Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Break time with besties

It has been three weeks since I entered the stay-at-home-mom chapter of my life. No regrets so far. It’s still too early for selfie moments to mull over whether temporarily quitting a fulltime job was a right move. But, yes, I suppose it is. I am enjoying my new routine. I have been a blissful mom so far. The past weeks have been busy weeks settling into a new daily routine, and getting some long-delayed chores and errands done. Improving this blog and putting up more posts, and updating old posts with photos have also kept me occupied.

Last week, I went out for lunch with two of my girlfriends. It was a welcome break to see old friends and catch up on what was happening at work and how our kids were. It was a fun lunch filled with laughter and chatter.  Too bad we didn’t think of taking a photo. But, I do have some photos taken during our Thursday lunches. I miss these two beautiful, smart, two-of-a-kind women.

Today, I got another chance to escape the house and meet up with another bestie for lunch. We planned on eating at Café Breton at the Podium, Ortigas, but had to transfer at the last minute to Mary Grace. Café Breton has been a personal favorite because of its cozy ambiance and their very delicious crepes and sandwiches. Mary Grace is a new find. Not sure when they opened a branch at Podium. Although the tables are outside, it still has its distinct country look and feel. It is a favorite of my dear friend Anna May.

Notes from customers are displayed on the tables.

There is such thing as a free lunch. Thanks to Anna May! Love the short hair, Anns! :-)

We had pasta and their famous ensaymada.

Pasta Vongole

Lunch was delicious though a bit heavy.

What made lunch enjoyable was the company and the stories shared.
 It is heartwarming to be with someone apart from family, who you know truly cares, has your best interests at heart, will laugh and cry with you, hear you out, endure listening to your angsts and rants, and not hold judgments. Persons who will cover your back, pray for you, and stick it out with you. They are your best friends, your besties. They are blessings from God.


I feel the need to share photos of other friends who have, in more ways than one, really pervaded my life, touched my heart, and shared my milestones through the years.  Sorry for the ones in the US who are missing in these photos, but you know how much of besties you are as well to me. :-)

College besties - Sha-Sha and Mil-Mil.

With Tin-Tin and Mil-Mil, super sisters from UP AEMS. Photo taken at Mary Grace, Greenbelt, Dec 2012.

With my sisters. We shared the most fun times over beer. :-)

Celebrating my 36th, cake courtesy of the ladies with me. :-)

Christmas photo with friends.

Sisses in UP AEMS, 1996.

Friends from high school - Lally, Amy and Leah; missing are Ghi, Free, Queenie and Fe.
Photo taken at Cafe Breton, Podium, Dec 2012.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Age Check

The day I became fully aware of myself relative to the people surrounding me and in the context that I was regarded as an individual - a child, that is - was I think the day that I wished I could speed up growing. I thought being a child had so many limitations. I wanted to escape doing school assignments and projects. I envied my mother who would wake up later than me, go to work, come home by 5pm, and didn't have anything to worry over aside from routine housework that could not all be delegated to the helper. I felt more mature than children my age, but, then again, obviously, I was not making real sense of life as it were. I might be around 10 years old at the time these thoughts were running in my pubescent mind. 

Fast forward to 28 years later, I have not denied nor evaded queries about my age. In fact, I would always round it off to the right on the number line. I am acually looking forward to when I could rightfully and proudly say, "I'm forty." :-)

Has it been 28 years already? Somehow, I don't feel it's been that long. Although, yes, I may look even more advanced than my 38 years (rounded off). Please say no! :-) But, I still like shopping in stores that cater to the young - Kamiseta, Bayo, etc. 

Fashion experts and/or stylists segmentize their market by age, usually into 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s and up. And they would recommend specific colors/hues and designs/cuts for each age bracket. This is a subject of argument between myself and my conservative husband. He would object to prints, plaids, and loud colors, and would only compliment my get-up when it had no frills and was in earth color. Oh, he thinks he's an expert, able to tell the kind of textile even. He would spoil my day when I would ride with him going to work, shaking his head or giving me a sarcastic/devilish smile, scorning my outfit. But I don't actually hate him for it, because I know he has an elegant, classic taste, and just wanted to make me dress smarter. Unfortunately, I didn't have the money to patronize signature clotheslines in the likes of Prada, Armani, or even the low end of the high-end such as M&S, Promod, and elite brands I only encounter when I find myself (rarely) in the posh shops at Greenbelt or Shangri-La, or when I get to swing by Singapore and walk the Orchard Road. :-)

The bottom line is that I can not as yet give up pink, from the palest to its brightest shade -- reminds me of the singer Pink! Just give me a reason, baby, why I ought to ditch pink. I won't on account of my age. :-)

My daughter Gabee is crazy over everything pink, down to foods that are pink. 

