Sunday, December 30, 2012

my short old year

With the new year just around the corner, I started to look back on the year that was. But all I could recall was from September onwards - from the time I went on sabbatical here and started spending my everydays with the kids. I realize now, it's when my life in 2012 began.

To be honest, it was scary at first. A very different life from what I'd known and loved all those years. 

But I took a chance...

... and it turned out to be absolutely perfect.

My 2012 began in September. But my short old year has taught me so much more about life than all those long old years of the past. 

Photos from heritage, i'mjustsaying and blondiensc.

Click here and here for previous posts about my sabbatical.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

life on steady ground

Now that I'm on sabbatical and have time on my hands, I've been meeting up with old friends and talk of travel keeps coming up.  Because the old constraint of conserving vacation leave days no longer exists, there have been talks of month-long cruises and overnight train rides.

Oh, don't get me wrong. The idea of visiting new places totally excites me! It's just that my motion sickness here limits me.

I get dizzy just watching this moving photo of a train's hallway...

And even looking at the water here...

I used to think my motion sickness gave me life in slow motion. Turns out, I would have been lucky if it did. Life on steady ground is what it has turned out to be.


Photos from annnniegirl.

Friday, December 28, 2012

pillow talk, literally...

During hotel stays, I always search the closet for a different type of pillow from the one on the bed. Because usually, hotels use down-filled pillows. I guess most guests prefer a soft down pillow that allows one's head to sink slowly into it.

It is, after all, the more costly pillow and I guess hotels believe their guests deserve the luxury. Probably works best for pillow fights too. :)

But I prefer the cheaper fiber-filled pillow.

I'd rather my pillow be resistant to distortion - to "fight back" instead of letting my head sink into it. I end up with a stiff neck the morning after I use a down pillow because my head sinks so deep, it's practically flat on the bed... which for me, defeats the purpose of a heady pillow (as opposed to Noah's huggy pillow).

What about you? What kind of pillow do you like?

Photos are my own and from annnniegirl. Pillow choices with labels are from Holiday Inn Express in Causeway Bay Hong Kong - an affordable hotel option; but its biggest plus is that Cong Sao Star Dessert is at the ground floor! Cong Sao serves delish shaved ice desserts. There's always a line to get in but there's a separate line for takeout orders. So if you're billeted in Express by Holiday Inn, just order your dessert to-go, show your keycard & get a 10% discount, and enjoy your iced dessert in the comfort of your room - with the pillow you prefer!

Click here for a previous post on some charming his & her pillows.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

mornings will never be the same

I cannot imagine the grief those parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut are feeling. I cannot imagine how they dropped off their kids in school, like they do everyday, but this time, it was for the very last time.

When I was working, I couldn't help feel emotional every time I dropped off Noah on his school's driveway. Partly, it was the daily routine of a kiss & a hug in the car, a flying kiss we would both blow to each other once he got out of my car, the imaginary catching of the kiss and planting it on a facial part we so desired that day (nose or cheek, sometimes, even forehead). At some point, Noah started to rub the hand that caught my kiss with his other hand and would plant my kiss on both his cheeks. The wistfulness every morning was also partly brought about by the sight of Noah, with his bag, walking into his school. Somehow, seeing him carry or pull his bag himself into the doorway of his big school made me feel my baby boy was all grown up. Partly, too, it was because it would be another 14 or so hours 'til I would get home from work & see him again.

But now that I am a stay-at-home mom (with no nanny), I realize our mornings have changed. Mornings are a frenzy: waking the kids up, rushing them through eating breakfast, through brushing their teeth & through putting on their uniform so we are out of the door at a time that they won't be late. The roadworks in our area here make the drive to school equally stressful, especially when I try to squeeze in an oral review of what Noah was taking a quiz on that day while deciding which alternate route would result in the lightest traffic. As I drop them off at school, I throw last-minute reminders at them (check the lost & found for your notebook or I'll fetch you at this time at this gate). There might still be a kiss & a hug while I'm rattling off the reminders but they certainly don't feel like the ones I used to enjoy (albeit, with longing) when I was still working.

I cannot imagine what it would be like if last Friday morning turned out to be the last time I'd see my kids. I just cannot.

