Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The City Hall Boasts of Nasty Ghouls

The local government annually admits to having evil spirits working for it and even parades them on the main thoroughfares the night before Hallowe'en. This year, it's the usual motley crew of witches, warlocks, trolls, zombies, etc.. Plus robots, obviously inspired by the recent celluloid hit "Transformers". We all went out to watch, but Marguerite had to go back in shortly as there were so many smokers among the spectators. I took pictures, which I didn't like having to do because it took away from being able to enjoy the show. Also, short of being one with the parade, there was no way I could get decent pictures, what with the madding crowd and my being a strand of hair shy of being all of five feet... I'm posting the pics I took anyway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

October 31st Party/Sale

Because you know we don't celebrate Halloween. But we do like donning costumes, thus Sister is having another sale, the kind that gives you an excuse to wear one. If you're our friend, we don't need to give you the actual address. You know how to get to the venue (hint to readers: it's in the Phlippines). If you're a stranger, but would like to check out her wares, email me at [email protected] and I shall give you the address, as well as directions to get there. The sale's on at 9am and will run until 5pm (just like work!). Hope to see you tomorrow!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Heaven Nose

This whimsy is late and very much true to the nature of a whimsy (here comes my fave mathematical expression - trigonometry to be exact - "from tangent to tangent wherever my fancy brings me"). My nose has been acting up lately (when I say lately, I meant for the past thirty years). It reminds me of that classic crank call "Is your refrigerator running?", but in my case, the caller can ask, "Is your nose running?" and there's a big chance that my answer would be "yes" (then I'd have to go catch it). I've always had a sensitive nose. I'm the first to detect smoke, BO, chemical stuff, etc., but besides its superhuman (canine maybe?) ability to sniff out undesirable odors, my nose is also the first to start sneezing at the slightest trace of dust (or pollen or harsh smell or whatever other negligible allergen there is). Don't even think of nudging it a little. The slightest pressure is enough to launch a set of three. And plain forget about nosy tweaks. You won't think the gesture cute once I've sneezed into your face ten times in a row.
Now, I live near the highway. Dust accumulates here so fast, you can finger-draw onto surfaces mere seconds after you give it a good swipe with your Pledge. Now, I'm a packrat. Dust and being a packrat don't combine well with this nose, but I'm living proof that one can sneeze through her days and still lead a pretty normal life (but, really, what's normal? Do you want normal? I'm not sure I do.).
How about my proverbial/idiomatic nose? Can I immediately smell something fishy? Usually. Can I sniff out a scoop? I don't know about having a nose for news, but I simply ask for it. Friends expect me to greet them with "What's the latest?". Do I stick my nose into other people's beeswax? When I feel so inclined. Do I cut off my nose to spite my face? There have been moments, but as a general rule, I'm not self-destructive.
Revealing all these things are no skin off my nose. Unless you meet me and decide to test the verity of this post.:)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pictures and Poems from Our Short Holiday

There's a reason why some people should come up with the title after the piece has been written. So, I never did get to tell you that my back is aching something awful.
Plus, I told the eighth graders I'd post the Dadaist/Chain poems they'd written (1 line per kid until the time's up). Each group produced a brave effort, considering that some members haven't graduated from the ESL program yet.

Group 1:
I went out for dinner one night.
On my way there, a hobo and I got in a fight.
He was very ugly and he was not very bright.
Then I saw the weirdest sight.
It was a shiny but strange light
that blinded my eyes and was too bright.
It was a strange sight.

Group 2: BAM!
(this was a suggestion to force a rhyme somewhere, but not everybody cottoned to the idea)
Submerged in clouds of thought,
kinda like Jimmy submerged in his loft,
we were about to have our English test today, BAM!
kinda like a smoker enjoying that first joint, BAM! (eighth graders!!!)
It's not good. BAM!
We don't need to test today! BAM!
Yay for us!! BAM!

I think the second group meant to dedicate their poem to Mr. Oviatt. :)

Voilà les pics!