Well, whatever feels right, no matter how young or old we are, I feel we should go for that. But we must also be wise and consider the advice of the people who sincerely care and only have our best interests at heart. Allow them to temper but not kill the fun and adventure of how we conduct ourselves, by how we dress, and in other ways. 

To my husband, I would again say, "Just live, and let live. Never mind that others (including your wife) seem to have forgotten to dress their age."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Bank of Happiness

Imagine a bank of happiness.  Cool, right? Would you not be interested in it? I was. And so with much interest, I clicked on the article on Time Mobile, and read on.

It’s not something in the clouds. It isn’t an abstract idea excerpted from personality/psych books. Such a bank does exist in Estonia, a country in Northern Europe with a population of only 1.2 million. To me, Estonia only rings a bell because I watch Miss Universe, and I recall one candidate would shout out to the crowd introducing herself as Ms Estonia! Now, I know more about this post-Soviet state, because the article so piqued my interest, I had to look up Estonia on Factbook.

This benevolent bank trades good deeds online. One can open an account and either post an offering or make a request. There are more who offer services than ask. Services can be tutoring a person on foreign language or teaching yoga via Skype. The article further describes the bank, “The bank’s unit of currency is called the “Star of Gratitude,” equivalent to a big hug, a box of chocolates or with gratitude coming from the heart.”

This idea reminds me of another article (also on Time) which talks about paying for 2 when eating at a restaurant, and someone can avail of that paid meal at no cost. It’s similar to the “pay-it-forward” concept.

Often, guilt strikes when beggars (especially children) approach knocking on the car window, or whenever we would eat out after attending church in the Quiapo area, and we would see poor people who have made the streets their home, filthy, and obviously with almost nothing but a cart filled with scraps.  While charity starts at home, scenes like this kind of tug at the heart and serve to remind of the blessings I have, and that somehow I should find a way to “pay it forward.” Not that I have money to give. I don’t. But in other ways may be.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Boy

*Shared via fb Feb 13, 2013.

We would have a bigger problem had he not learned to talk. So said my husband amidst my worries and panic over a call from Garrett's school asking that we come to discuss Garrett's behavior. The call came 2 weeks after I had a 1-hr talk with the teacher-in-charge who told me that Garrett needs to improve his self-control. Teachers apparently have raised a common concern that Garrett has gotten the habit of correcting teachers in class for small grammar slip-ups in a manner perceived to be discourteous. Garrett, he said, would also tend to ask irrelevant questions and blurt out his questions without first being acknowledged or given permission to ask. 

True, we are at fault. I am at fault. We allowed Garrett to talk as much as he wanted when he started talking. We were relieved and in fact overjoyed and so thankful when Garrett started talking, from a few words I could count with my fingers when he was 2 to phrases and short sentences when he was 3 and about to start nursery. He was different as a baby and a toddler, and developed at a slower pace with speech, walking, and potty training. He could not grasp abstract concepts easily and was not into physical games or even toys. As a little child, he was fixated on large billboards along the highways, water fountains, and the pool, and he spent a lot of time staring blankly at nothing but seemingly in deep thought. He would stare at a water fountain standing, and not want to leave. He would run in the mall or at the park and not bother if somebody was watching him, with no fear that he might get lost. He would talk and not take cues that the other person needed to talk as well. Development doctors who saw him observed that his attention span was very short. 

Garrett is now 10, at an age when people expect him to conform and conduct himself in a socially acceptable behavior. Garrett is still much of the little boy he was. The only difference now is that he talks incessantly and reads voraciously. He still has much to learn in social graces. In one essay, Garrett wrote that he is excited about summer because he can be the person he is and not someone else he is trained to be at school. He is having difficulty reconciling the world in his mind and the world he actually lives in. I am all ears for him, but, at this point he needs to understand that conversations are two-way, that teachers teach and students listen, and that questions and opinions are oftentimes better kept to one’s self. I hope we can guide and teach him without stifling or changing him. I know my boy. His heart is kind, his ways simple, and to him things ought to be in black and white. His mind can not find rest when things can not be explained as such or when gray areas exist. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Of Teachers

Garrett with Teacher Jali, his 2nd grade class adviser.