What I can do... what I vow to do... is to make it a point to share a tender moment with them every morning, like I did when I was working. Last Friday was the end of absent-minded kisses & hugs with reminders in my mind. From now on, there will only be savored kisses & hugs. I'm not sure we can bring back the flying kiss blowing, catching & planting routine because Noah's hands are full, carrying his lunchbox, thermos & plastic envelope (and Isabella is much too old for that). But a meaningful glance back at me before they walk into school will do just fine. It will be our new special moment. From now on.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims of Sandy Hook. Their mornings will never be the same again. Ever. But I pray that they remember the special mornings they did get to share with the child they lost. And that one day, with God's healing power, they will be able to find hope in the dawn of a new day.

Photo from nyctaughtme.

Friday, December 14, 2012

the thing I'm thrilled to miss

This is the time of year when people with two left feet like me (in fact, I believe I have 4 left feet because even my arms don't know which direction to go) are forced to humiliate themselves in office Christmas party presentations. 

This is the time of the year when perfectly respectable, highly-regarded colleagues are reduced to lowly back-up dancers who still manage to degrade themselves by messing up their minuscule part because of their unbelievable lack of dancing talent (I've badly played a tree and a lamp in past Christmas party presentations!) and the embarrassing requirement to maintain a big cheerleader smile during the dance (seriously, why does a tree need to paste that horrid chesire-cat smile with matching raised eyebrows and enlarged eyes?)

This is the time of year when people who conduct themselves with exceptional grace & dignity in the boardroom fall from grace in one swift (though it seems to take forever while it's happening), uncoordinated performance.

So now that I'm on sabbatical from work, I am thrilled that I am missing the office Christmas party presentations!

Photo from annnniegirl.

Funny how about the same time last year here, I was feeling the exact same dread, except then, I couldn't miss it. Click here for a previous post on motherhood-related things I am, on the other hand, thrilled I am not missing. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

my trusty elf

I don't know why I put off putting up our Christmas tree for so long (as you might remember from here and here). Turns out I have an eager assistant to help me.

Though I could argue Noah was more of the boss than the assistant. He insisted on putting the trimmimgs before the lights because I still needed our handyman's help on the latter (half of every set wouldn't light up). He insisted on starting with our Disney ornaments - the one battle I won that day. And insisted he put the star before we were done with the trimmimgs.

Yes, my trusty elf was uber eager! I found myself trying to slow down my excited assistant throughout the process. And he eventually finished off with hanging our Disney ornaments - to his delight! 

They (Rapunzel, Lady & the Tramp and Chip & Dale) have got their backs turned (and some balls of the same color & size are too close together for my liking) but it doesn't matter. The important thing is Noah loved every minute of it!

Photos are all my own.

Click here for a previous post on our Disney trimmings.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

wonder lost?

Noah recently declared that he doesn't believe in Santa anymore. The news broke my heart a little. Okay, a lot. And I was grappling with how to deal with this new reality.

At first, I thought of bombarding him with the Santa proof here (and even add this new one here). But I later decided it didn't make sense to convince him Santa is real, when he really actually isn't.

It took me a while to figure out why it affected me so much. Watching Rise of the Guardians helped me realize that it wasn't mere wistfulness at my 7-year old boy growing up so fast that bothered me. It was a fear that he would lose what believing in Santa represents.

In the movie, Santa showed nesting dolls of his character - how he's seen as jolly or even mysterious. But his "center" - the smallest Santa doll was wide-eyed because Santa's "center" - is wonder.

That's what I was afraid Noah would lose... Childlike wonder... The ability to marvel at magic and have faith in a fairytale's happy ending.

Then at bedtime on the day we watched Rise of the Guardians, Noah urged me to pray that he wouldn't have a bad dream. I was still distraught and so grabbed the opportunity to push another childhood myth from the movie on him, "But Sandman will make sure you have good dreams." He adamantly replied, "That's fantasy, not reality!", and demanded we pray. Immediately after our prayer, he was okay - suddenly unafraid. And I realized he hadn't lost the ability to marvel at magic & believe in a happy ending. He believes in God's miraculous power. And that's the only real magic there is anyway. :) 

Photos are from herehere and here.

Rise of the Guardians is showing now in cinemas. Collect Rise of the Guardian toys with your McDonald's Happy Meal!

