Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Prudent Way of Bringing Yourself Closer to Home

During those times when I had to temporarily live abroad (as a student and as a long-staying tourist), I had to rely on phone cards to keep in touch with family and friends back home. I preferred using prepaid phone cards simply because I was usually on a tight budget and calling through them meant there were no unpleasant surprises regarding billing. You’ve spent your money and you know what you are entitled to. There’s no room for getting carried away with all the yakking. I mean, if you do get carried away, you just get cut off. You do not have to agonize later on over the bill, swearing to anybody who cares to listen (usually the owner of the phone line you used) that you couldn’t actually have been on the phone for two hours.
Now there are good quality phone cards and some that are less so. I believe I have had experience with both. If you’re going to be visiting the US for a while, it makes sense to stock up on your supply of phone cards. Since this is pretty much like an investment, it’s best to know as much as you can about the different phone cards and the special deals you can get. Consulting a website that has a comprehensive listing is a smart option. Researching and purchasing online is much more convenient than discussing the merits of each product with a harassed vendor at a busy kiosk, I tell you.

A Great Blogger Find

I actually like taking surveys. This is what I usually do to give my mind a break when I'm in the middle of a writing-fest. Anyway, I was so thrilled to discover dNeero (a friend told me about it) that I quickly got started with one of its surveys and got paid for it. Here's the actual survey. You can go ahead and take it too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Affair with Bays

We spent the whole Saturday in Manila. I had a meeting in the morning near La Salle and then Husband wanted to check out the car show in Mall of Asia, so we headed out there afterwards. As usual, you'd have thought my daughter was running for office ("Hi!" "Hello!" "Bye!"). She got to meet new people, some of them even foreigners, while her dad and I trailed after her like an entourage. Husband puts down our own anti-social leanings on the fact that we were told not to talk to strangers. Digression: Up until I hit puberty I thought all men with a mustache were, first and foremost, kidnappers, then muggers, or the mayor's thugs (the influence of Philippine cinema)... Anyway, that was only my third time to go to MOA because it's just so far from where I live. Anyway, the outing was kind of marred by the fact that the last time we were there, Mom and Chip were also with us (Chip's bday, in fact - she had a lobster; Dad was set to come home from California in a few days...). Anyway, we'll all get to go back there soon, I know it.
So, the meeting went fine, the car show was okay, Husband spilled arroz caldo in Marguerite's diaper bag and I ended up with clean-up duty, ain't life fair... but what I really want to talk about is San Miguel by the Bay. I love it. It's clean and new and it seems to have been developed really well. Baywalk I didn't really like too much back then, probably because it was too close to the main road and there wasn't a lot of space and greenery. Anyway, San Miguel by the Bay had a nice playground with exercise equipment for adults, a nice marble(?) fountain, little parks scattered throughout the area, nice restaurants, a clean arcade... Only gripe, it was cloudy that day so we missed the spectacular Manila Bay sunset. There was still a nice play of color in the sky, so it wasn't so bad. Gosh, I love bays. I love San Francisco and then there was Santander (sigh). I'm glad many people are now interested in making the Manila Bay area more attractive. No, really, I grew up thinking the entire city of Manila was seedy, the only attraction of which was its historical offerings. I feel differently now. It's partly a more mature perspective on my part, but Manila has begun to capitalize on its assets, so there's really actual progress involved.

