Friday, September 28, 2007

My Handicap

Why do I always sound as though I'm posting about golf when I know beans about it?
I suppose I have a lot of handicaps, really, but one of them has always been "cuteness". The way I talk sometimes, you'd think I never went through childhood. At any rate, in my case, childhood was, indeed, very brief. I remember playing and being good at games, but around the second grade, asthma became my burden and playtime understandably was greatly diminished. Then, very shortly thereafter, puberty hit. I'm not sure if many would agree with me, but that crazy stage can dismiss carefree days like nothing else, especially if it came too early and unexpectedly, like in my case.
Anyway, that's how I would explain away the very meager recollections I have of juvenile joy. But then, there's TV, too. Sometimes, Husband would give me such a strange look when he chances upon a cartoon show from way back and he would watch it as eagerly as he would have twenty years ago, and I would be all, "Can't we watch something else? It's boring.". These shows apparently never stop being engaging for him, even if they're very obviously designed to entertain a child. He would always exclaim, "Didn't you watch this when you were a kid?" and I would reply,"I didn't really like cartoons." And I didn't/ don't. I thought many of them extremely annoying. I remember mildly liking Rainbow Brite, but I don't get all gushy along with the other females my age when we get to reminiscing. I don't claim to have had the toys and whatnots or to have religiously followed the show and I can't swear that I can still enumerate the whosits or go, "you remember that episode when they did this and that?"... By the way, it's not upbringing. Sister, to this day, has to have her daily dose. She would deliberately watch Mirmo, Sakura (Card Captor), Slamdunk, etc. I suppose the cartoon show I could stand watching was "The Simpsons" and they're not exactly for kids. I also find that I don't really care to see if I would like any other.
Then, there's the affinity for stuffed toys. I have no recollection of ever wanting to cuddle with one. I have pictures of myself as a toddler posing with a teddy bear, but I think that was just for the picture. There was a time when stuffed toys were the trend. Sister, always the trendier one, had masses of them. She hugged them while sleeping, her fingers rubbing some patches bald (she did this with her security blanket too), and her bed was (is, haha) liberally littered with them. Mine was littered too, but with books. I didn't cuddle with them, but I liked being cozy under a blanket and reading the night, or day, away. During the day, I liked accompanying the reading with munchies and a matching drink. And, yeah, I guess being a couch potato goes a long way back.:)
My lack of cuteness is further evidenced by lots of other things, but I really don't have time for a long post. I just want to say that I've always thought babies are cute, natch. As for baby things, I never really used to pay attention. I do now though. You'll even hear me cooing and gushing over them. Now I also watch Marguerite cuddling her stuffed toys and it's so cute, I just want to stop the time right there so I can savor the image. Maybe there's hope for me yet.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We Said We Wouldn't,

but one of them found us instead. I'm talking about those expensive, bum-breeding (joke! I'm sure at least one of you have them:-p) recliners. Nowadays, they're so hi-tech it would take great willpower to detach yourself from them. If you're the type who can spend the entire day in front of the TV, then get ready to propose. I think you might just want to pledge spending eternity with it. You'll love the chair so much, you'll want to marry it.
The thing is, it's not really ours. It's my Dad's. It all started with his last trip to the US. He was invited to a talk about alkaline (or alkaline-reduced) water by another pastor friend of his. This friend has kidney troubles and undergoes dialysis everyday. Alkaline water comes highly recommended by him and seems to be the rage among the health-conscious these days. It doesn't come cheap though. My Dad's friend purchased his water system for more than 1k US (hmm, you might think differently, but coming from the third world, that is very dear), about 70,000 PhP. Now, my Dad is very sparing with his money, but when he thinks something is worth investing in, he loosens his purse strings a leeeeetle. I've also always known him to be extremely health-conscious. He has always had great discipline when it comes to food and he exercises daily. He knows that he wasn't taken very good care of as a kid and his body has been paying for it for quite a while now. He was forced to labor at a very young age out of necessity (his father, who had abandoned the family, had always been a no-good, spoiled brat anyway) and because of this, he has had a few very serious physical episodes ever since I was a baby. When he got home, he set forth looking for a water system for our family. Months later, he accompanied my Sister to Divisoria and finally found what he was looking for. Wasting no time, he proceeded to make the purchase and the fun finally began. I suppose the item wasn't very popular. According to sales records, he was the second person to buy that product. If the staff got a little too excited, you can understand. First, they gave him quite a big discount and then he, of course, was eligible for a raffle ticket, which then won him this, this, and this.
That's how we ended up with a recliner, which I am opposed to merely in principle because, really, why should I be opposed to a blessing? At least, it doesn't have a mini fridge on it. Anyway, we plan to make money off of it at the annual yard sale and fun day at our church.:)
As for the water system, I've been googling it and many articles claim that alkaline water is actually good for babies. We have a well-baby appointment on Saturday and I shall verify this with our pedi. Ever since I stopped buying bottled distilled water for Marguerite (I used to get per gallon, but later learned that bottled distilled water, once opened, needed to be consumed right away or it gets contaminated from the frequent reopening. I wasn't about to buy little bottles that would try my recycling powers), I have been sterilizing (letting it boil for ten minutes) filtered tap water. Hopefully, the new water system will save me the hassle of sterilizing everyday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Les Fêtes de Marguerite (pic overload)

Painting it in the light that I prefer...