Bittersweet Journey Ends in Excruciating Back Pains

I have not abandoned my blog. Husband, Marguerite, my Mom, my cousin Luigi, and I left for Subic on Sunday night and got back last night. The English department of the school where I taught prior to becoming a SAHM invited me to talk about my experience as a writer and to conduct a writing workshop as well. Husband and I had originally been planning to go there next month as part of my birthday celebration, but making the trip earlier wouldn't have spoiled anything, so I accepted the invite and got busy preparing a dorky little speech.
I was hoping that the new road cutting through Clark would have already been done, but no such luck. We meant to leave early on Sunday, but boxes from my aunt in Fresno arrived shortly after lunch and we had to sort the contents out first. We didn't arrive in Subic until it was already 9pm. This was also the main road test for Marguerite's new car seat. I'm pretty happy with it thus far. We went to SM Megamall last weekend because they were supposedly having a mall-wide sale, but wouldn't you know it? The car seats weren't included in the sale. Up until buying this, Marguerite used the infant car seat that we got with her stroller. It was getting too small for her. This time we opted for a convertible one so we can keep her rear-facing for as long as possible. We thought we got a great deal with the new car seat as it was the only one at the store that met all of our requirements and we thought the price was pretty reasonable (we had thought of getting a used Aprica one at 4k php on, but we didn't have the time to contact the seller. We had meant to put the car seat task out of the way the previous Saturday right after the homeschool conference, but Husband was sick if you remember), but we ended up paying more than $100 for something that you can get at Walmart for $40 as what I learned through googling. I guess the shipping and taxes would have added up to about the same amount. Sigh. I think we should just stop talking about it.
That I was in Subic again almost two years after leaving didn't register until Monday noontime. We stayed at the headmaster's house (which was really nice of him. He wasn't there. His main residence is in Mamplasan, the biggest campus) and its makeup was just like our old one's (but much much better decorated, of course) so moving about it felt very familiar, but I couldn't really wax nostalgic as it wasn't exactly our old home. Driving down the main road in daylight though was something else. Husband and I had probably done it a thousand times in the past and it felt exactly the same. At least it did until the Beukers' old house came into view and then we hit the corner of the street where former students of mine used to live. Right after that the McEwens' house where you could always see their green Mazda. Then the Baumstarks' street. I thought the place had no business looking the same when it really wasn't anymore. All those people had moved away. Like us. And the fact is, I had really wanted to move back to the city too. I was desperate to get away. I could probably put a lot of it down to pregnancy hormones, but I still believe that we made the right decision. For a little while I had a lump in my throat and my eyes got a little watery, but we hit the highway pretty soon and it was no trick to swallow the lump and to blink back the tears. I had been told right off that international schools are transient in nature anyway.
We got to go to the beach later that afternoon. When we were residents we got to go in for free and even bring along up to six guests per ID. So between Husband and myself, twelve guests. I had no idea how expensive a trip to the beach could be. The sad thing is that residents don't have that privilege anymore. That sucks for those who still live there.
The following day I was finally able to go back to the school. I resolutely refused to compare then and now or to dwell on the changes, except to occasionally remark on how much former students of mine had grown (I didn't have the strength to be original. I hadn't slept well the night before;-p). I gave the talk to sixth and eighth graders (I guess seventh graders got English on the alternate schedule). I have no idea how interesting or informative I was, but everybody made me feel very welcome. The two middle school English teachers were very charming. It was a delight to practice my Spanish with Mr. Bacayao (sp?), who is Cuban-American and Mr.Oviatt (whom I had known from my years teaching there) even gave me a signed hardbound copy of his own book as a thank you. (Side anecdote because I just have to tell you: This is just the kind of thing I would rave about. During my talk I mentioned the Newbery Medal. The students weren't familiar with the award, so Mr. Oviatt and I tried to explain as best as we could what it involved. He mentioned that he gave Cynthia Voigt her first ever teaching job. I was so amazed. This was a very huge deal to me. I proceeded to demonstrate to the students how dorky I can be. I started gushing all over the place and babbling on and on about how much my sister and I love Cynthia Voigt and how incredible it is that there are only two degrees (one degree?) of separation between us. The students had no idea what I was going on and one about so I told them about the movie version of Homecoming hoping that one of them had already caught it on the Hallmark channel.)
Husband brought Marguerite along to pick me up and everybody got very excited about her. Some students even sneaked out of their classrooms to play with her (I was actually afraid of that).That was the first time that they got to meet her(except for a few teachers with whom I keep in touch). I was about six months pregnant when they last saw me, so they got to witness and ward off hyper-emesia of the projectile kind, watch my belly grow, wait with me to find out the gender of the baby, and suggest names for her (they all offered their own names, of course), but they never got to see the beautiful end result. This visit made things right.
I usually treat the past as beyond burned bridges and even if parting was done amicably, I tend to not prefer to go back. The past days pointed out how such an attitude doesn't do anyone any service. It was an overall pleasant experience and I wouldn't mind doing it again
Note: Flickr's acting up. Pictures to follow on next post.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Facing Mortality

Yesterday’s very tragic occurrence has devastated the nation and jolted it out of a very false sense of security (for when viewed by an international eye, we are, in fact, a hotspot when it comes to terrorist activities). I was napping when it happened. As checking my cell phone for the time is my first impulse upon waking up, I was able to read my husband’s text message before I found out what had taken place. It said, “No, I wasn’t in Glorietta.” I thought he must have sent it to me by mistake. When I stepped out of the bedroom though, my parents immediately filled me in about the explosion that had occurred. The text message finally made sense and I was able to reply appropriately to it.