Friday, December 7, 2012

alternate route

The Habagat in August destroyed the main road in our area that leads to C5. Sadly, it has been taking so long to fix. So I've had to take an alternate route to bring the kids to school. And I have to admit, the sights along the alternate route were a pleasant surprise. I pass this really old church...

... and some old houses...

... that I feel like I'm transported to an alternate world - ironically, just a few minutes before I enter the bustling Ortigas CBD of modern high-rise buildings.

I've come to enjoy the few seconds each day that I pass these ancient structures. I feel like I'm on a field trip to Old Manila every day. Oddly, without knowing the name of the church or how old these sights really are, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling to just be passing these old buildings - that I imagine to be teeming with the character of a remarkable history.

Photos are my own.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

my Monica-closet house

My house is not the unbelievable, disastrous mess you see as the "before" in the show Clean House. But just like Monica (see more of my Friends obsession here), I've got a closet... okay, a corner... fine! corners and drawers... that are shamefully piled high with category-less clutter.

Now that I have time on my hands (see related post here), I've been cleaning out those closets, corners & drawers that have accumulated clutter since we moved in 8 years ago. Am far from done but so far, I've unearthed 2 VHS players, 3 telephones, 3 vacuum cleaners - all in the storage cabinets under the stairs.

I also found my Advantix rolls, so organized in their special box. 

This, together with film negatives and "developed" photos, are now in the box of photos here.

I also found these casette tapes... 

I have always been an OST lover. Do you remember Ally McBeal and Reality Bites? The Apo & Michael V ones are my hubby's. No one has owned up to owning the Randy Santiago tape though. Amazing how we still have a brand new tape (which has a price tag at the back of P47, just in case you wanted to know).

The Basia CD isn't even mine! Borrowed it from my friend S in college and turns out, I never returned it! Eeep! 

Notice the masking tape label on the Workshy CD? That was for our wedding - to guide the music guy on which tracks to play and when. How primitive huh? The hubby and I scrambled to put these labels on our CDs the day before our wedding! When wedding coordinators and digitally-organized-playlists didn't exist yet.

I also found stacks & stacks of Isabella's childhood books and VHS tapes. After taking out those that can be handed down to Noah and my nieces, I gathered everything up for donation to the Philippine Toy Library. I have to admit I was teary-eyed the day I said goodbye to my baby girl's books & Veggie Tales movies. But the idea that they would now make other children happy felt pretty good.

So far, this de-cluttering has been a dusty yet delightful trip down memory lane. :)

Photos are my own and from here.

Click here for the ofdotsnthings version of this post. Click here for another ancient thing about my wedding. 

Philippine Toy Library is a group of volunteer-friends who provide the experience of play to Filipino children living in cramped, congested areas. PTL transforms idle spaces in barangays/schools/parishes into fun & educational playrooms to keep kids off the streets. Drop-off point for donations is near Ateneo, behind Kenny Rogers, at 56 Esteban Abada Street Loyola Heights, QC (zip code is 1108 in case you want to send them a box of toys just like a friend of mine from Singapore recently did). So go and de-clutter your homes, donate to PTL & bring joy to more Filipino kids.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

oops, my neurosis is showing...

Discovering here that there are things I would have missed had I been at work, I got to thinking about how much I must have missed when Isabella was growing up. It gave me an awful, awful feeling.

Since I didn't have the luxury of taking a break from work then, I started to wonder if work got in the way of mothering when Isabella was a young child. I began to get neurotic, wondering if Isabella's low regard for tidy hair is my fault after all. She didn't seem to adopt the habit of brushing her hair before leaving the house so it is always quite unkempt.

And I wonder if this is because I never spent time fixing her hair when she was a young child. At most, I gathered her hair in pigtails or a ponytail. But I never gave her a fancy braid like this.

Brushing Isabella's hair took only a second or two. And maybe that's why she takes just about that much time with her hair today.

Is this one of those things I missed - one of those things I didn't get to teach her - because I was at work? Had I devoted a bit more time to fixing her hair, would she be sporting a pretty braid like this today?

Awful, awful feeling. Am I right to be guilty? Or is my neurosis showing yet again?

Photos from acupofjo. If it's not too late for you, check out Jo's blog for her pretty hair tutorials.

Click here for previous posts from the Oops, My Neurosis Is Showing... series. Click here for the ofdotsnthings version of this post.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

pretty storefront boards

These Coming Soon boards of Laduree (in Hong Kong) and Kate Spade (in Manila)...

