Thursday, October 27, 2005

Making a mountain out of a mole

Markus has a big mole near the corner of his mouth. Many adults find it charming. He DOESN’T.

Nothing annoys him more than being teased about it by, who else, but his Kuya Gabriel. Gabriel, on the other hand, knows that the easiest way to get under Markus’s skin is to allude to his mole, so he resorts to it whenever he is upset with Markus.

“Mom, Kuya Gabriel called me mole,” Markus whines and complains over and over.

Gabriel doesn’t even have to say “mole” to tick Markus off. He could simply place the tip of his finger on that part of his face where Markus’s mole would be on his. Markus would be miffed and make a big fuss.

“MOM!!!” That all familiar scream. It gets to my nerves.

I quickly snuff out his mole-whining or reprimand Gabriel. But it’s not working. Markus continues to make a mountain out of, well, his mole. He can’t get past this molehill.

This very thing happened before bedtime last night. The two were squabbling in their bedroom and Markus called out to me.

Exasperated but with restraint, I said, “You have to get over it, Markus. You can’t do anything about your mole.”

“Yeah, Markus,” Gabriel butted in. “Even I have a mole.” Gabriel, Mickey and Markus each has one big mole on some part of the body.

“But it’s on your arm and you hide it under your sleeves. Mine is on my face!” Markus retorted.

“What can you do? That’s nature. It doesn't look bad,” I said.

“Is it nature if people come up to you and make fun of your mole?” Markus was still incensed. By “people” he was obviously taking a swipe at Gabriel.

“That is HIS sinful nature,” I remarked. “Your mole is your natural feature." I paused then continued. "Markus, listen to me,” I made sure I got his attention. “When he makes fun of your mole, it’s NOT about you, ok? It’s about HIM being insensitive and inconsiderate. It’s not at all about you. Your mole doesn’t look bad.”

Markus had calmed down.

Ahhh, I need the wisdom of Solomon for those times when I have to make a molehill out of a mountain...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Winterizing the house

The cold season is upon us. It’s time to turn on the heater and cough up more money for our gas and electric bills. I tried to delay this as long as I could by telling my family to wear warm clothes.

I read on the Internet that to save on utilities, we should set the thermostat level at 68 – 69 degrees Farenheit during the day when people are at home, and lower it to 63 – 64 degrees at night when people are sleeping. I’m not sure if I remember the numbers right. No matter, I sometimes set it a degree lower or higher, but never 70 or above.

Other people find our home too cool for comfort. My brother-in-law, who visited last year with my sister and mother from Seattle, suggested that I insulate the glass window and sliding door panels in the living room. That was the first time I became aware that there were ways to keep the heat in and the cold out other than revving up the thermostat.

I also noticed cold drafts of air coming into our house from the bottom of the front door. We covered the area with a floor rug until I found out in one of my trips to the hardware store that there was such a thing as a door sweep. Ours must have needed a replacement.

So this autumn, I’ve been going back and forth to Wal-Mart, Rona, Home Depot and Canadian Tire and learning how to winterize the house. I scrutinize the items that might serve my purpose, and spend a lot of time reading labels and installation instructions. I find this engrossing. In fact, when I brought Gabriel and Markus to the Fleetwood Recreation Centre two weeks ago, I visited Rona Home Centre across the street. Since when did I choose a hardware store over a water slide and Olympic-sized swimming pool?

Thus far we’ve done a few things in the house -- changed the furnace filter, vacuumed the floor vents, placed filters on these vents, changed the door sweep, attached weatherstrips on the front door and sliding door, and installed plastic insulation films on the glass window and glass doors on the main floor. I will finish the last panel tomorrow. I’m sure there’s more to do. Lots more.

I hope to finish everything by the end of October and start putting up our Christmas decors. This way, it wouldn’t seem so cold and dreary.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sweet and short

I just have to blog this.

I fell asleep quite early last night. Didn’t even change my top, nor sleep in the right place. I was dead to the world by 9 pm, bushed after work and grocery shopping.

About an hour later, I sensed Markus snuggle up to me. I wanted to strike up a conversation but was sort of in between dreaming and waking up. Then I heard him say quietly, “Dear God…”

Half-awake, I said something totally irrelevant--I couldn’t even remember it--in my desire to have a small talk with Markus. Realizing the ill-timing of my senseless words and still struggling to wake up, I muttered, “Pray before you sleep, Markus…”

“I just did. Let me pray for you, Mom,” he said tenderly.

“Okay,” I said. That pulled me out of my grogginess. Normally, I would be the one saying that to him at bedtime or when I wake him up in the morning.

“Dear God, please protect my Mom,” Markus prayed.

What a sweet, short prayer that must have stormed the gates of heaven.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wanted: Boredom busters

My boys, with the exception of Gino, have been off school since last Friday because teachers are on strike. Class suspension, regardless of the reason, is always good news to elementary and high school students, but bad news for parents. For me, this means more food consumed at home throughout the day, more mess accumulated, and more unexpended energy that will greet me at the end of a long day, especially in this kind of weather.

Yesterday, I found pillows all over the living room when I arrived from work. This is not unusual. My sons literally throw our throw pillows, and not just throw but kick them as well, by Markus's own admission. While I was resting on the couch, he animatedly showed me how he kicked a pillow over the couch, towards the bookshelf (“It didn’t hit anything Mom.”), back to the couch, jumping twice over the backrest... I had a hard time following his blow by blow account.

