Monday, February 28, 2005

Purity Ring

I was doing my make-up in the washroom when Markus snuck in and asked, "Mom, can you give me a ring or a cell phone?"

"I can give you a ring when there's one small enough to fit your finger."

"Mom, it will only be slightly smaller than your ring."

"Well, ok then. I'll get you one from Save-On or Wal-Mart. Hey, would you like to have a purity ring?"

"What’s that?"

"It's a ring that will remind you to keep yourself pure. You will give it to your future wife as a sign that you have kept yourself for her…"

"Mom, no one is pure."

Sensing that he misunderstood what I meant by "pure" as opposed to "sinless", I explained, "Yes, there are people who are pure. They don't sleep around. They don't give their bodies to anyone, not even to their girlfriend. So when they stand at the altar when they get married, they are pure…"

In so many words, I blabbered about purity while I continued with my lipstick and blush-on, somewhat unmindful if Markus was getting it. Finally, Markus interrupted, "Mom, can you just give me a cell phone…?"

I couldn't contain my laughter on that one. When I regained my composure, I replied, "Nope, that is too expensive."

"But the ring is expensive too."

"No, I can get one for $5." He was okay with that. Later, he and Gabriel barged into my room while I was grabbing some office clothes.

Gabriel asked, "Mom, where can you get a $5-ring?"

"I can get one from Save-On."

He was incredulous. "A gold ring for $5?"

"Of course not! It's not real gold."

Markus was flabbergasted, "Mom, you mean you're not getting me a REAL ring?"

"Well, even I don't have that kind of ring. Look at my wedding band. It's a buy-one-take-one."

So there. It may take them a while to appreciate the meaning of a purity ring. But it will take me longer to get them a gold one.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

No Honking

Here on our city streets, you will hardly hear vehicles honking. You should only make a light tap when it's useful to other drivers or to prevent a crash, as stated in the BC's Safe Driving Guide. Otherwise, it is considered rude, and my officemate said, in some cases, illegal.

I have been driving for about 3 years and I’ve never had to honk on the road. NEVER. I sometimes give my sons a quick toot to rush them out of the house in the morning. I’m so not used to hearing a loud honk that when I accidentally press my own horn, I get startled. Then I apologize even if there's no one around. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Last Saturday, while driving Markus home from a birthday party, we stopped at a red light. An impatient driver honked at another car. Somewhat annoyed by such discourtesy, I asked, “Who was that?” I thought it was the car left of me. Markus thought it was the one on the right.

“You don’t make put-put, put-put here,” I thought aloud, somewhat snottily.

“What do you mean ‘put-put put-put’? The word is HONK,” Markus mocked my bastardized English reminiscent of the bastardized Tagalog made popular by the likes of Kris Aquino.

For those of you who are planning to come to Canada, take note: Road rules are actually enforced and followed here. Green means go, amber means stop (unless it’s unsafe to do so), and red means really stop or risk being apprehended by a patrol car or caught on camera (I’ve been caught in this way and was fined $144!) Pedestrians always have the right of way. And don't be surprised to see people using the crosswalk! Speaking of right of way, it is something you yield, not claim. Road courtesy is generally practiced except by arrogant teenaged drivers and road raging adults who love to make put-put put-put. Don't let them get to you. Resist the urge to honk back. There's no law against hand signals.


As we walked home from Tita Ma's house one Sunday, Markus began talking about his lungs and heart to which I responded, "Oh, you are good in anatomy."

He replied, "No, Mom, I don't even know where intestines (in-tes-tynes) and testicles are."

So I described where they are and he mentioned something about "penirs" and his "puny winky".

"Did you say penirs?" I asked.

"Yah, i thought i can't say pen*s. So can I, Mom? If I can say intestines and testicles, I can say pen*s, right?"

I saw an opportunity there for some sex education so we talked about the male parts and the female parts. I stressed how God made boys and girls different. I affirmed his maleness, that it's good, etc., and assured him it will grow. So young and insecure already?

The following day, I asked him if he remembered what he learned about anatomy. He said, "Yes, the testicles are in your balls."

