition at play. It’s pretty hard to let your guard down in that sense.

Fortunately for me, I do have family I can call upon. And as one of them so brilliantly puts it, when you make space in your life, something always comes to fill it up.

Choosing to let go of my full time job – especially in these times – was not an easy decision. No doubt people must’ve thought me irrational, crazy even. After all, the earning potential was fantastic. The job, on good days, challenging and interesting enough.

But sometimes the right choices are meant to be made with your heart, not your head. And if it means not only surviving, but actually feeling alive again – well then, there was no real contest.

What’s your heart telling you to do? It may not be something as drastic…but if the message is insistent and strong, it may be worth paying attention to.

(Of course it helps to have the support of those around you – so to my partner in crime J – thanks for the love.)

Til next time.

How This All Began...

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As a stay-at -home mom the first time around with P back in 2005, I was looking for something to do outside my normal routine. At the time, the Philippine Daily Inquirer was running a Valentine’s Day contest and encouraged writers to submit their stories. I sent this in – and got published and won.


This is where and how it all began. Since then, J and I have had our church wedding. But that’s material for another post.

I’m told this gets re-posted by other people in their blogs. :)

Dream wedding

First posted 21:36:38 (Mla time) May 03, 2005
Inquirer News Service

I DIDN’T get the dream wedding I wanted. Not even close.

But the reality of my marriage, despite its inauspicious beginnings, is more than what I had ever hoped for. I’m not saying it’s perfect-after all, what is?-but in this life, I could not have asked for a better partner than J to spend the rest of my days with.

Do we disagree and fight? Sure, with just as much fire and passion as the next couple. Does he have annoying little habits I could do better without, and vice versa? Hell, yes. Do we need time off from each other every now and then? You bet.

But to lose him completely would be like dying, and I cannot imagine a life on this earth without him by my side.

My husband and I were wed in City Hall one sweltering August morning, in a ceremony that lasted perhaps 20 minutes, including the picture-taking at the end. I didn’t have the proverbial white dress on, mostly because none would fit, and partly because it would’ve been an exercise in futility. After all, it was pointless to be virginal. I was seven months along and as large as a hippo. There was no aisle to march on, no soft string music in the background, just close family members and friends present.

My husband, bless his Soul, had arranged everything for our wedding, including our reception, the wedding cake, even my bouquet. I had been uncomfortably infanticipating (it was a difficult pregnancy, with a few miscarriage scares and the specter of pre-eclampsia looming over my already precarious condition). So, with no other recourse to take, Jtook it upon himself to organize everything for our special day, with very little help from his bride-to-be (I just came up with the invitations list.)

I don’t know how many other grooms would willingly do all this for their betrothed, but J certainly came through for us that day. And has continued doing so ever since.

We had met a scant nine months earlier, although we had both gone to the same university. On the one hand, he was the quintessential privileged bad boy back in his formative years-a regular hell-raiser who drank, smoked and partied throughout much of his academic life, and who, without a doubt and on more than one occasion, broke his mother’s heart and those of a few other unfortunate girls as well. He never did care much for school, though he was obviously smart as a whip, with a keen wit and a sharp tongue to match.

I, on the other hand, was a Catholic schoolgirl, head of the high school choir, a serious A-student who had won much-needed scholarships to two universities and whose favorite subjects included Geometry. In short, I was a high school nerd.

Years in the more liberal atmosphere of college loosened me up a bit, and corporate life even more. By the time I met my husband, I was freewheeling through the universe, getting into all sorts of fixes and quickly tiring of looking for love in all the wrong places.

Enter my knight in shining armor. He had been one of the many nameless faces in the college crowd, and although I had seen him from time to time (his tambayan was a couple of benches down from mine along a busy school corridor), I never met him. Much later, I was to find out he had had a crush on me all along, dating back to high school when he would attend our concerts just to see and hear me sing.

As fate would have it, I met J years later while seeing someone else-a friend of his, actually, whom I was only too happy to dump in favor of the better man. Our first encounter was not love at first sight, though, or even a vague attraction. I remember thinking to myself that first night, “I am never going to get together with this guy,” mostly because I found him arrogant, and because I didn’t like what he was wearing.

Well. I still have my foot in my mouth, and it looks like it’s there to stay.

Birthday bash

Having said that, I’m not sure what made me agree to see him again, but I met up with him at a birthday bash for one of his friends at the Hard Rock Caf‚. J was attentive and sweet in a most non-overt fashion, asking after my welfare and (secretly) keeping count of the number of beers I’d had, firmly refusing offers of more rounds because he knew I had to drive myself home.

By the end of the night I felt so comfortable around him I ended up drunkenly pouring out my heart and my troubles into his sympathetic ear. Now, any other guy would’ve taken advantage of such obvious vulnerability. Instead, J took me to one of his favorite spots, a hole-in-the-wall eatery somewhere in Makati where he ordered me a hearty, delicious breakfast (it was 4 a.m.) and offered to convoy me home (I refused.)

All the while we talked, and listened, and talked some more.

After that, we were inseparable. He would pick me up from work every single day and take me all the way home to Paranaque (he lived in San Juan). Once, when I mentioned I was hungry during a late night at the office, he brought me a roast chicken dinner he had made himself. Another time I complained of feeling cold, and he appeared at my building with a jacket in hand.