We went just a tad camera-crazy. Marguerite at the fountain, at the playground, at the arcade... I pointed at a yacht, exclaiming to Husband, "We have to get a boat!" and he answered with, "Look at that cool barge!" and took out his camera. The barge was rusty and ugly. Marguerite would have had to take sides, except that she felt compelled to pluck grass from between the tiles on the ground and was busy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Picking Your Battles

Marguerite has this new not-so-cute quirk. She wakes up fussing and insists on being carried and taken out. It started about a month ago when she was cutting one of her mega-teeth and of course, since she wasn't well, I gave in each time. Now, she'd wake up, not fussing at all, and nudge me repeatedly exclaiming "Out!" If I go "shush, shush, lie back down, still sleep time", that's usually when she starts fussing. Sometimes she gives in and goes back to sleep. More often than not, she pursues this whim, deliberately disturbing the peace. I can usually apply redirection/gentle persuasion principles but in that window between deep slumber and consciousness, it's hard to get creative. It just means that my sleep got even more sparse of late. And hush it about sleep-training. Just because I consciously chose to AP doesn't mean I can't gripe every now and then (now and then! hah! that's rich!) about sleep deprivation.
Anybody know a local cheap, non-quack shrink? I swear it's not I who need one. I'm harmless even if I do have my own brand of crazies. Anyway, if you could recommend a local psychiatrist who's not prescription-happy, I'd be much obliged.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Marguerite Turns 19 Months on Earth Day

Marguerite woke up early yesterday, thanks to my dad who let loose with two thundering sneezes right outside our bedroom. Anyway, I took the chance to bring her to the river parks for an early morning pretend-constitutional. They're all walking distance from our house. I got my mom to leave her caregiving (to Chip) post for an hour or so to go with us. Slathered Marguerite with Bioneem (bug repellent) and we were out the gate in no time. We headed for the skating rink, the center of which is a mini-zoo. The zoo would have been really great except that it smelled really funky. Best to observe from ten yards away. It had crows and monkeys, which made us miss Subic, and owls, an eagle, some other birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, etc. I think the animals' quarters could also be improved. I certainly hope they have somebody qualified taking care of those creatures.
We walked on to the other side of the Marikina bridge (not across the river) where there were lots of other babies and toddlers catching the early morning rays (the skating rink area is mostly senior citizens' turf). I'm so pleased that Marguerite is super-friendly (I wasn't at all, as a kid). She greets everybody "hi!" and waves "bye!" when we take our leave.
It would have been awesome to have property on the riverfront. My mom's house when she was growing up was right near the river (Both of her ancestral homes were a stone's throw away from the river - one became a grocery store and the other became a street. The family moved on farther away from the camino, the main street which was pretty much the trade center back then, to an area formerly known as bukid or fields. Now, our property is the only one that is purely residential on our very commercial street. Ah, progress). The river area was not such a great place before with the floods and the quicksands and the undesirable wildlife. With the vision of a former mayor, everything in Marikina, especially the river, became better a hundred-fold. Old time business owners initially complained about the tax increase, but we all saw where the money went and come on, it was just too ridiculous. All the transformation happened in the '90s and it seemed that prior to that, they were paying the same amount of tax as they had been in the '40s. Anyway, a riverfront property would be nice, but preferably about a block away from the happening night scene (lots of bars and restaurants there now too). I'd really love to have a riverfront home. Anybody selling? Wait, scratch that. Considering our budget, anybody giving their property away?
If anything, I'm thrilled about all the awesome additions to our fair city. Gas is so expensive nowadays that we might have to limit our expeditions within it. It certainly wouldn't be a terrible thing. Remember what Thoreau said? You don't? Okay, he said to explore your backyard, but in a more writerly way. Anyway, I have to get off the net soon so I leave you with this unsolicited whatnot: walk and bike when you can.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Weekend

First, Marguerite finally had her 18th month well-baby check-up a few days before her 19th month (she turns 19 months on Earth Day). It had simply been one thing after another (her actual 18th month was Black Saturday, the one after that, Husband was besieged by pharyngitis, and then he had to work on something... obviously, well-baby checkups are an entire family affair for us), but last Saturday, we finally did it. She was scheduled to have her 5-in-1 booster (no, I only learned about immunization options after the first primary shots. Otherwise, I would have decided to opt out of HepB. Thanks to the big Rotavirus debate, I was forced to learn more about vaccination.). Anyway, I told our pedi that I would really prefer to delay the boosters and she was supportive of this. So, basically, Marguerite is healthy except for an inherited case of skin asthma (from Husband, mine is actual asthma, which hopefully she does not inherit) and we're shifting to milder, more natural products to deal with that. She's developing well. She's in the 95th percentile when it comes to height, weight is just about average ... (Neither husband nor I were chubby babies, but you should see us now, sigh).