I have always wondered how much teachers earn, moreso after my first parent-teacher-child conference with Garrett's 2nd grade teacher. Sad that that teacher had to leave for graduate studies abroad. Garrett fell in love with that teacher. He would often mention her name at dinner or whenever I asked him about school. She was refreshing, a joy to talk to. 

It was under her charge that Garrett started having problems dealing with teasing and bullying. I had to come see her one time because of one mishap done by a classmate on Garrett. I'll not go into details but there was enough reason for me to elevate the issue. The teacher ably handled the situation and kept her word that she would do what she could to ensure that Garrett would be placed in a different section from that child the following year.

One day, Garrett seemed to have his fill of the teasing and bullying, he suddenly became enraged and hit 4 of his classmates, just like that! The teacher wrote a one-page letter to me. And I was blown away!! Not only because of the sudden behavior Garrett had shown but by the perfect English and very good narration that the letter was written! Made me realize how bad my prose was.. :)

Back to how much teachers are paid, I think that they are not getting anything close to what call center agents get. But meeting some of my son's teachers has made me admire their lot. Noble, humbling and inspiring to say the least. It's like their advocacy for a better world, better future need not be preached because it shines through as they teach and share their youth, fresh ideas, and devotion and love to the children. There are those who have the calling, and when they embrace such calling, can really make a difference in the lives of our precious little ones. Next to parenting, I believe teaching is the next toughest job. 

The importance of education can never be overemphasized. Pardon the cliché--it is the great equalizer. More than budget for education, technology, modules - K12 included -it is through the low-paid teachers that learning is imparted to young, hungry minds. 

I deeply admire teachers who stay on the job, forgo other opportunities because their heart is in what they do, encouraging children to dream and helping them take little steps toward that dream. Such is Sabrina Ongkiko whose story got me to write this. And Teacher Jali who has touched Garrett's life, even for just a year, with her openness, uniqueness, intelligence and kindness. Here are the links to their stories. Hope they inspire you, too, or at least make you smile.

Books vs Gadgets

Last month, I got invited to give a brief message at a preschool orientation for parents of incoming nursery pupils. I wanted to decline since I am not comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. But, I felt obliged to accept the invitation as I have great respect for the owner of the school (Teacher Maris), and I am grateful to the school for nurturing the young minds of my children. To save myself from episodes of jitters and blabbering, I wrote up the message and just delivered it reading from my copy on an iPad. :-)

I shared how I get my children to pick up a book over a gadget.

Here's my script: 

Let me start by saying that I am no expert. Like you, I am still a mom of young kids. I have two. My eldest is 10, a boy, and my youngest is a girl, who is turning 5 on June 24, and is with the prep class of Teacher Maris. 

My eldest is also a product of Shining Time Play Center (STPC). His name is Garrett. He started out with Teacher Maris at the age of 3. He was speech delayed, and was still taking speech therapy when he started nursery. He blossomed here at STPC. In the middle of kindergarten, I remember the day when he started taking interest in reading the newspaper, and my husband and I were surprised that he could already really read. It helped that STPC started their reading program with his batch, and although we were not able to put an entry into the home reading log-sheet every night, my son really developed a love for reading. At only 10 years old, he now reads even the Bloomberg Businessweek, and would eagerly open  our subscription when we get it in the mail. That love for reading started him on writing poems and essays. And if there's something I openly share and a bit of brag about on the web, it is his writings. I helped him put up a blog, and he now has followers aside from our relatives.

If with my first child, I did not have any difficulty getting him to read, it is with some effort that I teach my little girl how to do so. But as with all STPC students, when she finished kindergarten, she could get by reading simple story books. 

With the iPads and other tablets, iPhones and other smart phones, on top of Cartoon Network and Disney Channel, competing for their attention, it has become doubly difficult, I think, to get kids to pick up a book and read without prompts from us. My youngest is 6 years younger than her brother. Six years ago, Barney was the "in" thing. The latest phone then only had few games, and there were limited portable video games. It was when the PSP just came about. Now, as Teacher Maris has observed and related to me last Monday, practically all STPC students have access to a tablet or at least one gadget. 

These gadgets or your iPads  may have educational apps that teach your kids how to write, read, draw, count and so on, but our children tend to lose out on real learning using all their senses, experiencing, for example, the texture of books, and most importantly interactions with people, where they can develop skills in a more holistic and engaging way. 