Thank God Husband wasn’t there, but all those poor people! I am so shaken by the news that I keep on catching myself sobbing for those who were killed and injured as well as for their families. What a nightmare! This dreadful event is just the kind of thing that would snap a person out of her contented passiveness and make her think about her own mortality. If she has a helpless little child, an invalid, an elderly parent, or any other person completely dependent on her, this could very well launch her into panic mode.

I for one have never considered getting myself insured. It always seemed less complicated to just put aside money for emergencies, but this has sufficiently rearranged my mind to give room for second thoughts.

I used to not know the first thing about insurance and the jargons simply launched me further at sea. I decided though that I couldn’t keep on being ignorant if I wanted to take the best course regarding my daughter’s future. I began to have some inkling as to what was involved in the whole thing when I found one company ( Advantage Term Life) online and read through its site.

Apparently there are several kinds of coverage for insurance (i.e., term, whole life, universal, group, etc.). You can simply look through the details to determine which one is right for you. The site I visited also offers tips on how to lower your premiums or to get cheaper insurance rates. This is very helpful if you want to get the best deal for your money, especially if you really don’t have a lot in the first place. I’m very interested in the option of money back life insurance, but it does come with a pretty steep price tag.

So many points to ponder, so many arguments to consider, but at the end of the day, we really just want what would best protect the interests of our loved ones.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Let's Do Something 2


"October 18- Day 250

1st Update/3:07pm [Ben] - Imagine reliving your worst nightmare many times over the course of 250 days. Every morning you wake up to find that your child is slowly dying and you can do absolutely nothing to stop it. You depend on an invisible being and you have to put all of your trust and your faith into knowing that HE will provide. That is where I am right now. And as scary as it is I DO STILL BELIEVE THAT GOD CAN AND WILL HEAL! I am asking that you stand behind MARK 11:21-23 and ask that GOD HEAL ETHAN! It only takes the FAITH of one pure hearted individual. I am begging you to stand with me in case I do not have the strength. The next 3 weeks will tell us more about whether the doctors expect him to live or whether or not they will give us a life expectancy.

Ethan is now at his last option. A few minutes ago they gave him more of my cells. (We have been working frantically and fast.) These cells did not work the first time. So basically, this doesn't seem to me like it will work. THE ONLY THING THAT WILL WORK IS PRAYER. Things are a bit complicated here, I will update as I have the opportunities. Becky is going to step away from updates awhile to spend more time with Ethan. Please! Please! Please! Fire up the prayer chain. Call up your churches and friends, get together and pray. I am typing through tears asking for you to do one thing.... BeLIeVe! PRAYER WORKS!!!"

Be a prayer warrior for dear Ethan. Believe with the rest of us.


GMA 7's Kapuso Foundation has many recipients and the story of each one would indubitably tug at your heartstrings, but I'm appealing for this particular case because a) I was actually able to watch this clip on TV and b) the girl reminds me of my own daughter and imagining what the child is suffering through, all that she is missing just breaks my heart.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

And I Claim to Love Birds?

At the risk of reminding you that I still haven't posted a pic of Marguerite's (captive) lovebirds, I shall be writing about birds again. What can I say? They're awesome creatures and people don't pay nearly enough attention to them.
Last Saturday, one of the speakers - I believe it was Barbara West (the emcee had a blooper, btw, and called her Barbara Walters. He immediately corrected himself though, jokingly putting it down to not having been homeschooled himself) - talked about lessons you can get from nature and how one of the values one can learn from studying it is loyalty between a Canadian goose and her mate. She said that these birds have such deep loyalty for each other that one would never abandon the other even if it meant both of them dying. I was able to witness something akin to this, but strangely enough, it involved birds of different breeds. I may be mistaken, but I believe that the one that was wounded was a sea gull and the one that was trying to rescue it was a pigeon. We were at the Oceanside Pier (or was it Carlsbad?) and it looked to me as though a wave got the bird and the crash must have been strong enough to sprain or break a wing because the bird wasn't able to fly away again. There was a whole flock of them, different kinds, and they all went about their business but for one. This other bird hovered above the gull that was bobbing along the surface of the water, dipping every now and then, trying to pull the wounded up. We were up on the pier, so I couldn't do anything. There were surfers milling about on their boards though. I thought one of them was going to rescue the bird, but he got distracted by an oncoming wave. We were really on the point of leaving at that time and the birds were really far from the shore (we were on the pier. on a cold fall morning. in fall attire I might add), so I felt that I had no choice but to walk away and hope that the birds would be able to sort it out for themselves, that the one that was down was really just temporarily winded and would be able to summon enough strength to fly off again, that one of the surfers would do something about it, or one of the pier regulars would do something about it (I knew they could see, we could all see, but I was the only one who seemed bothered.).
I wish I had enough presence of mind or knew what the protocol was to at least have reported my concern, but I was a visitor to the area. I wish I hadn't been so self-conscious, worrying that people might laugh if I made a fuss about the bird. I wish I had enough courage and skill to have stripped down, jumped off the pier, and rescued the bird myself. I wish a lot of things and I guess you can tell that my lack of action still bothers me on and off to this day. Beyond the guilt that plagues me though is much admiration for that compassionate, inspiring pigeon. Birds rock. Me? Not so much.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When Hiccups Won't Up and Leave

