Monday, September 30, 2013

Conversations with Gabee (1) - "Coke Girl"

Scene: Saturday. Cess approaches the dining table for lunch, with Gab already seated, ready to eat.

Cess: Yaya, pakibili mo nga ako ng  --
(Yaya, could you please buy me --)

Gab (butts in): Coke! Yaya, bili mo raw si Mommy ng Coke.
(Yaya, Mom is asking you to buy her Coke.)

Cess (laughs, feels guilty): Ikaw ha!
(Oh, you!)

Gab: Coke girl ka na, Mommy!
(You’re now a Coke girl, Mommy!)

Kuya (Garrett) enters.

Gab (holds my shoulders): Kuya, you know who’s this?

Kuya: Yes.

Gab: Hihihi! Mom is Coke girl. (chuckles teasingly)

Kuya (serious): Mom, you’re getting addicted, and you know it’s bad because of the caffeine. You should drink at least 2 glasses of water after drinking Coke.

Cess’s thought bubble: I’m a bad mom. I should stop this habit! Pero ang hirap, sarap ng Coke sa tinola!

Conversations with Garrett (2) - "Unsolicited Advice"

Legend: C = Cess; G = Garrett; X = one of G’s classmates
Scene: In the car on the way home from school on a rainy Friday.

G: X always gives me advice. And sometimes I don’t like it. I told him he should not scald his tongue in other’s people’s broth.
C: Meaning?
G: That he should mind his own business.
C: So what did X say?
G: Well, he said that minding other people’s business is his business.
C: What kind of advice does he give you?
G: He said that I should not contradict an opinion, because it’s only an opinion.
C (laughs): That’s a very logical advice. X must be very smart.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Saying I love You

This note has already been punched and filed, and I can't remember when my daughter (now 5) wrote this, must be  last year.

I say lots of I-love-you's to my kids. It feels good to say so, and to hear them say it back. My little girl imitates me and often calls out, "Mom!" I reply, "Yes?" She says, "I love you," just like that, to me, to her dad, to her yaya, to her lola's and occasionally (if they are in good terms) to her Kuya. She also writes lots of I-love-you notes with her drawings.

The other day I got cute replies: 

In the car, on the way home from school --
Me: I love you, Kuya.
Kuya: I love you, too. Thank you.

In bed, about to sleep --
Me: I love you, Gab.
Gab: I love you, Cess.
Me: :-) (chuckles)

Growing up, it was not commonplace in my family to say these three words of affection. We love each other but we just don’t say those words. It’s even easier to say them to others like to close friends than to my own mother or sister. I guess we were not raised to be expressive that way, verbally.

I want to change that and make saying I-love-you a casual thing. I think doing so helps tremendously to make children feel more secure knowing that they are wonderful persons, loved and cared about. And when they become young adults, somehow, the longing to be loved by another person may not push them into just any relationship. I hope they’d be more discriminating, take their time, and not rush themselves because they would not have a void to fill in their hearts. They’d know their family loves them unconditionally no matter what.

Drawn by Gab (undated)

Am I a Helicopter Mom?

Like any parent, I have my momster/mom-zilla moments. And as a typical mother, I am guilty of always reminding my children of do’s and don’ts. It gets to the point that I hear my words echoing back, and dislike myself for sounding like a nagger. But how can I stop myself from always reminding them to wash their hands, finish their food, brush their teeth?

“Sige na. Kain na. Dali na. Bilisan mo na. Ubusin na.” These seem to be my everyday mantra, no matter that they seem to land on deaf ears. It’s like I say them automatically. It is frustrating. But without these prompts, I feel they would take forever to finish a meal or not care that they had anything to eat. Outside the house, it’s hard for me to just let go, let them loose, for fear they might fall or hurt themselves.

My husband does not approve of my tendencies to hover over our children like, as they say, a helicopter. I sincerely hope I have not become a “helicopter mom” the last three months that I have been with them full time. He says they will not learn independence and the consequences of their negligence if I do not relax my rules, let them be children, forget to brush their teeth, go hungry, forget to do homework, experience a bad fall (scary!), etc.