Here's her invite.

Cheesy poem alert. Okay, I wrote it. I went overboard with the rhyme, mostly because I want it to be clear to her later that it was written especially for her. I mean, it's pretty obvious it doesn't rhyme with "one" or "birthday" or "baby", right?:-p Husband and I designed it.

Marguerite avec tiara

The tiara was lovingly made by her Aunt Chip.

Marguerite's dedication

Don't be fooled by the first pic. She's not praying there. You should see the series of pics from the prayer. Every shot had her in a different position, Ms. Wiggles! That's my Dad and Marguerite's Grandpa presiding over the dedication.

Marguerite with Nana and Lola (grandmothers)

Marguerite with tarp poster

This was designed by Husband. The pics were taken by moi for this blog.

Marguerite's birthday cakes

The yummy cupcakes were a gift from my friend Tricia ( Little Cakes Factory). The birthday cake was baked by Ton's mom (it was his gift to Marguerite). We only needed to decorate it, hence the appearance. It was delicious despite the way it looked, lol.

Marguerite with Aunt Christine

I bought a plain bib and just appliquéd and embroidered on it to make it say "Midge is 1". The appliqués were cutouts from a blouse of mine.

Birthday streamer

Hmmm, it turned out nothing like my initial design, but who cares? I made it and it served its purpose.

Marguerite's souvenirs and favors

I really didn't want to give out candy, but the jellybeans were made and I simply had to re-pack them into cute little bags. I really couldn't hack baking cookies as I had initially planned to. The fridge magnets were designed by Husband.

Facepainting area

Our talented friend, Jeff, painted faces as his gift to Marguerite. That's my kind of gift.:)

Some of our lovely guests

Some crazies we hired from the nearby asylum to liven up the party

Just kidding! These guys rock!

Moi, all fatiguée

Sunday School Party

There's the flower piñata I had made for the first party, but all things ended up working together for the better. We ended up using it at this party.

The party really fell short of what I had planned for, but no crying over spilt milk (anymore, lol). It was still my kind of thing despite all the disappointments because it turned out more intimate than what we had expected; most of the details were a labor of love, as opposed to having hired professionals to do them (all of the food was prepared by our families and Tita Thelma, who's family anyway, the emcees were Sister and Allison, photos and video were taken care of by Husband's siblings...); and you could see that so many people really love and care for my daughter.

To those who have been wondering. We didn't get godparents because a. dedication in its truest and simplest form wouldn't require them, b. some of our closest friends, whom we would have loved to get as godparents for our daughter, are of a different faith (our church doesn't interfere with the parents' choice of sponsors, but I have my own views regarding this), and c. my experience with godparents (having some and being one) told me that we could definitely do without them. That's not to say that we think all dedications or christenings should be without them. It's true that the ritual fortifies existing bonds and some godparents actually live up to their duty, so I'm just saying that this was our choice.

PS. Thanks to Chit, Lalab, and Christine for letting me snag pics from your albums.:)

Monday, September 24, 2007

This Doesn't Go with...

... the first post, so it goes into a separate one. I've been neglecting this blog anyway, so two posts in one day should help make up for it.
Here are
two more free online resources for baby sign language. HTH!:)

Oh, and here's another montage.

Bon Anniversaire, Ma Petite

This is late. Marguerite's birthday was on September 22 and until the last party to prepare for was over, I didn't have the luxury to blog.
The notion of motherhood has always been something that overwhelmed me. I have always been very much a daughter, my parents' child, that it still amazes me sometimes that that particular identity has already merged into another role, an immensely important role that commands responsibility on a much higher, more serious level. Needless to say, when the day to day hustle and bustle hits a lull and there's time to ponder, the enormity of the task registers all over again and I am awed. And petrified. When in that moment, what else is there to do, but to give out a little prayerful, panic-stricken yelp of "Help, Lord!".
As awesome as it is and despite prevailing doubts, the role of a mother had also always been something that I had wished to step into. Eventually. Later. When I grew up. A mother needed to be mature and one of my faults has always been the fact that I have traces of l'enfant terrible in me. Up to the last baby shower I had attended before getting pregnant, where the others had teased me about being next and I had
replied with a very definite, "Not yet.", I still really hadn't been entertaining the idea. A month or two later, the old biological clock kicked in and I finally found myself considering doing something about it. I talked things over with Husband and he agreed that it was time. One month later, I peed on a stick and it showed two lines.
It wasn't an easy pregnancy. I had hyperemesia until the fifth month. It was the most uncomfortable I had ever been in my life. My hormones raged and I had bouts of the blues, paranoia, panic, guilt, etc. (gotta love those hormones) and yet, it was also wonderful. My baby was growing inside of me. There was thrill, excitement, and, understandably, impatience. Something that I had read before helped me deal with this. I was obviously longing to see, hold, and interact with my baby. I wanted so much for her to come out so we could bond already, but the fact was we're never going to be as bonded as we were at that time. No matter how much I hold her tightly now, she's never going to be closer to me as she was cradled in my womb.
When it was time for Marguerite to be born, she came into this world with a cheerful face. She was shown to our families and even then, fresh from the delivery room, there was already something sunny about her expression. Her eyes were still a little puffed and she was no bigger than a baguette, but she curiously looked at the people around her and positively oozed vitality. So much for being a helpless little baby. That delicate and tiny body exuded spirit and good nature.
We brought Marguerite home and despite the sleepless nights, we had a happy, non-fussy baby on our hands. She wasn't a crier until it was time for bath and then she would let the neighborhood hear what a big voice she had. That's clearly something she didn't get from me as I'm squeaky on good days and shrill on less nice ones.
It's pretty amazing to realize the growth achieved in this situation. As my daughter got heavier and bigger and reached all of the baby milestones, I, in turn, grew in knowledge, judgment, and capabilities. There's no truth in the assumption that being a mother or raising a family limits potentials and hampers the freedom to explore. I cannot tell you the number of times since becoming pregnant I surprised myself doing something beyond the person I believed myself to be. Perhaps going out is no longer as manageable as it used to be, but there's much to explore introspectively anyway. Now that Marguerite is a toddler, we can extend our version of exploring farther.
Marguerite started out looking more like her Dad, but now, most people observe that she takes after me. Either way is fine. Either way, it really doesn't matter. I'm a mother and when I see my daughter, all I see is beauty.
The fears and doubts may be still be there, albeit dormant, but what's important is that I'm working hard and incessantly praying to ensure a good, beautiful, and happy life for my daughter. My task becomes clearer everyday. It's a big job, but I wake up with new blessings every morning. I see the baby lying next to me transform from day to day into a little girl whose smiles of good morning promise more precious and lovely moments and my heart fills and spills over with love, joy, and gratitude. Motherhood, indeed, never stops to be overwhelming.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