The males in my life are down with some bizarre illness, could be stomach flu, could be some sort of infection. Husband is much better now. He was able to go to work after we'd established that he wouldn't set forth and start an epidemic (this has been a particular worry of mine. I didn't want Marguerite to catch this stomach thing not only for obvious reasons, but also because I have always been rather obnoxious about the rotavirus vaccine). His stomach still feels funny, but his officemates need not look accusingly at him. He hasn't been contaminating the bathroom at the workplace. My Dad's fever is also gone, but like Husband, his stomach is still upset. Thankfully, he has the right to contaminate his own bathrooms.
The other thing about Dad right now that has us worried is his persistent hiccups. He had them the whole day yesterday. His only rest from them happened when he slept (at least he was able to fall asleep). I googled hiccups and they could be caused by the most banal, like eating too fast, to the really alarming, such as tumors and serious diseases. It's pretty scary actually. That's what I get for doing medical consultations with internet search engines.
I remember this happening in the past, but not as long as an entire day. How long does it take to drive from Balboa Park to Oceanside? 1-2 hours? He was hiccuping the entire travel time. It's a good thing he wasn't doing the driving then, but it was really uncomfortable and embarrassing for him, and, well, for the rest of the people in the vehicle too, actually. We also felt dumb trying to jolt the hiccups out of him (old wives' tale about startling people to drive their hiccups away). We were suggesting all sorts of things. Water usually does it for him, but not that time. My own unique way of dealing with hiccups is to hold my breath until I gag. That method hasn't failed me yet. I think he tried to hold his breath, but he wasn't good at it because a hiccup would always sneak out. Anyway, Dad finally got rid of the hiccups that time by blowing into a paper bag.
This time around though nothing has worked thus far. He has tried water, sugar, citrus, ginger root, ice, the paper bag trick, holding his breath, etc. Tomorrow if he still has them, he'll try apple cider vinegar, peanut butter, honey, anise seeds (for babies, really) pressing on his collar bone, plugging his nose and ears (won't this method burst his eardrums or something), and winning the lottery (This will be a complete shock all right. As far as he's concerned, there are no compromises when it comes to gambling.)... Anyway, please pray for my Dad, that the annoying hiccups go away and that they not be a symptom of something serious. Thanks.:)
Eherm, a bit of bragging...
I was letting a cranky Marguerite play with my laptop (turned off). She was typing away, pushing buttons. When she pressed the screen down though, it locked. She was very miffed about it, her whines slowly escalating to semi-screams. I was trying to get her to sign to me, so I just asked her, "What is it, baby? What do you want?. She refused to sign though, so finally I asked, "Do you want me to open it?". She shot me a baleful look and yelled, "Yeah!!!". The magic words will come later. Hopefully.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blog Action Day and I Almost Forgot. Some Trash Talk Then.

Please don't flame! Husband is sick. Work deadline.
Anyway, my main contribution has something to do with trash. The topic's actually in the local hot seat right now, getting front page exposure with the landfill debates going on.
My ways of diminishing ours are pretty simple:
I recycle. A lot. Mainly because I'm a packrat and I'm always setting aside disposables to be used for some project later on. I will post more about recycling options later. I really just want to meet the Monday deadline for this post (I'm very ashamed!!!).
Always consider the packaging of items you want to buy. Individually wrapped, cute solo stuff may be convenient, but that equates to more trash in your landfill. Get economy size and then dole out into non-disposables, say juice into glasses, chips into bowls...
Another way is somewhat connected to recycling. I don't buy trash bags. When we end up with plastic from the supermarket, we use them to line the bins. The thing is we try to avoid plastic store bags in the first place. I have a canvas bag that I use for shopping. When I don't have it with me for those impromptu trips to the mall, I just insist on stuffing purchases inside my purse and just showing the receipt to the store guard. With no plastic to put trash in, the best option is to not have trash to get rid of, lol. In the event that you do end up with something that needs to be thrown away, try a cardboard box. Composting is also a huge deal. You get really fertile soil for your troubles too.

Something I'm looking into: cloth wipes for the family (guests will still get TP). I go through a roll of TP faster than I'd like to (small bladder). Anyway, it's an idea.
This is some choice post, huh? Please forgive, forgive, forgive. And I'd been looking forward to it too!
Whew! Did I make it?

Blogging = Moolah

Now that I’ve pretty much established this blog, another WAHM opportunity has become available to me. As I’ve hinted at, this gig directly involves blogging. What happens is that you get paid for writing an entry about a product or a site. I first learned about this paid-to-post option through one of the writers’ egroups I belong to.

