Monday, March 14, 2005

Bad Hair Days

I've been cutting my kids' hair for seven years now, or for as long as we've been in Canada. At $7 - $10 per haircut, that’s a lot of savings for my family of boys. Had I known it'd be costly to get a haircut here in BC, I would've learned haircutting before migrating from the Philippines.

Being a very practical person, and a bit of a tightwad, I determined I would learn to cut my sons’ hair on the job. Initially, my older kids had some doubts and resistance so I gave them a fairly attractive offer for the first few cuts: I would pay them $5 if they let me cut their hair. The bribe would still cost me less than going to the barbershop. I’m not sure if I kept the offer, but I kept the haircutting.

The first time I cut Gino’s hair here, I had no haircutting scissors. I used the kitchen shears. With no experience and no proper tool, I struggled to get a decent cut, and ended up creating terraces. It was very eye-catching.

Through the years, my sons have had some really attractive heads. People would ask them in a funny tone, “Who cut your hair?” The stay-at-home cut.

I can well remember a haircut I gave Mickey that he described as the “jungle look”. “Mom, I have stripes and spots…” The wildlife cut.

My haircutting sessions with my kids often provide comic relief to our mundane lives. Every haircut is a surprise. Their photos in the last seven years bear proof of the many hairstyles they have had to live with and laugh about. This also gave them a lesson or two on optimism. Don't worry, hair grows back.

Over time, I became slightly better with the scissors and the clipper. I even learned to dye their hair--upon Gino and Mickey's insistence--sometimes, a lighter shade of brown, or blondish. Often in streaks and patches.

I have such fussy “clients”. My kids always ask me to cut their hair a certain way, never like their brothers’. “Mom, I don’t like mushroom cut.” “Mom, cut only the back and the sides. Keep the top.” “Mom, I want to be able to spike it.” Mom, this and Mom, that. I try to do as they ask, but in the end, it's come-what-may.

Yesterday, I cut Gabriel’s hair. “Mom, can you make it even this time?” That's the one question everyone asks.

Gino and Mickey have grown their hair and can now go to the salon for more sophisticated hairstyles, IF they have the money. Gabriel is eager to do the same some day. Markus couldn’t care less as long as I do it quickly. (“Mom, that's enough. My hair is never even anyway.”)

Years from now, my sons will look at their childhood pictures and say, “Mom did this haircut.” Good or bad.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Penguins don't fly ...or do they?

This morning I saw Gabriel and Markus playfully rubbing their backs against each other while eating chicken drumsticks in the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “Oh, I know,” I ventured a guess, like we were playing charade. “You are chickens.”

They stopped then chuckled.

“Mom, chickens don’t do this.” Gabriel said. “It’s a bear and a tree, Mom.”

The two started laughing.

“Yah, chickens do that. They rub their backs against each other.” I insisted.

They laughed all the more as they imagined the impossible.

“OK, they rub their BUTTS against each other.” I continued.

The boys couldn’t stop laughing.

I admit I have some challenges with animals. I confuse a seal with a penguin, a wolf with a fox, a raccoon with a skunk. I can quickly identify a lion but not a lioness. My knowledge about animals greatly expanded only after I started having kids. I learned from reading The Animal Alphabet to them, and watching kiddie movies like The Lion King and The Jungle Book. I still learn by occasionally watching shows on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet with my kids. But while they retain the information, I often don’t. I can’t remember what Pumba and Timon are.

Gabriel and I were watching TV not too long ago and I identified a flying bird as a penguin.

“Mom, penguins don’t fly,” he said, chortling.

“Oh, yeah.” Good point.

When I rearranged the young boys’ bedroom, I put together the parts of a red Ikea lamp that had long been disassembled. When done, it was the figure of an animal that nicely fit their their room.

After I had set it at their bedside, I proudly told Gabriel, “I fixed your dog lamp.”

He thought for a moment and said, “Mom, you mean giraffe.”