In the afternoon, we watched the Foundation Day parade of our city. See, Marikina has two festivals (Angkan-angkan and Rehiyon-rehiyon) that pay tribute to its citizens. In the summer, we celebrate the foundation of Marikina by honoring the pioneering families (one of which I belong to - my mother's family is pure marikeño), and in December, as we celebrate the anniversary of Marikina's becoming a city, the focus shifts on to citizens who are originally from elsewhere. Anyway, I endured the long parade (almost two hours), most of the time carrying Marguerite in a hotsling (ah, the gorgeousness of babywearing - my article came out yesterday, btw), waiting for my clan to pass by. Wouldn't you know it, they did the lineup alphabetically and mine was Santos "Supok" (you know you're from Marikina if you're known by your ancestor's nickname). "Supok" means burned or charred. My great-grandfather had an accident with a dynamite he was making, hence the "lovely" nickname. Anyway, it was worth the wait because our clan's part in the parade rocked. We had a gigante (an enormous effigy) of Vicente "Enteng Supok" Santos (who's got an actual street named for him here - he was also a town official in his day) and a sort of dragon dance with the dancers bearing a giant version of the fated dynamite instead of a dragon and our own band! Anyway, we decided to see through the end of the parade with the motorcade of the local officials.

Enteng Supok

Mayor Fernando waves at Marguerite.
Afterwards, we went to Serendra where my sister-in-law had a booth at a bazaar in Fully Booked. Marguerite got to play with another toddler named Iya, all very ships that pass in the night. Mark bought a shawl for his own rebozo because he claims the one I made from a sari makes him look too much like Sinbad (whatever). Well, he got a brown plaid which is a good deal less flamboyant (whatever).

Late Sunday afternoon, we went for a leisurely drive around town and then let Marguerite run around and play with grass and dirt at the sports complex. We also stopped by a quaint little bakeshop called Bethlehem, which gave me an opportunity to show off my trove of knowledge (dorkiness, Husband qualifies), "Quick, Mark, tell me why it's called Bethlehem!" Husband, who played hooky from Sunday School a lot, did not know and did not care to know, but I still crowed, "Cuz Bethlehem means House of Bread!" I then launched into a long lecture about names of places and their meanings, like Bethel means House of God, because, you see "Beth" means house and... Sigh. I'm sure you agree with Husband now, lol.

The whole time this is happening I'm squelching a knee-jerk reaction to stop her from touching dirt. Just one of the things from my own upbringing I have to overcome, sigh.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Home-wise Before Street-smart"

I love this notion I got from Dr. Sears. I may be wrong in feeling this, but I think it's very hard to get street-smart without acquiring an "edge". Excuse me for misquoting Jewel, but if my kid was sensitive, I'd love for her to stay that way. Of course, there's too sensitive, but we're not talking about that. Moderation is key, I've always been told, but that's neither here nor there. However, having street-smarts is also important. I guess that's why acquiring wisdom from home first is the necessary qualifier.
Anyway, I'm just thinking in blog. One of my morning reads (Instead of doing mantras, I read articles that remind and inspire me about the kind of parent I want to be) is this article from Dr. Sears and I just love, love it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You May Graduate from UP, but You'll Keep Coming Back for Carless Oval