Being a SAHM relying on freelance work, my contribution to the family finances is far from stable. I definitely welcome any legal means to have a more or less regular source of income. I’ve done promotional writeups in the past. I’m thinking this is just like that. The main difference lies in the fact that, not only am I the writer here, I’m also the publisher.

As a result of numerous consultations with writer friends who are already doing this and the ever reliable googling, I’ve decided to try out Blogsvertise first. It’s definitely one of the most established sites pertaining to this field.

Most of the companies that provide paid-to-blog work pay at least $5 for a writing assignment. For example, I’ve been told that Blogsvertise pays $6 - $10 for most posts. That’s not bad for 100 words or so.

The way it usually works is that you log in their system and you’ll find assignments appearing in your dashboard. You simply select the ones you wish to work on. In Blogsvertise's case, they also email you assignments, which is very nice for those who can’t go online several times a day. You are assured that work has been set aside for you.

If you have experience doing this kind of work, I would be very glad to receive advices or tips in the comments section. TIA.:)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shadowing a Toddler

... is a full-time job and quite exhausting to boot. The things they get into! And I thought I had sufficient foresight! The ideas they come up with just blow me away too. For example, I was eating a bowl of curry (in bed) and Marguerite was busy playing in the opposite corner (I didn't place her there. She ended up there.). I glanced up and saw her eyeing me and I could tell that her brain was cooking. Without any preamble, she suddenly started crawling towards me, picking up her water bottle along the way. I thought she was going to ask for a bite, but when she got to me, she stood up and started shaking her water onto my food. Now, I thought I could second-guess her pretty well, but I really didn't see that one coming.
I attended the first ever home school conference here in the Philippines and I'm very glad I did. Husband and I were a bit torn about taking Marguerite with us since we weren't sure whether the setup would be kid-friendly (it was), so plan A was we would all go, and plan B was we would leave Marguerite with Nana (who's her favorite person anyway). I had to scrap both plans as I ended up going by myself. Husband woke up with a fever (his temp hasn't gone down yet actually). Anyway, I learned some new things, but what the conference mostly did was to reinforce most of the things I believe about homeschooling. I borrowed Husband's phone (because you know what my phone is, right?) for the camera because I didn't want to wield our Nikon, which is practically the same weight as Marguerite with all the contraptions and doodads. I took a picture of the guest speaker Barbara West, but it's too blurry to post here. I really wasn't on picture-taking mode perhaps because I didn't know anyone there, so no pics to post here (oh, if only I'd remember to take those birds' pic). Many people attended the conference, but I think most of them were members of the church that sponsored it, so they all knew each other already. There were some great raffle prizes too. Gymboree gave away lots of free passes/classes. Two of the grand prizes were free classes for a year and that's huge. I asked before (just for the heck of it) and it costs 500php just to sit in and observe a class. The other grand prize was a microscope set. Other prizes were books from the different booths set up there, Kindermusik CDs, DVDs, toys, etc. I think the organizers themselves were pretty surprised at the number of donated prizes. Anyway, I didn't win anything because I always suck at raffles. At one point the emcee was just calling for five moms who came with their babies (is Marguerite still a baby? Technically, no, so I tried not to feel bad about missing that chance), for five dads who came with their toddlers (that could've been Husband and Marguerite, but, duh, they weren't there...), for seventeen couples committed to homeschooling (there was no way I could have disguised myself as a couple even with the excess baggage) to come up to him since they were trying to get rid of the prizes more quickly. With all the prizes practically flying about, I went home with a fistful of brochures and fliers.
Since Husband is sick, Marguerite is sleeping in her crib again. We generally co-sleep, but there was a time when Marguerite regularly slept in her crib in our room. That must have been between her third month and seventh month. Before that, she would fall asleep on my chest and after an hour or so, I would place her in her portable bassinet (I loved that bassinet with its vibrate, music, and white noise options. I was really sad when the baby got too big for it) which was parked between Husband and me on the bed. She started using the crib when she was already sleeping through the night. We were pretty loose about it. I didn't establish a bedtime routine, but rather just followed the baby's cues. Marguerite would sleep in the bed with me and when Husband got home (his work is mostly overtime), he would move her to the crib. About the time we felt that the crib needed to be lowered, Marguerite started cutting her first tooth. She woke up crying more at that time and since I'm a shrimp, I had a hard time reaching down to pick her up (I definitely do not adhere to the concept of letting a baby cry it out). I decided our collective sleep would be more peaceful if Marguerite slept in the family bed again. Right now, she's still sleeping and seems to be doing well in the crib. Better than me anyway. It felt strange not having her in bed with us. Hopefully Husband is better by tonight so we could go back to normal.