For Love of Our Children

Does that sound like a soap title? My Mom, the resident cliché spouter, yesterday intoned, "You bit off more than you could chew.". Maybe I did, but it's all for dear Marguerite, so it's all good. The thing is, I've been spitting bits out anyway, to continue the lovely idiomatic image. I had planned to bake madeleines or tea cakes and I'm not anymore. I said I'd be making signs and I think we'll be using our pointing fingers instead. It's not like you could get lost in the venue (going to the venue is another matter) or the tea corner and the face painting booth wouldn't be recognizable when you see them. Husband and I had planned to compose a song for Marguerite and it looks like we have to put that off until the next birthday. I am bone-tired though, I admit, and my days and nights are so messed up, I'm worse than a newborn. I've also been modifying the more grandiose ideas as I execute them. Right now, I'm waiting for the streamer (which I hand-painted myself) to dry before I whip it off the floor so people can stop crawling over furniture or thinking they're track stars and leaping over the blessed thing, but always ALWAYS falling short. I've just decided to make footprints part of the design. Anyway, I wasn't able to paint the gingham pattern I meant to use as a background for it, so it could actually use a substitute; why not footprints? The colors are off too because I'm not so great at mixing. Anyway, I don't think it's completely shabby. It's obviously amateurish, but it's not too bad. I'll be posting pics after Saturday, so you be the judge. Once I'm done with this post, I'll be off to start work on the piñata. So far, I'm done with the souvenirs and favors, as well as the montages. After the piñata, I'll finish working on the bunting. That's another thing that got modified. Anyway, I think things will look okay, but all in a very Monet way, meaning just don't come up close. Oh, btw, I do all the grunt work at night. During the day, when I get a break from taking care of my daughter, I tend to the little things like making calls to suppliers, confirming attendance, and stitching appliqués to the plain bib that is to turn into Marguerite's first birthday one. Sleep? I plan to do that after the party. Seriously? I do sleep. Every minute for about a nanosecond. I can't help it. But like I said, "no complaints".

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nos compartamos

There were some parents in my local homeschooling yahoogroup who expressed interest in teaching Spanish to their kids. As a former Spanish teacher, I can say that immersion in the culture is the best way to adopt a language. Learning another tongue is more than just about grammar and pronunciation; it's a profound cultural experience. As not a lot of us can make travel to Spain or Hispanic America fit into the budget, we have to constantly be creative in finding ways to expose our kids to the language. If you have free online resources in mind (there are lots), especially ones that kids will cotton to (meaning they're fun) or other non-web-related ideas for Spanish language/culture exposure, please share them in the comments section. On that note, I visit this site for the French comptines (nursery rhymes), but it also has a Spanish page. It's not necessarily a fun, engaging site for kids, but the parents can learn what they can and then teach their kids afterwards. Hope you find it useful. Lovely day!:)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Not about the Dream