I believe that immersing children in nature is very nurturing. Now, where we presently live isn't one of those idyllic places for raising a family. The most nature my daughter can get is from the plants my mom and my grandmother planted decades ago, the visiting and mainstay birds, the few fruit-bearing trees, the stray butterfly or dragonfly (our kamias tree does have bees regularly buzzing around it), and a couple of flowering plants... Marguerite routinely says "hello" to them every morning, counts the fruits on the guava tree (she got the concept of big and small from carefully looking out for guavas to pick), and plays with a flower. That may seem like a lot, but I would really love for her to have someplace where she can run wild on the grass, her tiny steps crunching leaves that have fallen to the ground (she loves doing this), and where she can freely frolic in wide open spaces where the air quality is good. Thankfully, we have parks around here where we can bring our daughter for such nature sessions.
Among many families in this metropolis, the UP Diliman campus is a decided favorite for leisurely Sunday afternoon constitutionals (Sunday is when Carless Academic Oval happens), impromptu picnics, kite flying, frisbee throwing, etc.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Le Petit Prince Est Trouvé

Excuse the bad French, but if you're a fan of Saint-Exupéry, or even just "The Little Prince", you'll probably be interested in this. Not that this erases all doubts, but it is probably the truth. Just imagine what the German pilot had had to live with. Can anybody really blame him for not speaking up sooner? First, he wasn't entirely certain that he, in fact, did it. Second, he probably would have been lynched. He was no more than a boy when it happened and was just doing something most everyone was compelled to do at that time, which was to defend his country, even if said country belonged to the Axis. That's war for you.

I Totally Have Stuff to Blog about, but...

First, this: Husband is selling another car. Email me at spinninglovelydays(at)gmail(dot)com for more details as well as our phone numbers. Thanks.

Honda Civic Esi '95
Transmission: Automatic
Engine: 1600cc PH16
Stock body, engine, interior
Concept One Mags
Price: PhP 185k

Edited to add: Thanks to all those who showed interest, but this car has now been sold.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Guess Who's Not a Masseuse Extraordinaire?

Massages, aah... I do not enjoy them and won't suffer through them unless I'm in pain and it's my mom or Husband doing the massaging. Venture slightly to the light side and they tickle me, venture slightly towards the other extreme and they hurt and tickle me. I'm like the Goldilocks of massages. They have to be exactly like my mom's or Husband's to be just right or they're just too-too. You should see me go for foot spas (which I don't get anymore now because our friend who gives them decided to move her business to Qatar), I'll be sitting in my chair screaming in laughter, literally tickled crazy, while the masseuse goes after my swing-flinging legs.
I'm anything but a dab hand at giving them either. Backrubs certainly don't figure much in bonding moments around here. In fact, family members actually make fun of my limp wrists. You'll hear me grunting in my effort, but you still won't feel pressure from my manual ministrations. However, when the real need arises, I find that I'm able to deliver. Anyway, for some reason, Husband developed a pain in the general area of the socket of his left arm. It got really intense yesterday evening and this morning I ended up getting the bottle of jatropha oil blend from my mom and the wooden duck massager that Marguerite uses as a toy to do my own version of massage. Anyway, tonight Husband says the pain's almost gone. Of course, he had also applied menthol and camphor patches, but I'd like to think that my "massage" had something to do with it as well. If it didn't, at least he smelled of delicious cookies the whole day because of the oil. Really, you'd think an oil that is touted to be the answer to automotive problems such as gas hikes and pollution would have a fiercer smell than that of freshly-baked cookies.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cyber Shopping Deals

Marry a techie man and it would be pretty hard to find an inexpensive gift that would please him. But that’s just what stingy ole’ me did. Husband, as you have probably already deduced (if deduction means understanding things you have been told outright, hee!), is in love with gadgets. He works in an IT company, deems himself a semi-professional photographer, is an accomplished musician (says his loyal groupie - okay, that’s me, in case you’re not sure) and a car buff… What was I to do for presents then? I think our daughter already has dibs on the small, but sweet items and more effort (translate effort to money) is definitely required of me.