Friday, October 12, 2007

One of These Days'll just see those birds' pics here. Don't blame me. I thought they were forthcoming too. Oh, okay. You may blame me. It's just that whenever I remember to go out and take pictures, it's not a good time to do so. It's already dark, it's raining, I have something more pressing to do, et cetera, et cetera. Excuses, excuses. They're always lame, hee!
I have a writing assignment, which is taking forever to complete; that's why I haven't had more time to blog (reading blogs is another matter entirely).
Since my mind is otherwise preoccupied with that particular writing gig, this week's whimsy will be just that: a whimsy. Who cares really if the post ends up being fabulously inane? I got my weekly whimsy in. Just kidding.
Not really. I really am afraid it's going to be random blather. This post will bounce from tangent to tangent, just following the course of my thoughts.
I've been missing and just aching to go back to Santander in Cantabria, Spain. I was blessed to have earned a scholarship that allowed me to live there for a time. A friend of mine, who is still in Spain on scholarship, has just posted pictures of his recent visit to that fair city and I'm afraid they triggered multiple bouts of reminiscing and daydreaming. I would just love to bring Marguerite there. It's just the kind of place I would love to raise my child in. You can literally walk to the beach, the commercial area (individual stores; a Corte Inglés is a bus-ride away and Valle Real is a short train-ride away), the fishing port, the universities (both of which are very good, but my loyalty goes to UC, of course), the museums, the many parks... just literally to any point in town. It's a small city, so it's more quiet and "intimate" (you bump into the same people all the time, but it's also very cosmopolitan. The public transportation system is very good. Landlocked, the city itself is surrounded by quaint little hamlets. If you venture off by boat, there are charming little islands pockmarking the bay area. The display of architecture is superb, there's a variety of choices when it comes to entertainment. The climate is muy templado, muy agradable and you can go off on an excursion to equally fascinating neighboring provinces for the day, maybe a trip to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, or to the Picos de Europa which touches three provinces: Asturias, Cantabria, and Castilla-León. The place is also very safe. People laughed at me for toting pepper spray and a swiss knife all the time (well, the swiss knife was really for McGyver-type moments and both were part of my jumble of key chains). And. I found a small evangelical church right at the center of the city (I was initially told that I would have to take two buses that have very specific schedules to somewhere right outside of the city). The main problem would have to be that the Euro has made the standard of living incredibly expensive... Anyway, just *sigh*, I guess. It would be lovely to live there, but I'm also happy here. A trip to Santander sometime in the future is definitely in order for my family though. Please allow me another sigh.
Moving on to other matters, I was taking inventory of my bottled scents and I realized that most of them are still in the fridge. They were relegated there when I got pregnant as most scents had become intolerable. That was really strange to me since normally I don't subscribe to subtlety when it comes to perfume. I'm all for bombardment of the senses. And, no, I don't buy perfume either. All my bottles were given to me, seriously. I am blessed with an incredibly generous aunt who believes in a little "harmless" spoiling, er *cough*, indulgence, I mean. Anyway, I have exactly three bottles in the bedroom right now. I have Sweet Pea for normal days, Fire & Ice for going out (if you're like me, Poison's belting out a tune with the same name in your mind right now), and Trésor for special occasions. Some bottles that remain cooling in the fridge are Amarige, Miracle, both plain and So Magic, and a collection of Vanilla scents. Vanilla is my preferred scent really, but my reaction to it when I was pregnant was just so horrible that I have yet to start enjoying it again. But I really do love it. At my wedding, you could just breathe in vanilla. I was wearing it by way of both perfume and lotion, there was scented oil in burners, some candles, air spray... I wonder which scent Marguerite will go for. I'm not sure if marguerites have a scent (confession: I can't tell a marguerite from the other types of daisies), but even if they do, my darling girl will be the best-smelling of them all, hee.:)
A couple of pics (because we really don't know when those of the birds will show up here, do we? lol):