This is not to say that gadgets are bad, but we have to be careful in letting our children use them. I'm sure all of us are guilty, in fact, of shoving gadgets in their hands many times, when we want some quiet or especially when we are traveling and there is a long time to kill at bus terminals or at the airports, or even at restaurants or in gatherings. 

In my family, our iPads and iPhones have passcodes so my kids have to ask permission before they can use them. With my eldest, we keep a log of points he earns for each good deed he does, and when he accumulates a certain number of points we had agreed on, he gets 1 hour of internet browsing or iPad games. With our little girl, we limit the time to usually 30 minutes. Also, they get to use gadgets on weekends only. And we encourage them to share, take turns for 10 minutes each over a period of 1 hour or less. 

So how do we get our children to read? In our case, we surround them with books and educational magazines like Readers Digest. And we ourselves as parents need to show them that we love to read. We also only watch selected shows on TV. We like to watch, as a family, History Channel, travel programs, and other educational shows, and wholesome movies. 

I'd like to end this brief message by sharing with you some tips on discipline written by my 10-year-old son.

He wrote on his blog:

Insightful Parenting Tips from a 10-Year-Old Boy

Sharing my son's take on how parents could effectively discipline their children. Follow him on Wordpress. He's got very interesting posts that can cheer, inspire, bring tears, inform, and more!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sweetest Girl

“I believe in pink…I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls...” – Audrey Hepburn

A. Gabrielle completed the family when she arrived promptly on the date that she was expected, June 24, 2008. We fondly call her Gabee. Since her much awaited arrival, she has added a new kind of joy and spunk to our family. With her in the house, in the car, and everywhere, life has never been the same. What we (Let, Garrett and I) lacked in humor, guts, openness, stage confidence and presence, she seems to have been blessed with aplenty. How I would have loved to have grown up with Gabee’s personality. That would have saved me jitters each time I had to take the stage or stand in front of the class from kindergarten all the way to graduate school. Curiously, I would rather that Gabee be my foil character, my opposite. And she is turning out to be that, albeit in a nice way.

In the nursery, shortly after her birth, her eyebrows neatly framed her eyes. Contorted in a distinct way, they hinted of the personality of this baby.

She was an adorable, happy baby.

At 1 year-old, her cheerful self started to show and get noticed. She was a charmer, friendly with everyone she meets.

But she was definitely already a character to contend with, a fierce one.

When she turned 2, it became evident that this girl loves to perform, and easily warms to attention and praises. She would happily do as told when asked to sing or dance.

She is a jolly little girl.

At 3, Gabee learned to sing Adele’s hits – Someone Like You and Rolling in the Deep. She would take center stage and sing with her heart, gesticulating with her hands, and projecting as Jessica Sanchez (whom she got to follow on American Idol) would – as if she knew the song. Notwithstanding that she would only lip-sync most part of the song as she could not as yet memorize the lyrics or even pronounce most of the words, she was a little performer.

At 4, we could see that Gabee had a style all her own. The gifts she loved most were dresses, accessories, and, much to her dad’s disapproval, make-up. It was so easy to get her to smile. Give her a dress, and she’d want to put it on at once.

She was merely 2 here, trying on shoes and clothes from out of the balikbayan box.

This pink dress was a gift from Tita Irish and Tita Marife (my friends from work), who came to her 4th birthday party. Irish said Gabee was so happy to receive the gift. She wore the dress to a Christmas party, and paired it with a pink mask! She wants to stand out. :)

Gabee is definitely not camera-shy. She loves to strike a pose.

Gabee’s appreciativeness and sweetness overwhelm me sometimes. She would jump in joy and thank me profusely with kisses and hugs whenever I would come home from the grocery and I had diapers, shampoo, and other regular grocery items for her.

In bed, she prefers that she sleeps beside me. When she was around 2, she would wrap both her arms around me, with her hands clasped behind my neck. I was honestly not prepared for such an intense kind of affection. Gabee is far from mediocre. She is passionate.

One of this girl’s passions (aside from singing) is drawing. Her drawings show her love for her family, and girly stuff, and pets, too. Lately, I have observed that Gabee can sit for more than an hour just drawing, scribbling, and colouring.

My little girl is now 5. She can get on the nerves of her brother because she tends to act like she is the mommy or the nanny.

Gabrielle is, to me, the sweetest girl. I am so blessed that she is my daughter.

Mulling on white space amidst greens

White space. How do I start filling it? What does inspire me to write, here, right now? Let’s see.