I quickly added, "Only boys have balls."

"Yeah Mom, and girls have puffs."

Puffs? "What are puffs?" I asked.

Markus was distracted and left the dining table before giving me an answer.

I mentally surveyed my body for anything slightly resembling a puff, whatever that was. I was curious. My 8-yr old seemed to know something i didn't... I never fully understood the female anatomy until I got married. Now this little guy I was supposed to be giving some sex education to says terms I had never used. It made me feel old and out of the loop. I cringed at what my teens might know.

Still curious, I gently asked him again the next day, "Markus, what are puffs?"

"Oh, I made that up."

He sure made up a good one.


“Hello, this is L speaking,” I greeted the other person on the line.

“Oh hi, Mrs. C. I’m calling from Johnston Heights Secondary. Your son Mickey is here at the office. He has stomach ache and would like to go home. He doesn’t have the keys to your house but we have called Gino down. Is it okay for him to go home?” the lady politely informed me.

Concerned, I asked, “May I speak with him, please?” I wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious nor flimsy.

“Sure, please hold on.” She called out to Mickey and instructed him to pick up the other phone.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Uhmm, magtatagalog ako,” he started to speak slowly and deliberately, carefully choosing each word. “Uhmm, gusto koh nah mah-ehbahk…”

I restrained a snicker. Coming from my Canadianized 17-year old son who never speaks to me in Tagalog, that slang term sounded, well, foreign. This is the second time in a week that he had tummy ache and had to sign out from school, so I began to probe. But, like him, I wanted to avoid saying diarrhea within my officemates’ earshot, so I spoke in the vernacular as well.

“Ano yan, paulit-ulit? Bumabalik-balik?”

Mickey didn’t quite get it.

“Ano, ah, gusto mo mag-u-u, minsan lang o balik-balik?” I was beginning to sound funny to myself. “Kung minsan lang baka naman pwede dyan na lang sa school.”

Just then I realized there was a new Filipina employee being toured in our department and standing a few feet behind me. Mick refused to use the school washroom.

“Ano, babalik ka sa school?”

“Ahmmm..” he was running out of words and in a hurry to go. “I’ll see if I can come back. Or I’ll just go to the clinic because my ear hurts.”

With that I let him go wondering if our conversation would have been better off had I used the acronym LBM. But I also wasn’t sure if Canadians used this term or just us acronym-loving FOBs.

There is definitely an advantage to speaking in another language like Tagalog, but sometimes I find English—the straightforward, grammatical English words—less offensive. For some reason, certain Tagalog terms—the straightforward, grammatical Tagalog words—simply sound disgusting. They are too embarrassing even for a dictionary. I remember searching for certain terms out of curiosity only to find them missing. I can quickly rattle off a few but I won't, for the sake of decency.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Whose Turn Is It Anyway?

Among the earliest chores my boys have to learn are setting the table and washing the dishes. This means reminding them that plates have a backside, glasses have an inside, and forks have in-betweens. Still, you can expect some greasy plates, rice stuck between the fork tines, and glasses that bubble when you pour water in.

Gino and Mickey started doing it alternately from ages 6 and 5 way into their teens. Now, it’s Gabriel and Markus’s turn. We’ve had to modify the division of labour several times: one sets and cleans up the table, the other washes all dirty utensils; one sets and everyone washes his own; one does everything today, the other does everything tomorrow… name it they’ve tried it, including not eating to avoid washing.

Markus and Gabriel alternately set the table, one meal at a time. I thought this should be the fairer thing to do in case we have pizza at home or eat elsewhere. Nobody skips a turn because he gets to do it at the next regular meal. This would also make it easier for them to remember who sets when. NOT!

Last Saturday, I decided to prepare some roti (flatbread) and curry. This is a fairly simple meal that can be eaten by hand. All you have to do is break the roti and dip each bite-sized piece in curried meat and vegetables, or make a fajita-like wrap. All it requires is a plate.

Before I finished lightly frying the last remaining pieces of roti in a little olive oil, I began the usual call: “Guys, set the table.”