If I seem to have a one-track mind, it's because I do, lol. Kidding aside, homeschooling is just something I'm really passionate and enthusiastic about. Do I care about what other people think about my decision? No, but if they'd like to point something out to me, I'd be all ears. There's no growth in thinking that anybody who opines differently than me is wrong. I give a listen, ponder a bit, then that's when I conclude that he/she is wrong(:-p).
Anyway, somebody sent a link to this article
in my local homeschool egroup and I thought, "Man! I could have written the piece myself!". Well, maybe I wouldn't have written it as well, but the sentiments are the same as mine. Like myself, the writer was a schoolteacher. I assume that she had attended traditional school as well. Hence, having been exposed for many years to school in all its doubtful glory and even having been part of both ends (figure of authority and mere "subject"), she has come to the conclusion that it isn't the best place for her kids to learn.
If I may just give you a rundown of some of the reasons why I personally want my daughter homeschooled (what? really? it's my blog and I can do whatever I want to? ooookay... oh, so long as I'm prepared to face consequences, such as violent reactions and lynching? oh)...
1. It's another opportunity to bond with her.
2. At home, she can learn at her own pace more than what a limited curriculum dictates. She can spend more time on a subject and let her interest guide her into potentially serendipitous moments of learning and discovery.
3. There's freedom of creativity and imagination will always be encouraged. Schools have to have control and structure because students are in a group and they have to be mindful of everybody. At home, expression will not be curbed.
4. There won't be need to be cooped up indoors during a beautiful day. I remember looking longingly out the window of my classroom at the sunny fields of the campus (my school was in a beautiful setting in the mountains, so you can imagine the aching we all had to just be outside).
5. Life skills will be learned in the process of living and not as a means to boost GPA. Home economics and practical arts will be concretely relevant.
6. Learning will be more relaxed and natural. My daughter will love learning and will do it for her own satisfaction and not for grades and honors.
7. Field trips can be more frequent and serve their purpose better. We shan't have to follow anybody else's agenda/ itinerary.
8. There's no need to feel competitive and be better than the rest. Self-esteem won't be based on beating the others. Hopefully, this would make for natural self-confidence. Arrogance or inferiority complex wouldn't have room at home.
9. The values picked up will be our own.
Money meant for tuition could go to special lessons and travel experiences.

Now, here's why I don't want her in school:
1. Tuition. We can avoid paying for expensive tuition (especially here in the Philippines) that still doesn't guarantee teachers who can meet my standards. As a teacher, I myself had been forced to teach a subject that wasn't my area of expertise. I know that's what I'd be doing anyway when I homeschool, but a. I won't be giving myself a salary for doing that, so I won't feel shortchanged(:-p); b. I shan't be pretending to know what it's all about to affect the expertise that I lack - the premise in homeschooling is that I teach her what I already know and the rest we can learn together.
2. Teaching style. Schools usually have kids as passive recipients of knowledge.
3. Testing. Good test scores are not accurate measurements of learning anyway. Testing can be done, but in a more practical and relevant way.

4. Teachers. The teachers do not care for all the aspects of my daughter's development as much as I do. There will always be a fear inside of me that my daughter is being ignored or worse, harshly criticized or unnecessarily humiliated and the attitude would be, "hey, all in a day's work".
5. Peer pressure. It is not only oppressive and traumatic, it also limits a person's potentials because of the perennial need to conform. My daughter's aesthetic sense will be formed by her own tastes and not by trends and she will not be made to suffer for it.
6. Schedule. Breaks won't be dictated by the school year, meaning cheaper vacation rates and panic-free sick days (how can one get better if there's constant worry about catching up with the rest of the class?).
7. Socialization. Schools aren't the real world. I prefer a more organic environment with all types of people represented. I don't think the population in a school can be heterogenous albeit the ethnicities and social classes present in it. The dynamics of interaction are pretty much limited to student-student or teacher-student.
8. Socialization. Is it wrong to shield children from bullies and other mean people? If it's a reality of life that there are jerks out there, I don't want my daughter to be jaded about it. I want her to recognize offensive behavior as abnormal and react to it with the sensitivity of a person with good morals.

I have many friends who are teachers or parents who send their kids to school and I don't mean to alienate them. All I'm saying is that I've been blessed with the option to homeschool (I suppose there would be people who'd say that it's not an option to them because of their personality, the time factor, their own educational attainment...), I'm making it my choice and the above are some of my reasons.
There are more, but the sun's up and we've got a busy day ahead

Friday, September 14, 2007

Haunted by Old School Requirements

While I'm very much determined to homeschool Marguerite using the most natural method of "teaching" I can muster, the truth is that the process won't come naturally to me. I'll have to consciously set out to do it. I'll have to curb certain instincts that I have. I'll have plenty of moments wherein I'll find myself pausing, squeezing my eyes shut while giving myself a vigorous mental or literal shake. There will be naturally-occurring (to me) thoughts that I have to shoot down as soon as they pop in my mind. There will be rushes of emotions and sentiments that I'll have to fiercely struggle with. There will be moments of doubt when I'll question how capable I really am of being alternative. I know these things yet I remain resolved in this decision.
I have my reasons - innumerable, in fact - for wanting to homeschool. They all have strong, solid, and objective foundations. I have constantly growing lists for the two implied points of this decision: why I want to homeschool and why I don't want to send my daughter to traditional school; exploring both positive and negative lights. I can probably present the argument for advocating learning at home convincingly and logically. However, when asked, the first thing that enters my mind is a recurring dream that I have. Even at thirty, I still get this dream, which makes me wake up with a jolt, hyperventilating and panic-stricken.
The dream takes on different supposed settings and characters (it doesn't matter, I always end up in the halls of St. Scholastica), but the premise or the prevailing plot remains the same: I get to school and realize that I had forgotten to study for an important test (or to do an assignment or project), which is to take place (or is due) in exactly an hour, plenty enough time to do something about it. I keep on wanting to get started, but I just can't seem to, so the overall atmosphere in the dream is fear and frustration (just two of the ugly f-words I know). I cannot begin to describe the immense relief I feel when consciousness takes over and I remember that I'm no longer in school.
You would think that I didn't enjoy school at all when I did. A lot. Undoubtedly, there was some trauma involved, but I can still look back at those years with fondness. You could also assume that I probably didn't do too well, nodding understandably about multiple intelligences and learning styles, but it still is with some pride (this concerns one of the instincts I am trying to overcome, along with the concept of competition) that I'll have to tell you that I was an honor student. I graduated salutatorian from high school and cum laude from college (at this point my Mom would point out to anybody who'd be willing to pretend to care that it should have been magna cum laude - 1.5 GPA for magna, mine was 1.54 -, except that I got myself a boyfriend and got distracted. On this note, she probably blames Husband, lol. Honestly, ten years later and even much earlier than that, I found that all the scholastic achievement ballyhoo really didn't have much bearing in life.). I had good study habits and was usually prepared for school. On the social aspect, I couldn't complain either. I don't think I achieved the pinnacle of popularity (which in some cases is synonymous with notoriety), but I had great friends and was very much involved in clubs and other extra curricular activities. And yet, I still didn't consider school a pleasant place or concept. There's probably some deep psychology involved here (or shallow, but I still won't go into it) and I have very little time left to complete this post before Marguerite wakes up. The point is, despite the good times, I still dreaded school, didn't like my teachers (collectively), and regarded the prevailing culture with distaste, so much so that decades after leaving, I still relive all these feelings in my subconscious and when asked about homeschooling, I end up blurting out, "My daughter will not be plagued by THE dream."
These are just musings and I wouldn't be surprised to find you not swayed by this post towards homeschooling. I'll write about the more credible reasons why it is the best option for my daughter another time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tea Off