Bela (Indonesia), yo y Anastasie (Bélgica) en Santander;
moi on my wedding day

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blog Action Day and Irony

That's not until Monday, but it's a true coincidence that I was really going to blog about the following.
I have always been concerned about the environment, but I'm not yet as "crunchy" as I hope I'd eventually be someday. Habits die hard and included in this hardy list of personal traits is the inclination to prefer comfort and convenience over saving the environment. Thankfully, being of a frugal turn of mind, recycling has always been a knee-jerk reaction of mine, but I'm truly very far from being "hardcore". Something that I've always been passionate about though is keeping wild animals in the wild. Some years ago, I volunteered to be a monitor of illegal wildlife trade here in my country. I would check out pet shops with my little cousin (we pretended that we were shopping for a pet that was to be my gift to her) and sure enough, we would find many species that had no business being in cages or tanks being sold to people who didn't know the first thing about these creatures. My part was just to report the merchant, so it was up to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to do something about it.
Anyway, most of the illegally traded animals were exotic birds and the group I was affiliated with did a good job of educating us about what was involved in the entire trade, from poaching to smuggling to the actual selling. I really learned so much about the different species attending seminars preparing us for the monitoring task.
Now, I love birding. It is one of the naturalist activities I'm really into. We've had pet birds in the past as my Mom really enjoys having them close by and listening to them sing (or create a racket, as what is Sister's take on it) and there was a time when my youngest uncle bred and kept racing pigeons. Nevertheless, upon being involved in the movement to keep the wild in the wild, I've had the conviction that all birds (the flying sort, of course) must be left to fly freely in their natural environment. My Mom kept on threatening to purchase pet birds ("They're not wild birds and it's perfectly legal to keep them as pets"), but I would always dissuade her, appealing to her sentiment with my bit about how wretched it is to live life in captivity.
Last month, Mom received a pair of parakeets from a churchmate of ours. I had my reservations, of course, but they hadn't been given to me, so I just let Mom enjoy her new birds. However, when the same friend gifted my daughter with a pair of African lovebirds on her birthday (I think their pets have a penchant for constant reproduction), I found myself directly involved. Now, I have a policy about gifts. I always receive them in the spirit that they were given and even if they're not to my taste, I use them. If you see me wearing or toting something that doesn't seem to go with my character, it was probably a gift. I really just have very strong feelings about appreciation. Within reason. Had we been given a cockatoo, which is endangered, I would have passed it on to the authorities (in our case, PAWB).
If we set aside my feelings about caged birds, the lovebirds were really a very sweet gift. Marguerite loves them already and would get mad at the stray (but have now become residents) cats (who are also her friends, btw) when they go near the birds. I think she picked up from my Mom the idea that the cats mean the birds harm. She would go, "Shoo!" or call them, "Cat!" whenever they approached the birds. (Digression: Marguerite can say "Kitty Cat" now, although she likes to tease us and say "cottocot" instead sometimes.)
I googled "lovebirds" and learned that they're small parrots and could live more than a hundred years. Our birds' particular breed is the common peachfaced. They would have made a great companion for humans too (I would have had to get Marguerite a hoop earring - clipons as her lobes aren't pierced yet - an eye-patch and perhaps a wooden leg too, hee! Sorry to be provincial, but I couldn't resist), if they hadn't come in a pair. Well, it's too late now. We don't know what sex our birds are and it seems that this is determined only through DNA testing (forget it!). One enthusiast said that you could also tell by feeling the bird's pelvic bone, but even if the birds would let me do that, I still wouldn't be able to tell what they are as I don't know what to feel for. Anyway, if they do reproduce, I would look into the option of training the babies to live freely (their parents, as they, having been bred in captivity, wouldn't be able to do it). I would also have to look for a place where it's okay to set them free. I'm not about to set a bird free where somebody could just easily capture it again. Also, I know better than to introduce an alien species (lovebirds aren't native to us) here and upset the local ecosystem in the long run.
We had to go out and purchase a cage for them, one that was big enough for the three-door bird condo to fit inside. Because of them, Marguerite can now say "birds" or "Bur!" as what it sounds like. They are very cute and they seem to love the condo. In the meantime, I continue my crash course in lovebird care via Google. I would also start putting together a treasure chest to be later buried in a location that only our birds would know about so a hundred years from now, they would have a more adventurous life being dogged by treasure hunters... Of course, there's the business of training them to talk first.
It's dawn right now. I promise to go out later and take the birds' pic. If you have advice as to the birds' care and keep, leave it in the comments section.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sweetening up the Menu

Yay! Marguerite can now officially have honey. Yesterday, I made applesauce for her/us and I added a generous swirl of honey. Now, I know that it's preferable not to add too much flavor to food or kids will be partial to sweets or salt, but since I'm keeping away from white and brown sugars as what the regular homemade applesauce recipe I usually follow dictates, I feel that I'm still exercising considerable restraint. Hi, I'm me and I'm from Marikina and my food has to be extra pungent. Anyway, I just wanted to see how she would react to the addition and check if she has got a Mariqueño tongue on her. BTW, I had accidentally given her honey graham crackers (my Mom hadn't told me they were that kind and I hadn't known until I saw the package) before she reached 12 months and thankfully nothing happened. I usually check the ingredients' list on labels with much paranoia, but that one got past me. The thing is, going back to the honeyed applesauce, Marguerite treated it like she did the applesauce I used to make for her (thinned with water and nothing in it but cinnamon. You will find that I sprinkle cinnamon on a lot of things.), which was to eat it fine. I guess I was expecting her to exclaim "Eureka!" or something.
Something that I love to eat and have not had since becoming pregnant (simply because I was so averse to food then and afterwards I simply forgot) until yesterday was cucumber chips in apple cider vinegar (salt and pepper to taste, so, meaning in my case, sprinkled quite lavishly). I had two beautiful cucumbers (which had originally been for a tea party that didn't happen) so my Mom and I split them. I made my apple cider vinegar concoction and Mom said she would just eat hers raw dipped in some sort of salad dressing.
I'm off to whip up sweet potato pancakes (check out the vegetarian option of people food recipes in - I think I'm switching to the toddler version of the site soon though) before Marguerite wakes up.
All this talk about food when I really wanted to post about Marguerite's first pets ever. I keep on putting off taking their picture though, so some other time, that.
Also, this. We are so there! I'm so excited to meet other homeschoolers.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