This announcement triggered an argument I hear over and over:

“Markus, it’s your turn!”

“No, I set yesterday.”

“No, I set yesterday.”

“Mom, what did we eat yesterday?”

“I can’t remember what we had yesterday. I went to Missions Fest in Vancouver. I told you to keep track of your turns. Don’t ask me. Just decide it between yourselves.”

Thus started a spirited discussion on who set yesterday until they remembered they had pan de sal and sardines for dinner, and nobody set.

“So Mom, what did we have on Thursday?”

“Don’t ask me. I can’t remember.” They were beginning to get to my nerves.

“Did we have something soup-y?”

Exasperated at their incessant questioning and my inability to remember any meal, I said, “I went to church on Thursday. We ate something before I left. Wednesday, I took you to church after dinner.” By recalling our routine, I was hoping to jog their memory - and mine.

“So what did we have on Tuesday?”

Argghhh. They were lucky I wasn’t having PMS.

“When did we have chicken, Mom? Oh yeah, I think we had chicken on Tuesday,” Gabriel seemed to finally remember something. He loved my crispy fried chicken and Korean dip sauce. He remembered setting the table for that dinner.

So they continued working forward to Saturday, and the turn fell on Markus. Not one to accept such a misfortune without a struggle, Markus started to mumble. Meanwhile, I focused on the roti and played deaf.

Suddenly Gabriel yelled from the living room, “Mom, Markus said ‘Swear to God’.”

“No, I didn't!” Markus rebutted quickly .

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t! I almost did but I stopped,” he whined.

“Swear to God?”

“HAH! Now YOU broke it,” Markus said vindictively, referring to our "no-saying-swear-to-God" house rule.

That’s when I broke my silence. “Just set 4 plates already or both of you will be grounded for the whole weekend!”

And this quickly settled it.


Quite hungry after church one Sunday, my sons and I devoured chicken and rice with our favourite Korean sauce that I make from scratch. Each had three pieces of chicken with chopped tomatoes and green onions on the side. With his last piece of chicken, Markus proudly announced, “I can make a soufflé of this!”

Gino responded, “You don’t even know what a soufflé is.”

“So? I can make it!” With the charm and confidence of Jamie Oliver, Markus grabbed some rice with both hands and generously sprinkled it on the chicken drenched in Korean sauce.

As I watched him enjoy his “soufflé”, he began this hilarious chatter:

“Mom, I know how you can say ‘ugly’ to someone without using the word ‘ugly’. You just describe the person, like ‘You smell terrible and you look horrific.’ Or you can say, ‘Your face is deformed.’ Or, ‘You have very thick make-up. What’s with it?’”

This got me LOL-ing.

In our house, there are certain words they should not tell each other or other people for that matter, words such as “stupid idiot”, “gay lord” and, yes, “ugly”. Certainly not in my presence. The rule is: Words wound for a very long time and we should not be saying negative things about the person, only about the behaviour. (“That’s a stupid thing to do.” vs. “You are stupid.”)

If I catch them (Gabriel and Markus) saying bad words, they are fined a dollar which I deduct from their massage money (money they earn from giving me a massage). I have saved some with this rule. Gino and Mickey are already too old for this kind of “discipline”. On the other hand, if they catch me saying bad words, I get fined $2. They have caught me a few times – once when I think I said “stupid driver” when somebody cut me off on the road. Another was when I saw a rich and famous TV personality without make-up in a fundraising show for tsunami victims. I blurted, “She’s ugly!” before I could think and say, “Her make-up artist has been doing an excellent job!!” They have not forgotten this incident.

Gino swears he has heard me swearing in the kitchen. Must be when I cut my finger or got burnt. I thought I say “shoot” not “sh-t”. “Siet-e” doesn’t count, does it?

I think I need to make up my own swear word so that these guys will not mock me with, “Mom, you said a bad word!”

What about “Soufflé!”

If Markus can use it for a chicken dish, I can use it for chicken sh**. Hey, no saying bad words.