... are so pretty, I'm not sure I want the stores to open because it will mean the boards will come down. :(

Photos are my own.

Click here for the ofdotsnthings version of this post.

Friday, November 30, 2012

the problem with a 7-year gap

While I was post-less since (aaacckk!) halloween (click here for my confession), I took to Facebook to post short updates.

Two FB friends recently mentioned to me that it seemed Noah was my favorite. And I realized then that herein lies the downside of my kids' 7-year gap...

True, the volume of posts (anecdotes & photos) of Noah on my FB page is bigger than that of Isabella's. Partly because a 7-year-old naturally has so much more moments of say, calling fertilizer "karabaw's poop" in a test, than a 15-year-old would. But also because Noah is too young to care if I embarrass him; and Isabella, at 15, I assume would be. So I censor my updates on Isabella and when I do publish a post about her, I refrain from tagging her. I am so afraid I will embarrass her that I ask permission to post a photo of her on FB.

In fact, I recently watched Isabella compete in her first track & field meet. Had it been a school program of Noah, I would have sat with him while waiting for his turn to perform, taken gazillions of photos of him (& his friends) at every opportunity. But at Isabella's track meet, I resisted the urge to hover. I sat at a distance from her. I still took a lot of photos (that I will NOT upload on FB without her approval), but I did so from a distance, putting my cam's zooming ability to the test. It didn't help that I was the only parent there watching. I kept wondering if she'd rather I just left. So I tried to act nonchalant and tried hard not to cheer so loudly during her events.

Yes, this is the problem with my kids' 7-year gap. It can be misinterpreted as favoring one over the other. When the truth is, I love both of them equally. I just need to show that love in an age-appropriate way. And because their age-gap is so huge, my posts about them will inevitably be remarkably different. After all, they are worlds apart. One of them is kissing only Mommy these days while the other could already be kissing boys... 

... (though I seriously hope not. Yet.). I can broadcast anything & everything about Noah - in big, bold letters & an exclamation point. But Isabella's stories need to remain thought balloons & my reaction to them, in parentheses.

Photos from pinkwallpaper & annnniegirl.

Click here for a previous post about my kids' 7-year gap & a feeble attempt at poetry.

Friday, November 2, 2012

dear person taking my photo

While picking the pumpkin shots for this post here, this letter started writing itself in my head. Because how many times have you crouched down or tilted your head or bent your body in an attempt to fit into a photo... Only to discover later how much head space there was above you so you could have actually just stood up straight?

So it's not just you, dear T who took this particular photo. I am also addressing this letter to a lot of other friends (& random waiters in restos)...

Dear person taking my photo, I really wish you would tell me if you were going to zoom out enough for me to fit my whole un-contorted body in the photo so I can get out of my contorted pose. Please do not immortalize me in a photo with my upper body in an unflattering right angle. Also because crouching down - worse, squatting unnecessarily - is not really a breeze either (yes, I'm that unfit) especially when I'm also trying to suck in my tummy (hehe).

Plus, it makes you seem like a professional photographer! The one photography lesson I retained from the hubby (yes, all that aperture talk was lost on me) is to resist putting people's faces in the vertical middle of the frame and instead, minimize the space above people's heads - especially if that's mostly just a blank wall or unsightly ceiling.

So dear non-professional photographer taking my picture... Kapag kasya naman ako sa picture (if I fit into the picture anyway), please please tell me not to bend or crouch down anymore.

Photo is my own.

Click here for previous posts from the Dear... series.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

special occasion profile pics

I love special occasions. I don't necessarily decorate the house on every occasion (except of course for Christmas). But I realized this Halloween that I do "decorate" my FB page.

That photo above is my Halloween profile pic this year. And this one was last year's Halloween (Fall?) profile pic...

This was my New Year profile pic...

And my Dragon Chinese New Year display photo: with Mushu the dragon from Disney's Mulan!

Hmmm... I don't have Christmas profile pics yet. Worst-case, maybe this photo with a minion can work. 

Can he pass for Santa's elf?

Oh, what the heck! I've still got the Halloween spirit so will be keeping my Frankenweenie profile pic for a while. Hopefully, by the time Christmas rolls around, I'll have a more Christmassy display pic. Haha! If only decorating the house for Christmas were as easy as changing a profile pic...