I have no use for golf (no need to forbid me, gentlemen; this lady's not interested), but am insane about all sorts of tea. Something I've always been interested in is the matching of tea with the time of the year. Even though we have exactly two seasons (wet and dry) here and their turning isn't as dramatic as with four, I still would like to observe and pay tribute to the shifting of the seasons elsewhere via tea-drinking. I belong to a tealovers' egroup and at the beginning of the seasons they tend to get sentimental and poetic, describing the changes in the atmosphere and taking it all in with the appropriate cuppa. Their descriptions of autumn are nothing short of wonderful. Really, it leaves one with a momentary ache. Now that the leaves are turning, everybody's talking about apple cider or cranberry tea. I have both, but it's just not the same when everything's so lush and verdant from the afternoon rains (no typhoon lately, thank God). I imagine one would like to look out to a foliage of red and gold when sipping apple cider tisane.
It would also be so thrilling to await catalogs from tea companies advertizing their first flush of spring or autumn or whathaveyou products and then finally getting them in the mail and selecting which ones to buy, having very specific mental images of moments the choices would be perfect for. To have at least a semblance of the practice, I flick through the tea basket or
open the cupboard for sealed stock (I usually don't buy as I'm frugal, but have generous relatives abroad who keep the supply from running out).
I read about the elements of tea once, so I try to implement what I learned from that single article. Supposedly green tea has cooling factors, so it's better for the warm months whereas oolong is the opposite and is thus better for cold weather. Hmmm, honestly? I usually go by smell and its association. For instance, I drink peppermint tea to capture that memory from a December evening shortly after my wedding. Then, there's the fact that I usually can't abide by jasmine tea as it feels pretty much like drinking my grandmother's talcum powder, but when I was living away and missing her, I had copious cups of it.
Also, I may not be in a place that enjoys the four seasons, but I am blessed to have already experienced them elsewhere. I simply have to choose the right kind of tea and mere memories become almost tangible.
Going back to the present with a thud, it's easy or natural enough to be mindful of the seasons here when I drink tea. If it's muggy and hot, iced tea is the answer; if it's muggy and rainy, keep the tea chilled; if it's cooler, bring the teacups out; if torrential rains are giving their regular lashings, have lots of mugs ready and fill my thermos - our church is going out to rescue the flooded. For me, any moment is an excuse to have tea.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

That's Entertainment!

It wasn't in the plans, long-range or otherwise, but it's sad to know that if we wanted to, we still wouldn't be able to watch Pavarotti. I wonder for Marguerite what it would be like to be part of a Pavarotti-free generation. We still have other great tenors, but Pavarotti represented music that many music-lovers, adults included, plan to give a chance sometime in the distant future, when they've grown up some. A live Pavarotti show wouldn't have fitted in the budget, but I have a couple of economical ideas for opera exposure. There's sister, who, even after deciding that Classical Voice wasn't the major for her, still belts out an arietta every now and then. Or. We could also just hang in the halls of the UP Conservatory of Music (like I used to do, stalking Husband, lol). I kid. Or not. There are non-spendy options though, such as Paco Park, some CCP shows (there was actually a classical music concert for babies we went to a few months ago), mall (esp the Shangri-la and MOA) and university shows. We can enjoy budget opera until we've saved up for the classical music exposure of our choice. What, in fact, is part of my plans (or wishes) is that Marguerite and I (Husband, too, if he wants to) have a Prague classical music experience. I get goosebumps just imagining listening to Puccini in an open air theater with the glistening Vltava as a backdrop. Hmm, "seek ye first..."
While we're getting to that dream though, Marguerite keeps herself entertained. She dances to the Wiggles. She likes "Hot Potato" and "Toot-Toot, Chugga-Chugga Big Red Car". She hums and does the action for several nursery rhymes (she touches her index finger to your temple though when you sing "how I wonder what you are" in "Twinkle, Twinkle"). Until we get to that marionette opera show (also in Prague), she makes do with her own puppets (hey, one of them has an unidentifiable accent - part-Aussie, part-French - who can sing (mutilate) the Habanera like no other can:-p). For comedy, she watches me crunching into an apple and busts a gasket laughing. We might not have a lot of expensive culture here, but there's no shortage of entertainment.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Birthdays Hinder Blogging

