Friday, September 23, 2005

Gone camping

Gabriel left this afternoon for a church youth camp at Cultus Lake. This being his first time to be away from home, he was very excited and anxious. “Is there gonna be a shower?” “Are there blankets?” “Are there bears there?” he kept asking.

Knowing that our church puts together wonderful programs for the youth, I encouraged Gabriel to go on this trip. It is also a good way for him to integrate with other church kids, and have some good worship and Bible study time.

Yesterday, we bought his toiletries from Pharmasave. When we got home, I left him to choose his tavel bag and sleeping bag, and pack his own clothes. I wanted him to feel all grown up about it. I felt I should step back and let him take responsibility. He even remembered he had to bring a Bible and a notebook. But now that he has left, I’m here wondering if he brought a pen, his pair of sandals, his toothbrush, enough clothes… Is he able to sleep? Is he warm enough?

I worked only half-day today because Gabriel wanted me to bring him to their meeting place myself. They were told to be at church by 3:30 pm.

“Mom, are you going to stay until we leave?” he asked more than once.

“Yes, I can stay, if you want. I’ll wait till your bus leaves,” I assured him.

As we pulled into the church’s parking lot, he was excited to see the other campers. We got off the car and I walked him towards the church’s lobby.

“Mom, you don’t have to stay,” Gabriel said with confidence.

“Well, OK. Do I get a kiss?” I asked. Gabriel stopped and I gave him a peck on the cheek. He walked on by himself, carrying, not rolling, his wheeled backpack and sleeping bag. He looked like a hiker.

“Have fun,” I called out. Delighted to see him greeted by new friends, I drove off.

This is like taking him to his first day in kindergarten, only I don’t get to peek through the window or the door. And I just have to trust that all will go well, that there will be no bus accidents, no broken bones, and no bears(!).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Markus is 10

It was Markus’s birthday last Thursday. I convinced him to save his birthday money in the bank instead of asking for a gift he would tire of in two weeks or two days. He agreed. Still, he asked me if he could invite his friends over. He was very insistent.

“How many friends are you thinking of inviting?” I asked.

“Three or four,” he said.

Manageable. “OK, we’ll have a simple party on Saturday,” I said. We agreed on the menu – pizza, ice cream, chips, pop, cake, sausages lightly fried in maple syrup and ice cream. As simple as it could get. I made invitation cards on the computer. My friend Esther baked the cake and decorated it nicely like a soccer field with 10 players.

Up to the last minute, Markus was trying to negotiate with me if I could take him and his friends somewhere, like the bowling lanes. He and Gabriel had been thinking it would be very boring just to stay home and play old Nintendo games.

“Boring is what you make it,” I said. “It’s up to you to make it fun or boring. It’s all in your head.” I did not want to spend any more than my budget. Besides, I could only fit four passengers in the car.

I am not a party person. I don’t have the knack for setting up fancy arrangements or thinking of motifs or folding napkins. But I decided to hang multi-coloured buntings I found among our Christmas decors, and I made sure the living and dining rooms were cleaned and vacuumed for our little guests.

At three o’clock this afternoon, Markus’s three friends came one by one. Within a few minutes, they were running around the house, up and down the stairs. Was I glad there were only three! Fortunately, they settled down in front of the TV when Markus set up the Nintendo.

Before they got glued to the TV, I called them around the table. I said a prayer of thanksgiving for Markus and prayed God’s blessings on him and his young friends, thanked God for the food, then everyone started eating. No one cared that the table was not beautifully set up, or that the two extra large pizzas Gino bought from Vancouver had gotten cold. They were busy talking, eating and playing. No one noticed anything else.

Boy, were the kids pumped up. They were  obviously having fun and not bored at all. Markus opened his gifts and scattered everthing on the floor. When his friends left past 5 pm, it was like a tornado hit the living room.

“See, Mom,” Gabriel said. “You shouldn’t have spent time cleaning and vacuuming. It’s more messy now.” Crumbs were all over the floor.

“Well, it’s party,” I said. “I will just vacuum again.”

Markus was very pleased. He gave me a big hug after his friends left.

Happy birthday, Markus!!! It was fun, wasn’t it?


Sunday, September 11, 2005

AirCare - something to care about

I did something for the first time yesterday. I brought my car in for emissions inspection.

Here in BC, we have to do this every year before we can renew the vehicle registration. Mine was expiring this week so I had to go for this test with enough lead time for repairs and reinspection in case it fails the first time.

I was so anxious. Nobody likes to fail the AirCare test. No one wants the possibility of failing a second time or getting his or her vehicle grounded.

Malcolm of Honda told me two months ago that all I needed to do prior to the test was to drive for 30 minutes and to keep the engine running at the lineup.