Photos are all my own.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How Halloween didn't go exactly as planned...

I had a specific criteria for Noah's Halloween costume this year. First, I didn't want to spend so much (after all, I no longer have a monthly salary). Second, I wanted him to be comfortable (I didn't want him to feel hot in thick, full-body covering). Third, I didn't want his costume to be very common. But most importantly, I wanted Noah to want his costume - to love it.

So I started by asking Noah what he wanted to be this Halloween. He answered, "Captain America". Okay, I admit, like Pat of 101gramsofeyecandy here, I love crafts but 90% I do in my head and only 10% actually get done (okay, maybe just 5%). So off to the department store we trekked. Noah wanted the hard-plastic mask and not the soft cloth-mask the commonly available Captain America costumes come in. He also didn't like the readily-available costume because it was light blue, not dark blue (as you know from here, Noah is quite a perfectionist). Since the mask cost about as much as the costume, I was quite glad the Captain America plan didn't work out.

So I searched Noah's cabinets for something that would work and found his eyeglasses and Harry Potter wand (which my brother handcrafted for him a while back). Then I searched the web for photos of Harry and found this.

Perfect! Coz I thought younger Harry's cape & Hogwarts uniform with the tie would be too hot to go trick-or-treating in. Plus, Noah had this Old Navy shirt in his closet already! I thought, how comfy it would be to go trick-or-treating in a t-shirt!

Armed with my internet photo, I successfully convinced Noah to want to dress up as Harry Potter. I just needed to get him round-rimmed glasses (as I said, he's a perfectionist). Just the cost of play glasses, I was fulfilling everything on my criteria!

Then... I got the call from my mommy-friend C. Turns out, another mommy-friend hatched the idea of making our boys come as Ninjago masters (the characters of the Lego Ninja show on Cartoon Network).

My mommy-friend C is a true crafter - actually doing the crafts instead of just in her head. So she made these unique costumes for the boys.

Noah's the white ninja.

Oh, and I just had to show you this. Isn't this the cutest Sensei Wu ever?

So that's how Halloween this year didn't go the way I planned. I ended up spending on a costume and Noah did not only end up going trick-or-treating in a long-sleeved shirt & vest, he also went around in full headgear! But he didn't care about the heat. He had the most fun at the back of C's pick-up with the rest of his Ninjago friends. Just posing at PhotoMania's photobooth seemed like a lot of fun!

I did tick 2 things off my list. It was a unique costume - the boys won a prize for it and one kid even approached me to ask where Noah got his costume. And Noah absolutely loooooved his costume. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

What about you? What did your kids come as this year? Did you make the costumes yourself? Or did you go for a store-bought one?

Photos are my own and from nyctaughtme, here and here.

Click here for the costume Kris of ocmominmanila made for her daughter (yes, Kris has more DIY-genes in her than I do). Click here for previous Halloween posts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

oops, my neurosis is showing...

Signs that my candy obsession might be a tad neurotic:
1 I always have a plastic pouch of strawberry tape in my bag. And they're for me, not the kids. In fact, I have to admit I secretly wish the kids don't ask for some. Haha, selfish!

2 I truly believe my tummy has a separate compartment for candy. No matter how stuffed I am -- as the hubby would say, "kapag kasing-tigas na ng ulo ko yung tiyan ko" (cannot be translated for my non-Filipino readers so just read as "No matter how extremely full I am..."), I still have space for candy.
3 A trip to NYC is not complete without a visit to the M&Ms and Hersheys stores. I've had photo ops with the M&Ms mascots, I drool over the huge tubes of uniquely colored M&Ms (in unique pastels, easter colors and even different shades of neutrals)...

... and I struggle with the decision to NOT buy a pair of M&Ms earrings...

... or Hershey's memorabilia (and I go through this tug of war in my head every single time!).

4 I have a Bubbleyum messenger bag that I use as my office laptop bag. I shamelessly bring it to the boardroom amid my colleagues' Prada and Furla laptop bags (Don't worry, my direct-reports still respected me, or at least they acted like they did. Hehe.).

I first spotted it in FAO Schwarz but the tug of war in my head went towards not-buy. Months after though, I regreted my decision and purchased it online.

Oops, is my neurosis showing yet again?

Photos from annnniegirl, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Click here for previous posts from the Oops, My Neurosis Is Showing... series.