In Aid of Closure and Kate Update

I think even without me having said so (or maybe I have?), you still would have inferred that I was very unhappy about Marguerite's big party. It bothered me on and off for a week until I decided that I had to do something about it. So, I thought, "Hey, she has already had two parties. Maybe she should have three.". If she's not getting quality, at least, she has the option of quantity, hee!
For the third party, I decided to have the focus on her and not on having to entertain guests. This is how I would have done it if it hadn't been a combination birthday and dedication party. I asked my Mom to bake another cake, so she made a banana-carrot one. I again whipped up a thick cream cheese frosting (but, forget it, they always get runny from the heat here) and made chocolate cake decor since we were out of candy flowers. I made an "M", a "1", a daisy, and several hearts. When the cake was cooling, I cut a side of it to form four mini cakes (I also colored a portion of the frosting pink, unfortunately, with artificial coloring as I still have to research natural food dyes). Since it was just family (and Husband was at work, at that), we just had cake and totopos with a cheese dip Sister had concocted (she's a whiz with cheese. Hey, Chip, when are we going to have that fondue party?). We didn't make the totopos (I still have to order a local version of masa harina from my friend's daughter. That's why our tortillas are always plain flour ones.). We got boxes of them for the big party, but we clean forgot about them.
I cut out gift wrapping paper into small triangles and taped them to a purple curling ribbon. This was to be bunting to tape to her booster seat. We salvaged a balloon that Jacky the dog hadn't mauled yet. I stuck Marguerite's birthday candle into the cake, put some yellow flowers in a vintage glass and we were ready to party (low-key). I got out the camera and the camcorder and tried to capture as much of the celebration as I could.
So, Marguerite wore her tiara again. She (or my Mom) blew out her candle again. This time though, she actually got to smash and eat a mini cake. She didn't get a smash cake at the big party because she was wearing a pretty dress and it would have been a hassle cleaning her up there as the restroom wasn't baby-friendly. Sister performed the rap number she had prepared for the big party (but hadn't done since things had been pretty much falling apart). I'll just have to take a video of Husband singing a song for Marguerite, add materials from all three parties and I think Marguerite's finally gonna have a passable birthday video.
Voilà some pics from the third "party":

Kate is doing much better now. She can actually talk to her visitors. They say it's not dengue after all, but had something to do with her organs not functioning well, hence the dengue-like symptoms. At the end of the day it all has to do with her heart, I suppose. Thanks to those who thought of Kate and prayed. Here's more proof that prayers really work. We now behold a child on her way to recovery when just a couple of days ago, Adora (Kate's mother) was told by the doctors that she was going to lose her daughter. Isn't God absolutely wonderful?:)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Blood and Prayers

We have been praying earnestly for Kate, a seven-year-old girl from our church, who is currently stricken with dengue. On top of that, she has also been diagnosed with pulmonary sterosis. The prognosis isn't very good, but this girl has already overcome so much and, being a witness to her spirit and spunky character, we know better than to just accept a negative assessment. She was born with heart problems and had to have a bypass as a little baby. She experienced such tremendous healing that it's pretty easy to forget the ordeal she had been through so young. She's the resident worship service rover and when the congregation expresses exasperation over this, my Dad is always quick to remind us what a big blessing Kate's presence is.
Early this morning we received news that Kate's brain has stopped functioning. She's currently at the ICU of a heart hospital and needs, besides our prayers, a blood transfusion as well. Yesterday, members of our congregation had gone to the hospital to donate blood, but this case seems to work differently from what we're used to. If there's a call for blood donation, those who are able to donate blood do even if their blood type isn't a match. Their donation goes to blood bank and the blood bank provides for free the same amount of blood they received in the patient's type. This time though, they only want donations in Kate's type, which is A+, but would also accept A-. Dad, Husband, and I are all A+. Dad and I were all set to go to the hospital to donate, but were told that we weren't eligible donors as I always lack sleep and have a cold to boot (currently guzzling copious amounts of tea and soup), while Dad has high blood pressure (although I think he's still going to get himself screened for eligibility). Will check if Husband can donate tomorrow.
If you believe, please pray for Kate to be completely healed. I know that prayers can already do wonders, but if you would like to make a blood donation, we would greatly appreciate it. If you're type A+ or A-, please email me at [email protected] so we can arrange something. I suppose this would only apply if you're in Metro Manila. If you're elsewhere, prayers and good thoughts for Kate are more than enough.