Often, I feel I go overboard with my litany of reminders. There were times before when I would writhe in anger, frustration and disappointment when my son lost yet another pair of rubber shoes. He lost three pairs in first grade, two in second grade, and one pair in third grade. How would I not lose my temper when the first thing I hear upon getting home, tired from work, is that he just lost the rubber shoes we bought only two months ago? Thank goodness he has stopped losing his shoes in fourth grade. He still would frequently lose his pencils and pens, and occasionally his face towels, which still gets to me sometimes but does not trigger a volcanic eruption so to speak. But thinking about it now, was losing a pair of shoes enough reason to berate my son, and make him feel guilty that he did not seem to care about the cost of buying another pair? I feel ambivalent now.

I wish I could take back my words. Sometimes I feel the need to confirm with my children their affection towards me. I ask, “Do you love, Mommy?”, wondering if they ever think of me in a bad light, and if their concept of love towards me diminishes. They say children are the most forgiving. That is very true. They cry (often silently) when they are emotionally hurt, but they do not hold grudges. They will always hug you back.

My son recently made a “family book” as a school project for his Home Economics subject. He created slides with pictures of his dad, sister and myself, and added narratives describing each of us. Creating slides for his dad and sister was easy because he just had to copy from his blog what he has already written before. He had to write about me to complete the family profile. 

Here’s what he wrote, which really kind of pinched my heart.
Note: He could not have written the last line - about me being being a good cook - before July 5, 2013 (my last day at work). I hardly cooked before.

He also made the slide below, which is really very biased, but swells my heart. P for Pretty!  :-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Baking With and For the Kids

Prologue (you may skip this part)

Not another inclement weather, we had wished, but it seems that this scenario of heavy rains and flooding has become a regular phenomenon since typhoon Ondoy in 2009. With this situation, I think it is incumbent upon schools to seriously revisit their school calendars. School suspensions have been getting more and more frequent, and even if the schools would hold make-up classes or make adjustments in extra-curricular activities, we know that these do not fully make up for lost school days. I understand there is a minimum number of school days that DepEd requires of all schools, but nevertheless you’d observe that the months from November to March would come and go by in a flurry, and at the end of the school year, a parent kind of feels shortchanged in a way given steep tuition fees. Well, just my thoughts…

This inclement weather has an upside though for stay-at-home-moms and their children who fortunately need not go out and whose houses are on high ground, flood-free. I and my kids belong to this fortunate lot. Garrett and Gab would have missed school today had it been a regular school day because both are still recovering from a viral infection which caused them running fevers over the weekend that spiked to 40 degrees Celsius. So, it turned out we are even luckier that classes got suspended today. I am relieved that they now seem to be on the way to recovery. I got scared it might be dengue because the onset of the fever was sudden. Both neither had cough nor colds.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering the brunt of this weather, and to the millions of workers who braved going out today, and others who are inconvenienced one way or the other.


I would openly admit that I am lousy with introductions, starting a blog post. I tend to end up talking about other things first, and then jump to the reason why I got the urge to write – my real topic.

So the text above (kind of a prologue) is of little relevance to the title as you have (I’m sure) noticed. It really humbles me that you’re still reading (me) at this point. You’re a friend, aren’t you? Or, you’re one of my siblings. Whoever you are, thank you for dropping by this blog again and staying on a bit more. Hehe, ok, let me get down to business.

Today was a good time to bake with my children on account of the school suspension. Baking used to be just a dream for me. I had the oven sitting pretty in the kitchen for seven years without being used until its knob labels have all been erased. I simply had no motivation then to squeeze in baking time into my precious weekends or holidays.

I have not tried baking cakes yet. Actually, what I have been cooking in the oven recently – since the day I found myself with so much time to pass at home – are not cakes nor pastries but meat and pasta. I have on two occasions tried making muffins and macaroons, so this makes it just my third time to “bake.” And it’s my first time to bake cookies.

The muffins and macaroons were not so much of a hit with my kids. But this time, they liked what all three of us made. Recipes for oatmeal cookies are pretty much the same, but I adopted the “Awesome Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe from SimplyRecipes blog. It uses more ingredients and recommends an additional step of browning the butter. I thought it must be more special. Instead of bitter chocolate cookies, I used semi-sweet chocolates.