Husband celebrated his birthday on Saturday and I got mildly busy in preparation for that. Of course, I already got him that book (which I think he has already gotten tired of. I bet he doesn't even know where it is right now, lol), but he got it too early. I wanted him to get something on his actual birthday too. Now, we are on a tight budget in anticipation of Marguerite's dedication and first birthday party, which is rather big-ish (small, actually, compared to the standards here in the Philippines, and, really, with lots of DIY). Normally, I prefer celebrations to be small and more intimate (here, 100 guests is, in fact, intimate) gatherings rather than big, splashy bashes. I was forced to turn the party into this size because it's also our way of thanking those who have been so sweet and generous to my daughter. For example, our church has always been so excited about Marguerite. The members threw a shower for the baby and visited at the hospital and at home when i gave birth. Now they're always making a fuss, wanting to play with Marguerite, trying to make her laugh or let them carry her. The kids put her picture in their Friendster accounts and leave cute comments in Marguerite's totsite guestbook... Unfortunately, I can't make the party any bigger. The venue has a limited capacity and I really don't want that big of a party. It won't be a children's one anyway. It's really more about us celebrating Marguerite's first year and dedication with our friends. Most of our guests would be adults. The day after that, I'll be in charge of the Sunday School snack so I'll try to make that a little bit special, sort of like a little party for Marguerite with the church children.
Going back to Husband's birthday. He got home Friday night, a little bit past midnight. When he entered the house, he was already on his cell phone thanking somebody for his/her birthday greeting, so somebody beat me to being the first well-wisher. No biggie, really. Since I was on a budget, I really couldn't whip up something more special than a box I had put together earlier that day. It held some of the little things he has always liked such as Ferrero Rocher chocolates, a big bag of Lay's Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips (now cooked in 100% pure sunflower oil, which makes it... still junkfood? Hey, it says 0% Trans Fat on the bag though), a jar of Feta cheese in oil (for his imaginary salads, lol), a bottle of wine (just some cheap Chardonnay, so we'd at least have wine. Anyway, not like the store (I had left Marguerite with my Mom for an hour, while I zipped to the nearest supermarket) had champagne. Or Snickers and a few other things I had wanted to add, but couldn't find. Probably a good thing because there were moments when I forgot I was supposed to be pinching pennies), choco fudge petite cake, and a new pair of boxer shorts (because I'm notorious for giving underwear as a gift - only to family... and close girl friends, lol). I tucked in a letter I had written as well (I'm a chronic letter-writer. I also happen to have impulsively bought a ridiculously expensive Griffin and Sabine stationery set that I later swore to use only for special people. Husband now has a collection of letters written on G&S paper.). So I presented him with the box and ruined the moment by saying, "I'll take a picture for my blog." I put a birthday candle on the little cake (He got a regular sized one from my Mom during lunch), lit it and had him pose. Marguerite missed the turning of the day, but was, in fact the first to greet her Daddy when he woke up in the morning (She was actually the one who woke him up). She tapped his shoulder and signed "Happy Birthday". She would only go as far as "happy" herself. I had to help her with the rest of the sign. We're still working on it until now. Later, we had dinner at my inlaws. MIL had cooked up a sea food feast for her youngest (all Husband's faves. I'm afraid he's got a pretty serious love affair with bad cholesterol.). Afterwards, he drove Marguerite and myself home and then went out again to (wholesome-ly, I trust) gallivant with his buddies.
I really hope it was a good day for Husband. Most of our efforts have been focused on Marguerite's birthday that I wanted to just pause and make sure to do something special, albeit small, for him.