Yesterday, I decided to go to the AirCare Centre in Langley. At the entrance, the sign read “Wait Time: 11 minutes”. There were three lanes and a few vehicles at the lineup. I made sure I kept my engine running. I kept my prayers running as well. “Oh, God, you know I can’t afford not to have a car. I have kids to take to school and I need it to go to work…”

The AirCare Centre looked like a big garage with several testing gadgets. When it was my turn, a big guy signalled me to drive in and park at the first of three stops. Big Guy looked through my window.

“Please pull up your emergency brake,” he said.

“Which one is that?” I asked. When he pointed to the hand brake, I felt so stupid.

“Open your gas cap, please,” he continued. I got this one.

The inspection started and after I had paid $23, I was told to drive forward to the second stop a few feet ahead where Medium Guy was waiting. He attached a huge hose to the muffler (oh, I got this one too..) He told me to step out of the car, and he hopped in to do his stuff. I went to the washroom to do my own stuff as the tension mounted.

When I came out, I saw a computer monitor in front of the car displaying some readings, which I didn’t understand. Medium Guy went out and motioned me to get into my car.

“It’s good, huh?” he smiled at me.

“Did my car pass?” I asked.

“Drive forward and I’ll give you the results,” Medium Guy said.

I drove to the third stop. Just before handing me the print out, he asked, “What country you from?” He was East Indian, an immigrant like me. Most of the attendants were.

I smiled, unsure if I should tell him where I came from in case Big Guy had told him about me. Small Lady doesn't know her emergency brake. Not a good reflection on my home country.

Coyly, I said, “Philippines.”

He flashed a big smile and told me my car passed.

I was deliriously happy, so delirious I screamed insided my car as I was driving away.


I was glad nobody was around to watch or hear me. And even if there was, who cares? My car passed. I have another year to drive my trusty Honda Accord. For now, that is all that matters.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back to school

Finally, I’m home by myself. It is so quiet in the house, ohh, what bliss! All the kids are in school. I took two days off to help ease everyone back to routine and clean up the summer’s mess. Yep, more cleaning and fixing up to do!! Never ends.

The kids seem pretty excited to go back to school in their new runners and backpacks and packed lunches in brown bags. The teens are upbeat about their new subjects and new school for Gino. Me, I am just upbeat.

Early this morning, I started preparing their hotdog sandwiches. The boys were up and about unusually early too.

“OK, guys, what do you want on your hotdog? Ketchup? Mustard? Mayonnaise?” I asked. No one likes relish.

“Ketchup only,” Gabriel and Markus chimed. “Mom, who puts mayo on hotdogs?”

“Some people do it. Like me,” I replied. I don’t understand why they find that strange. I find them finicky. They won’t eat hotdogs without a hotdog bun. Me, I can eat it with rice, with nothing, or with mayonnaise.

“I want mustard and ketchup,” said Gino. He wanted two sandwiches.

“Ketchup only, no mustard,” said Mickey. Just one sandwich.

“Do you want fruits?” I offered. “Orange? Apple?”

“Both,” for Gino.

“Any,” for Mickey.

Yogurt for Markus and Gabriel. Disposable teaspoon. Iced tea for drinks. Bottled water each for Gino and Mickey.

I kept a mental list of their “orders”, and prepared indvidual bags with their names on. Whew, I could work as a waitress!

We had ample time to relax before driving off. This schoolyear, I plan to change my morning routine, prepare lunches the night before and leave earlier. Gino is now going to UBC, so it’s one less person to drag out of bed.

I am going to enjoy the next few hours with nobody whining, bickering, interrupting my work or correcting my English! My belated holiday!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Not so sleepless in Seattle

I have just come back from an overnight in Seattle. I decided to go with my sister and bro-in-law at the last minute and brought Gabriel and Markus along. I wanted to see family and eat lechon at my other bro-in-law’s birthday celebration. My mother was happily surprised to see us.

This trip was a good respite from my busy schedule, and the last summer outing before school starts. I was able to sleep a lot on the trip because I wasn’t driving this time. I slept quite a bit at my mother’s apartment too, and at my sister’s place three storeys below. It was so relaxing not to worry about cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping. I went out twice, only to visit a thriftshop and Uajimaya (a Japanese supermarket), which were both within walking distance.

Downtown Seattle is not as clean as Vancouver but it has its unique character that makes it very interesting. I enjoy Pike Market, Seattle Center, Pioneer Square, Westlake Mall, Waterfront and Ross department store.

Whenever I am at my mother's seventh-floor apartment, I like looking out the window and watching the lights and the large clock at the Union Station. I also see Safeco and Qwest fields where major league baseball and football are played, respectively. I wish I could actually see the Mariners play, but only if they were sure to win.

Seattle is the main reason we are here in BC and not in Ontario or Prince Edward Island. It is our home in the US. Gino and Mickey spent their summer vacations there until last year. Those were precious times spent with their grandparents and rehashing their Tagalog.

We love Seattle if only because my parents settled there and we have many wonderful memories in this city with my beloved late father and together as a clan. I hope the rest of my side of the family can join us in Seattle someday. Just like old times in the Philippines.