If the throw pillows aren’t enough, they take down their bedroom pillows and hit one another with those.

“Guys, the thing you see on TV where they have pillow fights and feathers flying all over the place, we DON’T do that!” I emphasized. Not that we have that kind of expensive pillows but I don’t want to buy more pillows, period.

Gino doesn’t have school on Tuesdays. Last Tuesday, he cleaned his room, miracle of miracles! As I walked in the door after work, he greeted me, “Mom, this is the cleanest I’ve seen my room.” I checked and true enough, his room was very neat indeed. A few days ago, you could hardly see the floor, and I’m not exaggerating.

Mickey spends a lot of time fixing our computer and working on a website. He can sit in front of the computer for long periods but he goes out with friends, too. He’s happy with the teachers' strike.

Gabriel and Markus mostly stay at home and play on the computer or with the Gameboy or with each other. I give them chores to do during the day and check on them from work. But the strike is stretching on and they are getting bored.

Last night, while I was preparing dinner, Markus came down and complained.

“Mom, I’m bored,” he said. “There’s nothing to do.”

“What do you think will make you not bored?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he whined.

“Well, think. What do you want to do? What will make you NOT bored?” I repeated. I was pushing him to think.

“Why can’t you?” he threw the question back to me.

“It’s not my body,” I said. “What do you want to do?” I suspected he already had something in mind.

“Something that has nothing to do with cleaning,” Markus declared before I could give him a chore.

Shortly, he went back upstairs and Gabriel came down. It turned out Markus had been impatiently waiting for his turn on the computer, and the waiting bored him.

I realized I have nothing prepared for the boys to do should the teachers’ job action go on indefinitely other than those that have something to do with cleaning --washing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the table, fixing the bed...

I am open to suggestions.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Rich in other ways

On our way to Metrotown mall, Gabriel lamented, “Why aren’t we rich?” This was after I had told him we were not really going shopping, but more like window shopping.

“We are rich,” I said. Then I enumerated the things we were rich in. “Love, friends... We’re just not rich in money.”

I avoided saying “We’re poor” because it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if said or thought of repeatedly. Doesn’t the Book of Proverbs say, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”? Besides, the word “poor” is highly subjective.

Gabriel clarified his statement. “I mean, money, Mom,” he said. “Why don’t we have money?”

“We have money, too,” I corrected myself. “It’s still in God’s hands though. But it will come.”

“What do you mean? Is it going to follow us to the mall?” he was being sarcastic.

Living here in Canada, I feel truly blessed for what we enjoy as a normal part of life even if we are not, by Canadian standards, wealthy. I have seen so much poverty where I came from, who am I to complain now? Many kids who grow up here don't even have a clue what stark poverty looks like.

One of my big challenges as a parent is teaching my boys how to value money without worshipping it. In North America, materialism can rub off on you so quickly if you don't watch out, and my kids are just as vulnerable.

I am not against getting rich but if it becomes your overriding goal, I believe it will eat you alive. “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” There will be much less troubles in this world if people were not so greedy.

I want my boys to succeed in life. I want to see them prosper with integrity. But before then, I want them to build their character so they will be strong and wise enough to handle prosperity when it comes.

Upon learning that his aunts and their spouses were vacationing in Europe, Gabriel asked, “Mom, are they rich? And I mean in money, not in looove…”

“Yes, they are rich in money, but they are also rich in love,” I answered. In fact, they are among my usual examples to my kids of money falling on the right hands because they are ever so generous.

Do I want to be rich...in money? Sure I do, but only as God blesses me and I gain it honourably. Just the same, I am thankful for what I already have.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

From the bottle depot to the bank

Markus and I went to the bank not too long ago to open his own savings account. Before that, we went to the Guildford Bottle Depot to redeem four bagfuls of empty bottles and cans that he and Gabriel had collected from our kitchen. (Our deal is that they get to have the $ if they collect the bottles and bring them to the depot with me.)

“Markus, we will deposit $30 to your name,” I told him. I had planned to deposit more but he chose to have a little birthday party. So I deducted some amount to make him understand that choices have a cost. We made a deal. He made a choice. Now we had to stand by it.

“Plus the $5 I got from Jesse,” he remarked, making a reference to a gift he got.

“Oh, yes. That makes it $35,” I said. “And the $10 you made today from the bottles. You have $45 now!” I said excitedly.

“Make it $50, Mom,” he said.

“No, it’s $45.” Even if it was tempting to simply round it off, I stood my ground to teach him that money is hard earned, and you had to work and save up for it.

“What about the massages? I’ve been massaging you since January, blah, blah, blah..and you have not paid, blah, blah, blah…” Markus has a good, albeit sometimes skewed, memory of our “transactions” and it could go all the way back. Or I have a short memory, and don’t do a good accounting of all his massages that were not “for free”. (Yes, he occasionaly offers to give me a free back massage.)

Not wanting to engage him in a long argument (which is hard to win with Markus anyway) about the massages he had given me “since January”, I agreed to the $50. Besides, he could be right.

“So, Mom, can I withdraw a dollar? I want to buy something,” he said after getting his own passbook and ATM card.

“No, this is just for depositing,” I replied. “We need to save up for college.”

I wonder how many bags of empty bottles that would take.