It was easy-peasy, easy as a piece of cake! Gab helped stir the flour and other dry ingredients. Garrett helped crack and beat the eggs, and measure the ingredients. We then took turns mixing the final dough.

And these are the awesome cookies we baked. We baked them for around 15 minutes and let them stay in the oven until cooled, so we ended up with crispy cookies. If you prefer a soft, gooey cookie, it is a must that you take them out of the (pre-heated) oven after 10 minutes.

I think baking is really easy because all the resources are on the web to guide you step by step. And baking is a fun way of introducing cooking to kids, all the measuring and mixing are curiously, amazingly fun for them. There is also a better chance that kids would eat what they helped bake. Happy baking!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Box of Surprise

Who doesn’t like surprises? I do, but not totally at all times. I was happily surprised one day upon finding that a big, gray refrigerator found its way to my kitchen. I was beaming as I opened its compartments, amused that the freezer was at the bottom. And then I went to wonder what if I had been consulted on the purchase, would have I made another choice?

Oh, and then there was another day, coming home from work, I opened the front door and was greeted by three large (almost oversized) paintings mounted on the walls in three areas of our house. When we moved into our own house, the wall frames from our previous apartment (like our framed wedding picture) were stored away. For years, our walls remained white and free from clutter, except for two wall clocks. So imagine how happy I was to finally see something up on our walls, whatever those paintings were. Well, they are almost identical, of same size, with pretty much the same palette because they are by the same artist. I would have chosen differently, given the chance. But, I am happy, just the same. Really, I am not kidding, with not an iota of sarcasm there (really!).

And the surprises kept coming. One Saturday, early in the morning, a delivery truck pulled up in front of the house. I was curious, I had no idea what was being delivered to us. Surprise, surprise! It was my son’s dream TV, a huge one that came with 3D glasses.

That was around three months ago, and I’ve just realized today that it is the nicest surprise by far. My thought bubble then went something like, “Hey, do we really need a bigger one?” Add to that my dislike for 3D, and you could imagine my ho-hum feeling. So when this big box of surprise was unwrapped, I was almost faking feeling overjoyed and being pleasantly surprised.

The big screams of OMG(!) from Garrett – whose hobby was to go to Ansons and Abensons to check out the TVs, read with so much interest the brochures of different brands and to try on 3D glasses – were what really made me happy. It was a dream come true for this little man. You should have heard him say his verdict – “Dad made a good choice.” And I didn’t doubt him for a second. He knew what he was saying as he had read about all this hype over flat screen, LCD TV, and gone to the stores too many times already, not to be rightfully confident.

Since this big – how do you call it now? it used to be referred to as the tube – thin,  black-rimmed rectangular thing dominated our living room, we have watched quite a number of movies. We pull out boxes of DVDs stashed away under the bed, and pick the ones we want to watch again. This big thingy has since become the center of our bonding time.

We had watched all of Harry Potter’s seven films spread out over the weekends, as a treat for the kids for doing their school work, particularly Garrett who has read all the books, but has not watched all the films yet. Harry kept us in the house, enjoying weekend downtime.

Garrett now professes that he loves films. Gab for her part loves action movies like Mission Impossible, Jackie Chan's, and sci-fi films. It is funny when she laughs belatedly, most often just going along with everyone and laughing post-facto. They also both love and laugh out loud at Charlie Chaplin. We watch old movies like To Kill a Mocking Bird (1962); both liked it.

Today, we again had a movie marathon: You’ve Got Mail (1998), Forrest Gump (1994), and Hachi – A Dog’s Tale (2009). We had to fast-forward some scenes in Forrest Gump, but save for that, these are all good-feel movies that impart life lessons. 

I love movies with well-written, witty, engaging, soulful script - with quotable quotes that inspire, tug at the heart, and get you dreaming, hoping, loving... 

Forrest Gump shared a lot of wisdom from his Momma:
- Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
- You've got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
- Dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn't.
- You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where they go, where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes, I bet if I think about it real hard I can remember my first pair of shoes.