Once we stayed up till 5 a.m. in his garage, talking about everything and nothing, and throughout all that time he never made a move, never a misstep, never an awkward come-on. I increasingly felt heady and high in his presence. Surely I was on the verge of something infinitely tremendous, yet with him I felt a sense of security that had been absent for so long. It felt blessed and new. I had found a refuge. I was home.

Little gestures

It’s been that way all throughout our nearly three years of marriage. There are no extravagant gifts, no ridiculously expensive dinners or trips to other countries. But there are little gestures of love all the more magnified because of my husband’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

My husband faithfully checks our car for water, oil and E-pass load, and then gasses it up every time he knows I’m about to use it. He doesn’t have to-I’m am a big girl and I can take care of it myself-but he does it anyway, because he knows it saves me a lot of time and inconvenience, and just generally makes my life easier.

J has never given me flowers. But, knowing my proclivity towards gardening, he built me a garden, clearing out debris from our front lot himself, uprooting weeds and old bushes, digging up and conditioning the soil and just giving me my own plot of land to play with.

He spoils my daughter and I silly, devotes whatever time he can to our little family despite having to sleep during the day and work all night, and whenever I have a concern or complaint, he genuinely listens, even if reluctantly at first sometimes.

He knows me, and how to handle me, and when to leave me alone and when to draw me closer. Most of the time he admits when he’s wrong, and actually apologizes. He still makes my favorite food, shares in the housework, and indulges my wish to stay home as a full-time mommy.

We may not have tons of money, and there may be several things we need to work on-I look forward to having our church wedding with all the trimmings, for one-but I wouldn’t change anything about our story. I only look forward to creating more of it and, in turn, recounting it to our children, and the children I hope they will have someday.

Welcome to the Journey Off the Beaten Mommy Track

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Welcome.

This is where the journey off the beaten mommy track begins – at least, for me, in writing.

There are years to make up for. My first child was born in 2002; my second in 2007. There have been countless memories, moments big and small, steps taken, milestones reached - alas all unchronicled.

This is an attempt at rectifying that. I hope to recapture – and relate as the days yet unfold - all that is wonderful and terrible; exciting and exhausting; tender and fierce, about being a wife and mother.

So…onto my first post.

This afternoon my husband laughed his head off in a moment of karmic clarity (I’m not sure I was as amused.) My son, all 18 months and 11 kgs of him – had gone and done himself proud with a “boom boom” to rival all boom-booms. Judging from the smell alone, and knowing what sonny boy had had the night before (smoked fish chowder), none of us wanted to address it. J and I thus negotiated for non-changing rights via a heated game of rock, paper, scissors. Luckily for me, I won.

This, I was to find out shortly, meant absolutely nothing as I spent the next few minutes chasing my son up and down the stairs, to and from the kitchen, and in and out of the bathroom. The skirmish finally ended with me descending upon said son like a hawk to its prey and carrying him off to where dad sat with a smirk on his face. (Wait a minute – why WAS I doing all the chasing??? Hmm.)

It took the two of us – fully functioning, totally capable adults - to change the damn nappy, as said son wriggled on the floor, threw a mini-tantrum, and bucked like a bronco on uppers. When it was over, and I rose to throw the offending article (the diaper, not said son) away, husband laughed from across the room in an eerily villainous way. “You wanted a son…well you got a son.” Snicker, snicker, gleeful snicker - all the while conveniently forgetting that he was the other half of the equation rightfully to blame for current situation in the first place.

I don’t recall my daughter ever truly giving me this much grief in the diaper changing department. Granted, it’s been some years ago now, but certainly as far back and as hard as I can remember, it only ever took one of us to do it, and certainly always well within the time it took to sing, say the alphabet or the Sesame Street Theme Song

And there are more things. As a toddler, my daughter was just a tad bit shy and rarely went anywhere without me. My son hugs strangers in the grocery store and gamely goes off exploring his surroundings without so much as a by-your-leave. My daughter is more artistic than she is sporty and is a bit awkward and gangly; my son climbs furniture and kicks balls like he was born to do it and zooms about in a frenzied bundle of activity. My daughter and I used to spend hours reading books, lying in bed, watching the clouds, drawing pictures. My son can barely sit still through a commercial and likes being outside the house all the time – no matter if it’s cold and wet and raining. My daughter thrived happily on formula; my son barely drinks the stuff. It goes on and on.

I was told many, many times that boys are different from girls, and that – sure as the sun sets every evening – one’s offspring will have different personalities. This I can now say to be absolutely true, having now had one of each. I know this from experience. P is – and always will be – separate and different from S, (and vice-versa) and I should not expect one to be just like the other (though I do know at least one thing they share in common – they’re both mine!)

So now as I get ready for bed and watch the sleeping forms around me, I say a little prayer to the heavens above. Firstly, that the carpets downstairs have nary a trace of baby poo on them. But moreso, and with all the fervor I can possibly muster – I pray for three other things.

The first is wisdom, that I may always know the best way to respond to my children’s differing personalities and needs.

Secondly, I ask for patience, to hear them out and listen well to what they are saying – or not saying - and act accordingly.

And thirdly, I ask for the gift of time — that I may enjoy them for as long as I can, as hard as I can, while I can.

Until next time everyone. Good night and sweet dreams.Goodnight

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