I hear children’s noise. It’s 3:47 pm. I am inside the car, parked outside Garrett’s school. With the car windows rolled down, I hear as well birds and crickets in chorus, and feel the soft breeze on my face. The school is on top of a hill, situated in a nice (posh) subdivision in Antipolo. Big, old trees line the roads. I see green everywhere. I think I have found my spot, a perfect spot to mull things over and write.

It’s easy to write about Garrett. Well, because he’s special in many ways. I had a conference with his class adviser last week. His teacher remarked that Garrett is the type of student that makes a solid impression on the teacher, the kind that when she’s old, she’d still be able to recall and say, “Yeah, that’s Garrett. He was my student.”

Oh, well, this again is becoming about Garrett. I have been meaning to write about Gabee, my daughter. True that it was because of Garrett that I decided finally to give up work. On hindsight, it had been already a year or so since my husband and I started discussing about the scenario where I’d take a few years off from work while the kids are growing. The option that we shift to the traditional family set-up scared me. I was scared (rightly so) to give up a career which affords me leverage in almost everything. I was earning and had all kinds of insurance. I could raise my kids in the event that the marriage falls apart. Ego. I think I had a bloated one. ☺

But the decision to quit came swiftly when we learned that Garrett has ADHD, and has to be put on medication. I acquiesced that I had to give up the work that I was holding on to more for my own sake. It was not as difficult as I had anticipated quitting would be. I think it’s because it was made for the right reasons. Family comes first.

Below is Garrett's photo taken recently. He is growing fast. Moving forward into puberty, I intend to be by his side, all ears for him, looking upon him up close and from afar as he needs me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A new chapter

I'm back into the folds of life as it is for many. The reality that I am out of job, after almost 18 years of uninterrupted employ, sank in while I was on a bus on a work day at 2pm. I was on my way home, after getting my exit (leave) clearance sheet signed.

My past routine consisted of 6am-ish commute to office, 8-12 hours office work, commute back home between 5 and 7pm, and most weekends spent at home to de-stress. I loved Fridays and did not look forward to Mondays. This routine was my reality for 7.5 years. I have learned much from the experience of working in a multinational organization. I met and worked with people from different cultures, and made a number of friends and a few close ones with whom I intend to keep in touch. My take-aways, to name a few, are resilience to strive to be better in your job; the perspective that all kinds of work (no matter how menial and routine they seem) contribute to a mission; knowing my worth and what I am capable of; and the friendships I have gained. In addition, juggling tasks and knowing one’s way through the maze were essential skills to thrive.

My current reality is a complete breakaway from the previous one, but one that I am settling into, surprisingly, quite well. I have shifted to a new career where the pay is pure love. Colleagues at work gifted me with a framed photo of myself with my kids. At the bottom of the photo appears this quote by Vermont: "Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs...since the payment is pure love."

I now have the luxury of time when both my children are at school. I want to write to keep myself (or rather my brain) occupied somehow. Before, I would say that it was hard to develop a hobby as what time I had left I just wanted to use (or rather not use) to stare blankly into space, to relax my mind and body. Now, there’s a regular window of time and space when and where I could be productive on my own terms, do what I want, read and write some.

Writing would mean keeping a journal of milestones and personal musings about anything and everything that interest me. And what motivates me to write is that I could share my thoughts through this blog. I might not ever fall into the category of professional bloggers because my posts revolve around my little world, self-centered by nature. But this channel has always given me some motivation and sense of satisfaction to put my thoughts into writing and share a piece of me to the world, to reach out somehow.

I would attempt to have this blog evolve from one that is so Cess-centered to one that is more topic-oriented. There’s only my limited experience to call upon as I dare put out some personal reviews and recommendations about stuff. To start, I would like to contribute to the online pool of personal experiences/stories of families raising children with ADHD. I have not done so yet as I need to first dive into tons of information available, and get a handle on the subject.

You may have noticed that there are tabs at the top of this blog, but if you go into them, you will find that there’s nothing there yet. I will try and build their contents in the days and months ahead.

For the meantime, I am happily trying my hands at cooking and gardening, aside from taking care of my family. In the process, I surprise even myself.

As I slowly immerse in this new chapter of my life, I vow to put in half an hour of workout each day, as this SAHM (stay-at-home mom) chapter also affords me a lot of time to think “food.”

I am having the time of my life! I hope my happiness rubs off on everyone around me.