Hachi is based on a true story of a dog’s loyalty to his master. Hachi (the dog) was adopted by Prof. Parker Wilson (played by Richard Gere) whom he found at a train station. The dog would walk with his master going to the station each morning and await his return from work each evening. One day, the master didn’t return because he died while teaching at the university. Hachi kept on with the daily routine, awaiting the return of his deceased master for nine years. The movie is clearly about loyalty and love. It made me sob, sob and sob…so I would not recommend it to you if you tear up easily like me.

*all photos grabbed from IMDB 

Ooops, I got a bit side-tracked again. Well, I just wanted to share that TV is not a bad thing for kids if it is used in moderation and for the purpose of family bonding. In our case, we allow our kids very little cartoon time. We use the TV more for watching movies, TV series (we love Suits), cook shows, History Channel, and travel shows.

I would agree that home entertainment stills centers on the TV. That’s no surprise. :-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Morning Walks With My Mother

Getting out of bed in the morning has ceased to become an ordeal and a race against the clock to beat the rush hour going to work. Now, I wake up before my phone alarm sounds off, and instead of getting out of the house onto the perennially traffic-congested Ortigas Extension, I go the opposite way, up to the mountains, to Antipolo.

Unless it rains, I start my weekday mornings brisk walking up and down these asphalted, gentle slopes, between these rich vegetation...

and underneath the overlapping canopies. 

With my mother as my walking buddy, the experience has been something to look forward to each morning.

I have been posting on Instagram photos I have taken using my phone of this same place, with blah-blah captions that kind of tell a story or a lesson, which I hash-tag “morningwalkthoughts.” This morning, I decided to take my Canon EOS M (just telling, not bragging, hehe) and play with it.

I mentioned in a previous post that I would need to skill myself a bit on photography so I could post decent photos, worthy of internet space. I am such a lousy learner especially when I need to teach myself aided only by a manual. The camera came with instructional CDs, but I have not gotten around to opening them yet (understandably :-)). I have not really fully read the manual (even if I always have them in my bag, just in case). And so I just try exploring the camera’s features by pressing the functions (touch screen, btw). Amateur that I am, I am happy with the photos I took. These are far from a professional’s material, but, hey, they look pretty enough, and I am excited to share them with you with some bylines.

Nature touches the soul, reaches down deep within, taps into one’s natural desire for peace, beauty, and simplicity. It inspires. It rejuvenates. It makes one look up to the heavens, feeling thankful and blessed.

What inspires me to come to this place, walk this path, is not really the calories I get to burn, but more than that, it is experiencing nature - the lush greenery, the gentle breeze, the sightings of butterflies and spiders. It’s the beauty of it. I am one lucky mommy I know. I got a car pass to this lovely subdivision because my son’s school is located right here.

Awed by the details of this little creature...

the pretty little flowers that spring in spite of the seeming chaos,

the butterfly that nurtures itself and propagates beautiful little flowers,

 and the wonders of how life starts.

Sometimes, we go past pretty little things because we are too busy to stop, get down, and peer closely...

We tend to see the obvious...

and try hard to fit ourselves in.

Often, we blindly follow a path...

but have we stopped to check our bearings, where we are, and ask what we are looking for?

 Do we miss out on some details of our lives?
 (Did you see the pretty pink flowers?)

Going astray can get lonely...

We all follow a cycle.

It is a struggle to exist and be noticed... for each one competes for attention...

but in the end, we are our own selves...

 and it is our choice to live as beautiful as we can be.

Monday, September 16, 2013

38 Today

Today is exactly two years before my debut. And I feel great and excited. This excitement to keep on adding years to my age would end when I hit my 40th. I really think 40 is a nice number. A woman of 40, two kids, size 4. :-) 

I went out to buy additional ingredients for the small dinner I am preparing later. I am having my 2pm coffee and musing - about my life, about the current hullabaloo over PDAF, about the crisis in Zamboanga, and then about Henry Sy. I think Sy is brilliant at making money and sustaining and expanding his riches. These ubiquitous SM supermalls (I am in one right now) have not only been raking in money but had largely influenced way of life for many. It's gone beyond the monopolistic way of Meralco and PLDT. It sucks a regular big portion of a household's income, like mine. 

I come here to do my grocery, shop for clothes, shoes and household items, buy school supplies, have my pedicure, get my shoes fixed, dine, watch movies... It's so convenient! 