Birthday Boy

Friday, September 7, 2007

WAHM Whammies

Okay, maybe I don't get to get out much, but when I decided to be an SAHM, did I really think I'd be sating my wanderlust? Thankfully, I'm not the kind of person that needs to be at the hub of all the action. I'm perfectly content to learn and grow at home. I love traveling, but the gypsy lifestyle lost its appeal to me sometime between that absolutely draining "ordeal" I went through from Charles de Gaulle to NAIA (I refuse to name the airline as I know better than to say, "I'm never flying via Air****** again!". Besides, they did upgrade me to first class that one time. The sad thing about it is that I hadn't even known until a traveling companion pointed it out to me.:-p Hmmm, gotta hone those observation skills!) and getting pregnant. Nowadays, I do like the weekly venture to somewhere other than the immediate vicinity of the house and that's enough to satisfy the itch to get away and see something else.
But the point of this post really has something to do with my not being able to blog lately on account of a paid writing assignment I had to finish as soon as possible (so I can get to the next one, and the one after the next, and the one after the one after the next...).
Husband's salary is more than enough for us. We live humbly and simply (the creative, imaginative kind of simple, I'd like to think) with the occasional treat, so we stay out of debt and meet our needs easily. When I quit my teaching job though, we had quite a sizable amount in our joint current account. However, we were slowly able to deplete that in the span of a year because the reality was we were already a single income family that's used to relying on two salaries. We were also investing on Husband's rather expensive hobby, which is gradually turning into a business, many thanks to God (btw, Husband's birthday is tomorrow and this is my gift to him. I'm not spoiling a surprise because he was the one who chose it.). Anyway, the account may not be empty, but I have certain standards about having money in the bank. When it reaches a certain point, it may still be more than enough for emergencies, nevertheless I start to get palpitations. Anyway, it's a good thing that SAHMs can also be WAHMs.
I've been blessed enough to have a somewhat regular client. I freelance as a writer and although this regular gig is not the kind of writing I prefer to do, it does a good job augmenting the family income. There were times in the past when I looked into other WAHM opportunities, just so I could quit technical writing, which I really do not enjoy, and focus on creative writing, which I love. In the beginning it was really exciting because reading about the different easy things I could go into, it really seemed like striking hidden gold. However, the life lesson about things that seem too good to be true really applies to most things, one continues to learn. It's a good thing I had enough common sense about jobs one needs to pay for or those that earn one money simply by recruitment.
Easy money is always suspicious. I did try those paid surveys as WAHM friends of mine have claimed to have, in fact, received payment, but not living in North America, this field could be pretty limited for me. There's a handful of companies that offer surveys internationally, but it has been months and the cents have not accumulated to the minimum pay-out amount. Let's not even go into those paid-to-click, paid-to-read, paid-to-search gigs. One site gives you a cent after a thousand clicks. There's one that pays a cent per click, but it had all of five sponsors for this program. It just seemed like a waste of time. How about stuffing envelopes? Hmm, you have to pay for a kit to do it and I read somewhere that it's an outright scam. You're promised to get paid for simply stuffing envelopes, but it's more complicated than that (it always is). It's another marketing ploy and you only get paid when the recipient of the envelopes you stuffed also agrees to get into envelope-stuffing. They just don't call it pyramids anymore. Then there are the term paper mills. I just can't hack it because it seems deceitful. I have no problems with ghostwriting, but most of the clients are students who are supposed to be learning through those assignments. My disapproval probably stems from being a former schoolteacher myself.
Anyway, again I look at the big picture and consider the possibility that those who are doing surveys and paid-to-click/search/read... might just be grateful to be able to do what I'm doing. Again, I am reminded to acknowledge a blessing for what it is and not complain about it. Most important of all, I have to learn to dismiss financial apprehensions because, really, when has God ever failed us? We tend to forget Him during abundant times that I have to recognize leaner times as opportunities for exercising faith and as a prelude to even more blessings. Honestly? There have been times when I was sorely tempted to delay tithing, but God is always teaching me that He has many ways to show me how faithful and how in control He is.
I know I'd always loved "Danny's Song" and it was played at our wedding reception, but really, we've never been in that situation. Money might be tighter, but the times, they remain to be good. So, here's to good times and living in God's grace!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

For the Birds

One thing I miss about our house right smack in the middle of the rainforest (literally across the street from the jungle, futilely held back by chicken wire) is the abundance of tropical birds. We had green parrots nesting in the trees scattered down the slope right beneath our patio and vibrantly yellow birds that flew past in huge flocks a thousand times a day. On our way to the beach (our community was in a bay area), we would see metallic blue and red hued kingfishers sitting on telephone lines. Taking walks around the neighborhood, I would always peer at the dense foliage because every now and then a flash of color would appear. At the school where I taught, the children shared their lunches with friendly crows (that probably equalled the humans in population) and the cats that we were forever having a debate on whether to keep ("They keep the snake population down."; silently, "They're cute! How could you?") or drive away ("They carry disease, smell foul, reproduce incessantly, and mess with exhibits.") - they finally got the animal welfare/control people over and had them neutered.
I don't miss living so cut off from civilization. I love having nature so close by, but one not as wild as what we had right outside our doorstep. We had all sorts of insects biting at human flesh every chance they got, razorbacks strolling down the sidewalk, monkeys tripping on sending your car careening off cliffs, and huge lizards popping out from hiding just to freak you out. I could do without them in my neighborhood, no problem. The birds are another thing entirely. We used to wake up to the cacophony of different chirps, hoots, tweets... My Mom, whenever she visited, could sit still for hours just listening to the different birdsongs. She got so she could tell which breed of bird a particular sound belonged to. Besides the nonstop twittering, there was also the periodic tattoo from woodpeckers pecking away at trees. I remember waking up Saturday mornings and thinking, "What a blessing to wake up to the harmony of birds." (I can get a little slushy during rush-free mornings:-p. Anyway, it's good to start the day thankful.).
When Husband and I moved back to the city, I was seven months pregnant and had developed an aversion to that place in the mountains. I had begun to feel oppressed by the seclusion and had felt, ironically, that it was all so unnatural. Despite my vehemence then (I'm less vehement now) at denying that I would miss it, I did concede that I was going to miss the birds. I was able to hunt up some pictures (most of our pics from there were lost in a computer crash - a lesson to always, ALWAYS back up). They were taken by my aunt who was visiting then from the US.

Here's the view from our patio. Those railings separate our patio from the rest of the hill.

Here's another angle. Those railings also keep us from plummeting down to the Wolfe's backyard.