Now, Husband himself is a frequenter of Best Buy and he not-so-subtly points out to me which items are a real steal (meaning if I even so much as agree with him, he’d consider it a go-signal to buy, buy, buy). I usually remain non-committal because I really do not want to encourage what could be a very expensive habit. However, after our daughter’s birthday last year, I thought I wanted to get him something really nice since his own birthday was sort of eclipsed by our daughter’s and we’d got a double celebration coming in December (Christmas and our anniversary). My shopaholic friend has mentioned to me a couple of times so I checked out the site and then the link to its Best Buy deals and, just for sheer dumb luck, saw the lens that Husband was pointing out to me (“It would be perfect for that wedding I’m doing.”). I got hold of my cousin in California, explained that I’m having something shipped to her address and no it’s not going to cost her anything, but she’s supposed to guard it with her life and deliver it to us when she comes home for the holidays.

Anyway, we all lived happily ever after (Husband more than anybody else). It was certainly quite an experience being able to have a Cyber Monday deal apply to me who’s half a globe removed from the pertinent holidays the concept revolves around (except Christmas, we do have Christmas here).

I Am Finally Withdrawing My Money from Paypal

For a time my Paypal account continued passively accepting payment, but I finally added a local bank account (I was actually waiting for the Paypal people to approve sending money out to a dollar account without converting to the local currency, but who knows when or if that's ever going to happen), withdrew money into it and the process worked. I was convinced I would bungle it somewhere and I'd be fined for the error because that's just the kind of thing that would happen to me. But I actually did it right! Anyway, it took months of vacillation and hunting up the local bank codes (your bank probably won't know it - mine went, "What is Paypal?" - and you can't find it on the Paypal site, no matter how creative you are with their Help and Search features). I finally googled for the answer and found out that it was on an eBay page.
Anyway, I also wanted to share this site. Those in the US will probably get more out of it than I do. It's a site that lists freebies that you can get for your kids. Most of them require an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), which isn't very practical for me, living in the Philippines. I don't like all that SASE business. Remember the time that you needed to do this to submit contributions (excuse me, it was already during the internet age, okay? for some reason, editors were still shy of accepting contributions via email) and between the double-spaced, 1" margin requirements and the cost of mailing to another country, plus the trouble of getting US, UK, Canada, etc stamps for your SASE, your pay pretty much just breaks even with your expenses? Oops, that somehow turned into a rant. Anyway, if you live in the US and love nurturing your personal relationship with the postal service (email is great, but getting something good by snail mail is even better), I think this site will be a delight to you. For those like me and live elsewhere, there are some downloadable freebies as well, so it's worthwhile to give it a visit. It also has a directory of links to other freebie sites.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It Had Better Not Be Mono

Husband had pharyngitis and not tonsillitis as previously suspected. Poor guy was so miserable, he had to give in and pop over to the GP next door. He was there two minutes and he was back home several hundred pesos poorer and clutching a prescription for Augmentin and some N-word pain reliever (doctor's penmanship, legible only to pharmacists). Augmentin (80 pesos a pop!) was enough to break our bank, but his sore throat was gone by the following day. I bet turmeric (a natural antibiotic, plenty of which we have at home) capsules would have done the trick as well, but whatever. I can't blame Husband for wanting the "zapped" kind of relief as he's very much consumed by work, which, btw, missed him so much, it had solicitously (haha, I kill me sometimes) hounded him at the time of sickness and on a weekend(!). Anyway, how sweet *snort*.
On to something lovelier. Marguerite is developing a strong affinity with dirt. They're getting to be such great friends. My baby smells like an actual child now (sweat, sun, and other scents picked up in day-long fun). O, ye days of sweet baby smell are truly departed... Lovely, eh?
Same toddler woke up at 11am yesterday morning. She had missed her afternoon nap the day before and had replaced those hours of restful slumber with hyperactivity and crazy tantrums (we weren't home and she was too disoriented to go down for a nap). She had zonked out during the car ride home, woke up when we got to the house and stayed awake until midnight. We're nurturing good daily habits around here. Tomorrow, couch potato classes with all-day TV and bowls of chips and pitchers of soda and endless bags of trans fat... In case it's not obvious, I'm kidding. The agenda today is to wreak havoc at the church's DVBS. Look out, you teenage volunteer DVBS teachers! :-D
PS. Did somebody get Saturday's or Sunday's Manila Bulletin? I have no idea if my babywearing article has already come out? I could ask the editor, but this is crunch time for her and isn't it just easier to pose this query to the internetz, like something rhetorical and be surprised if somebody really cares to answer?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ethan Powell Is Finally Home in His Maker's Arms