Oh, I should have known.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ghost in the Cabinet

Early this year, I had the urge to declutter my kitchen, something that was long overdue. I emptied each cupboard and did the tedious task of sorting through the items I had kept for ages. I was baffled by the volume of ingredients that sat there, many of them hardly touched – bags of beans, a wide collection of baking ingredients, tons of spices. It would seem that when others were hoarding bottled water during the Y2K scare, I was stocking up tarragon. And turmeric, cajun seasoning, coriander seed, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme.... I discarded anything unrecognizable, hardened or expired.

It took me two nights to finish the kitchen, and another night to do the fridge. I cleaned late into the night after everyone had retired. In the end, I had a much neater pantry with most everything individually stored in labelled plastic containers with lids. I was very pleased at this rare accomplishment.

One morning, before I could prepare breakfast, I heard someone opening the cupboards and the fridge downstairs. Gino was scouting for food to cook, thanks to Survival Tip #2 (see entry below). Then I heard steps running up the stairs to my bedroom.

Grinning, he stood at my door and said, “Mom, there’s a ghost in the cabinet. It cleaned!”

Will that ghost ever visit the basement too?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Let Them Dream

“Mom, I no longer want to be a doctor or a vet. I don’t like blood,” Gabriel told me as I was driving him to his church youth group.

“But you can help save lives,” I played devil’s advocate.

“Nah. I just want to be like those people who do things behind a desk.”

“But that doesn’t pay much,” I continued throwing in arguments, at the same time speaking from experience.

“Then I’m just going to be a fitness trainer,” he casually replied.

I was tongue-tied. You don't argue with a healthy self-image, and Moms give a bit more room for their kids' ego. I certainly do.

Gabriel, at 11, is pint-sized. He has always been one of the smallest in his class, and the smallest in the youth group he just started attending. I am careful not to make his small stature an issue, because I know he, like Mickey, will shoot up in a few years. But occasionally Gabriel himself brings it up. For instance, his first topic of choice for a speech assignment in Grade 6 was on being small. He abandoned the idea when he could not come up with one convincing advantage in contrast to a host of disadvantages.

In another instance, he complained that all the girls in his P.E. dance class were “either too tall or too fat”. Understand that from his perspective, anyone could easily appear oversized.

To hear him say that he wanted to become a fitness trainer was therefore like hearing him dream of becoming The Undertaker. But I can expect him to say something else tomorrow.

Before we reached the church property, I told Gabriel, “You’re 11 and you have a lot of time to pray for God’s will. He has a plan for your life and that is what’s important.” As a Mom, I have no ambition for my kids but for them to find God's purpose for their lives.

As soon as Gabriel got off the car, he ran off to the church gym. I thought to myself, Yeah, he has the potential. But I'm Mom. That's what I look out for, if not what I see.

Survival Tips in a Houseful of Boys

A friend once asked me how I manage with four sons. She said she has only two and already she is dying. So I quickly sent her the following list before she decides to quit breathing:

1. Clean when you’ve finally had it – remote control gone missing (grrr), spilt milk in the fridge, bloodstains on the carpet (OK, intervene before this happens).

2. Cook nice meals if you plan to eat. Otherwise let them scrounge for anything edible in the fridge or cupboard. This is the surest way to encourage them to cook (and read expiry dates!).

3. Forget the iron. Pressed clothes are passé.

4. Forget the laundry if you have other clothes to wear (or retrieve retro outfit from the antique chest).

5. Dust when you can scribble your name on wooden furniture or the TV set.

6. Windex when you can you see more spots on your face in the mirror.

7. Vacuum if guests are coming. The closet and basement are good places to hide the mess in an instant.

8. Scream only when there’s fire, or right before the boys strangle each other.

9. Hide the Nintendo controllers when you want the boys to do their homework or any house chore faster.

10. Keep the light low for room ambience. If the room is really messy, switch it off.

11. Get indoor plants that do not die.

12. De-stress with the Magic Mic or Karaoke and sing oldies to your heart’s content. This will keep the boys away for a while.

Remember: Dying is a last resort!