Here's the jungle being kept away by that fence. The snakes and monitor lizards aren't very good at heeding the fence.

Watch out for monkeys crossing. Or just serenely sitting in the middle of the road.

Now, we still get birdsong in the morning. It doesn't matter that it comes from less exotic birds; it remains to be a delight. My Mom and I have always been fond of birdwatching. Lately, we've had to settle ourselves into being backyard birdwatchers. We used to walk through the river parks nearby and see something other than the token sparrow and pigeon, but since it's monsoon season, we limit ourselves to this:

It doesn't have occupants yet, but we're not about to give up hope. The three-door bird condo near it has a bird feeder attached to it, so that one gets more traffic (will take a picture soon). With this one though, we see a sparrow rest on it for a nanosecond before flying off and we get excited (Marguerite also thinks it's coo- or wow!-worthy). The many thrills of birding, lol. Next time I write about it, there'll be pictures of actual birds in the post, lol.

Note: I'm not certain how accurately I identified the birds cited above, but the pictures from these links were the closest I could find.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Let's Do Something

First this: please pray for Ethan Powell, a baby who was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after being born. They're doing a new treatment process on him and we're still waiting for its complete success. He has had both good and bad days, but lately, he has been having seizures and seems to be in pain. Have faith, along with the rest of us, that he will be completely healed. In the interim, be a prayer warrior for him.

If you have an Applebee's near you, you might want to join a nation-wide (US) nurse-in/out on September 8 to protest the unfair treatment that Kentucky mom Brooke Ryan and her baby received while they were having lunch in a branch on Nicholasville Road. The manager had insisted that Brooke nurse her baby under a blanket because some other customer had found the sight of a mother breastfeeding in public offensive. You'll find more information about the story as well as the steps being taken to make sure that a breastfeeding-friendly policy is adopted and implemented not only at Applebee's, but in all businesses, here. Whether in the US or anywhere else in the world, nobody should ever be forced to have his/her dinner under a blanket. Should you be interested in the September 8 nurse in/out, an egroup has been set up for those who want to participate or help out.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Where There's a Techie Husband...

There's a way to fix dark pictures. Voilà, a clearer version of the picture I was despairing about (which I stubbornly insisted on posting anyway)...

Faring Well at the Book Fair

I sit here spitting out olive pits while typing this entry. It's Sunday dawn and I've just consumed a plate of leftover pasta from yesterday. My Sister had complained that it's weird to have olives in white pasta, and that the olives were unpitted to boot. Hmm, the things one complains about when one has that luxury.:) The pasta tasted good and I personally think unpitted olives taste better than their pitted counterparts. That's my humble opinion anyway.
So I dragged my little family to the Manila International Book Fair yesterday. What's wrong with my brain that when the publisher sent me a text message asking if I could be there around 2-4, it just zeroed in on 4 and I ended up thinking that the signing would happen from 4 onwards? Please remember this when asking me to relay a message.:)
So we got there late, but I was still able to provide some service. My BFF was there, sadly without her little angel Miguel, but I hadn't seen her in such a long time that I was only mildly disappointed that her kids didn't come along. It's really wonderful to be able to share this experience with her. We live three hours apart and mostly keep the lines of friendship unbroken through YM, email, and SMS. It would be lovely to have her close by, but I guess the positive thing about the distance is that we're always so ecstatic to see each other.
I was finally able to read her story (The authors didn't get complimentary copies this time, but we understand. I do anyway. Our publishers are lovely courageous people and they can count on me to be supportive anytime.) and got such a bout of inferiority complex, it was that good. I feel sorry for my little silly anecdote following hers. I hope it's not too much of a letdown to the readers, lol.
As usual I didn't know what to write. With the last book, I had ended up signing with "Enjoy!" at the Booktopia launch, but this time I felt that might have been presumptuous, so I altered it to read "Hope you enjoy...", lol.
Here are some pics. Husband's flash's batteries died right at the get-go, so some pics are really dark as he wasn't aware that the flash was not working. I'm including dark ones because I want you to see (or semi-see, lol) my BFF (Sister hates for me to "say" this because apparently I'm too "old", hmph) and myself together. the one picture where we were really posing had to be the one that the flash conked out on. Oh well, c'est la vie.

I'm obviously forcing it... but, hey, there's me and her and we're happily smiling... I think.

You can see us better now. :-p

M and myself with our super publishers, whose enthusiasm is inspiring.

I also decided to release my first BookCrossing book at the lounge of the fair. Husband wanted me to be more discreet and skulking as we were pretty conspicuous with Marguerite's huge stroller, her many personal effects, the picture-taking... He was afraid somebody would come rushing after us, yelling, "Miss! You left your book!". If that had happened, which it hadn't, I would have simply explained about BookCrossing, no biggie. I am afraid though that the book would end up at the Lost and Found. Hey, if you decide to go to the fair today, you could look it up, maybe check at the Lost and Found. If it's there, kindly let it loose again. Or maybe you could be the first to pick it up. :-p To "Across the River and into the Trees", fare thee well and have a good journey!

There's me writing, "Check out my blog, yo!"
Then I go, "Are you taking pictures?" to Husband.

There's the label. Yes, the logo is pink because our printer ran out of yellow. It's not because I want it to be girly.
"Am I being subtle?"

Finally, I get ready to walk away. And, no, I'm not pregnant again. Bye, book!