This is from Ben Powell, may God's comfort and peace be with him and his family during this time of grief. To Ethan, who continues to inspire us with his spirit and strength, happy homecoming (for we have to remember where our true home really is...).

April 5th- Day 424 DAY +96
4th Update 12:11 pm [Ben] - This is the update that I hoped never to type. At 11:37am, Ethan left this earth peacefully in our arms. I apologize for my lack of faith and letting you down. I ask that you stand strong in your faith and please continue to pray for "Ethan's friends". I thought alot about this over the last hour orso, and I have decided to keep updating for a short time. I am so angry at cancer and I plan to dedicate my life to fighting it. We need your help to do it. Please continue to check the site to find out the next step. I am speaking for myself when I say this... no child should have to die because of a lack of cure. And I plan to find that cure with your help! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me in this fight. I truly feel so lonely without him here, and I really need this to move forward. Please help me to beat this terrible illness.Although the devils wants to convince me and you otherwise, I still BeLIeVe... PRAYER WORKS!!! And I hope that you do to.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Deliver Us From Germs

Hi. Marguerite is healthy, but her parents aren't. Mark's got it worse. Horrible sore throat. Fever. Skipped going to the office only to have work follow him home (If Mohammed won't go to the mountain...) and is consequently worse off for it (Not that I want anybody to feel bad about it or anything, but he was feeling a wee bit better yesterday morning, but having to spend time in front of two computers made him relapse to beyond the point from which he started). At least it's the weekend. Bad thing though is he has insisted on being put on antibiotics (this one is okay with the drugs, eh?) because he is perfectly miserable. Thank goodness we've been doing baby signs with our daughter because it hurts the poor man to talk and he has been signing to communicate (water, eat, more...). He can't eat (sends back bowls of soup after a few sups), but I've been plying him with copious mugs of hot tea and warm water with lemon and honey. He is also gargling Bactidol at two-hour intervals. Hopefully one of these methods work.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Please Let Me Be So Thick

as to ask you to record a certain TV commercial and then upload it and then tell me to check it out because you've been a wonderful person and did just as I had asked...
My uncle in Calgary called up my mom to tell her to watch out for the promotional ad of the Shaw TV channel on cable. Apparently, one of his wife's old officemates had seen the commercial and some of the clips featured my beautiful cousin (a seven-year old girl of pure gorgeousness that the scrooge in immigration who had been terrorizing everybody who had gone through just had to melt and let them through sans trouble two years ago simply because of their bee-yoo-tee-ful little girl, no kidding - they owe that girl big time, lol) who for the years she lived in our compound was our source of joy and sunshine and was just the darlingest girl ever. If Marguerite hadn't been born 8 months after they had left, I'm pretty sure we would all still be literally crying everyday over her leaving. Now, we just do it sporadically and quickly, still heartbroken but learning to move on. Yeah, you probably didn't need to hear all my asides, but anyway, she was in a kiddie concert sponsored by the community or something and the network covered it and they decided to use a clip of this video that had my cousin in it for their cable channel ad and wouldn't you know it, our cable service does not include Shaw TV in its list of channels (or so my sister claims), so that is why I'm asking. My mom asked my uncle to send a recording, but both of them are non-techies and do not know what they are talking about, so I thought I'd appeal to the internets at large...