I came today to go to the supermarket but the department store beckons, so I find myself inside without a plan on what I need or want to buy. I do not need a new pair of shoes or another bag. A pretty blouse would be nice, I thought. I go around the small kitchen section and buy two glass salad/pasta bowls, a branded grater, and a pepper mill. Yup, my desires have changed.   

I am 38, and I have changed a bit, for my family. :-) And I feel I look better than when I was 28! Haha! 

Today is a happy day. Looking forward to more me-time, and more inconsequential musings. Happy birthday, Princess! 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Hands Smell Like Garlic

Here I am, guilty of being on fb (again through the course of the day), using the laptop this time, in a semi-office setting, complete with a table and an office chair. I’m also browsing other sites I find myself on almost everyday – Rappler, Blogger (reading blogs I follow; happy to have recently stumbled upon Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop), Instagram, ADB mail (just checking), among others. While browsing, I lean on the table with my elbow, cupping my chin with my palm, and I smell g-a-r-l-i-c. I’ve just cooked dinner.

It’s a late discovery for me – this love for cooking. I didn’t know I could really cook (almost) everyday. The rewards are immediate and fulfilling, making up for the lack of "formal" work (housework by a mom is informal :-)) and pay. Relatedly, I used to kind of dread doing the grocery, having to go through all the aisles of the supermarket to replenish pantry and fridge supplies every other week, and I just hated my infrequent trips to wet markets. 

I feel different now, like I’m really kind of morphing into a full-pledged homemaker. But not the stereotype of old. I would like to associate myself with the younger ones in their late 20s and early 30s, whose social life is largely based on social media – mommies who are actively fb’ing, instragram’ing and even blogging and joining online forums. Ooops, this topic needs a separate blog post. (There are security issues being discussed globally on whether parents are screwing the digital identity of their children by posting pictures and other information, and unknowingly creating a mess even before these children reach an age when they can decide what identity/personality to put out publicly. I am concerned, of course. But, again, I’m veering away from the topic of this post.)

Shifting back to my main topic – I have taken a real interest in cookbooks, cook shows, chefs, and food in general. My husband worries that I am starting to really fill out my clothes and stretch (some inner) elastic bands such that bulges appear where they hug so snugly. That’s the downside of good, home-cooked meals. Oh, well! Look who’s talking! He is also getting bigger. Uh-oh!

My birthday is upcoming, and I am cooking! Wow! There’s always a first time! I am going to prepare a dinner consisting of:
- Salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, and fruits with vinaigrette dressing 
- Spaghetti in mushroom sauce – adapted from the recipe on the package of Clara Ole Pasta Sauce (Mushroom).

I am also inspired by Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives via her book, Eva’s Kitchen.

And then there are these other books which I thumb through to get more ideas. 

Cooking per se is not difficult. It is actually thinking of what to cook on a daily basis that poses a challenge, and cooking for picky children make it not only challenging but, at times, stressful and frustrating. The good news is that my son, who unlike most kids, has never really liked spaghetti, is now eating spaghetti with gusto! He cried when I told him, around the time before I had temporarily stopped working, that we would be dining out less. He used to like eating out a lot, but now says he prefers to eat at home, and is requesting that I just cook for him on his birthday. True, I am not exaggerating. :-)

The recipes I have tried are mostly of Food Network’s Rachael Ray. I like watching her 30 Minute Meals show, and her recipes really turn out well.

When I cook Filipino dishes, it is also easier for me to just google, which turns up a lot of Pinoy chefs’ blogs. Everything about cooking is just a click away.

I think the real challenge is to get the ingredients. Feta, ricotta and other cheeses, vegetable broth, canned chicken stock are nowhere to be found in the area where I live. And zucchini is P300+ a kilo! Yup, prices are also limiting to a large extent. But moms are creative with budgets. I try to offset, like I wake up in the middle of the night to wake up my daughter and lead her to the bathroom. This way we save almost P500 on diaper. Oh, things just round up in the end, everything is connected.

But what makes my son like my cooking more? It’s because of that one ingredient – love. Love means more attention to details and the process, from buying ingredients to plating. It makes all the difference!