Sunday, December 24, 2006

Greetings from my family



and greetings from me



More Christmas snapshots at home









Friday, December 22, 2006

Gabriel is a teen



Gabriel turned 13 this month. He’s officially a teen! He is growing up fast, surprising people who hadn’t seen him in a while. Is it 13 years only? It feels like I’ve had him in my life for much longer. It's good to be stay-at-home while kids are growing up. You get to enjoy that period longer, and I tell you, it goes fast.

Gabriel was born almost six years after Mickey. By then, I was emotionally and mentally prepared to have another baby. Gino and Mickey were going to school. I was fulltime at home missing having a baby. I had forgotten how it was to wake up in the middle of the night. I was ready to do it over.

I had forgotten the pain of childbirth too. Okay, I wasn't so brave about this one. As my due date approached, I became more and more scared about giving birth a third time. It wasn’t like, Oh I know how it feels. I can do it again. It was more like, Ooooh, I knooow how it feels. I’m not sure I can go through it again the natural way.... My bones and muscles could have become less pliable in six years.

Thank God, I gave birth naturallly to a healthy 6-lb baby without a problem. We took him home in two days. At first, I was concerned about having a newborn at home without a househelp nor family nearby. How in the world would I manage with three kids and do housechores too? Fortunately, Gabriel was a very good baby. He didn't make a lot of fuss. Fortunately, too, everyone else in the family--his brothers and dad--helped around the house. Thus, we managed.


Mom and Gabriel in Caliraya, Laguna


It was bonding time for baby and me whenever we were left to ourselves at home. Gabriel and I played with toys, read books, slept, ate, cooed... I talked to him a lot. I would repeatedly read to him a framed cross-stitch on the kitchen wall that says, "Even my failures are edible". He would laugh and laugh.

As Gabriel learned to roll over, crawl and stand, I left him less and less by himself on the bed or in the playpen unless he was sound asleep. I lugged him around, often stradled on my left hip, as I went about my chores. Good training on multitasking.


Adorable!

Gabriel easily endeared himself to anyone who came in contact with him. We could pass him on to people he had not previously seen. His name befitted his countenance. You're such a darling angel! He made it so much easier for me to have three little children by being a content and happy baby that he was.



Gabriel was in Mabuhay magazine

I did feel a little sad and concerned though that he was born way behind his two older brothers. Who will be his playmate at home when his brothers get older? Wouldn't he feel alone? These concerns were shortlived as we would welcome baby Markus less than two years later.

Now Gabriel is a teen. He is becoming his own person and acquiring his own taste in music, outfit, hairstyle... He is doing very well at school and has many friends. He is into computers and Gamecube too. His teachers say good things about him. He can be mischievous and also gets to my nerves sometimes, but on the whole, he is pleasant.

My prayer for Gabriel is that he will withstand peer pressure and live by the values he's heard at home and in church. I pray for godly influence around him and for a hedge of protection against all sorts of vices and evil. I continue to entrust Gabriel over to God, His Maker, to watch over him 24-7, while I release him more and more. I hope it is not too early to say, but I can see him growing up into a fine young man.

Way to go, Gabriel!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

...and found

[the continuation]

It was Tuesday and my car had been missing for two days. I was beginning to feel impatient to hear news of its recovery. Even so, I continued to believe that it would be found. Unless it was plunged into the river..., I thought. It’s not easy to get away with that crime. Not here anyway. Can't hide it, can't re-paint it, can't re-sell its parts to used car parts dealers, can't take it across the U.S. border... It can't go anywhere far... These thoughts kept my hopes up.

Finally, coming home from work Tuesday afternoon, I learned that an officer had called our house to say our Honda had been found and brought to Unitow. Gabriel got the short message. I had no opportunity to ask where, when or how.

I was delighted to hear the news. I immediately informed ICBC about it. From here on, it would be in their hands. This meant ICBC would have it towed it to their claim centre for a thorough inspection and clean-up, and then for turnover to the body shop of my choice. I also shared the good news with the people who had prayed for my car’s recovery. But up to this point, I had no idea about the car's condition.

Because of procedure, it would still take days before I could get my car back. I still needed a rental car. Wednesday, I got a red 2006 Chevy Impala LT at Hertz. “Wow, this smells so good!” I exclaimed to myself as I got in the car that had power everything and so many push buttons. It took me about 15 minutes reading the manual before I could leave the parking lot. I was expecting an old Impala, not a spanking almost new one. Thank you, Hertz friend.

The boys were very excited about the car. “Mom, let’s keep this one!” they begged. “Whoa, we drove over a bump and did not feel it!” “Wow, sun-roof!” “Guys, stop pushing buttons. You might open something else!” I drove a nice car for the next few days. I was starting to feel comfortably spoiled.

Thursday, Bud and I marked our anniversary driving from city to city in a suave car that wasn’t in the original plan. Breakfast at White Rock. Lunch in Vancouver. A little shopping in between. What a convenient timing! The only downside was that only I could drive. Rental car policy.

Friday, I finally heard from Boyd Body Repair that ICBC had sent my car over to their shop. The only damage on the car was on the ignition lock, and the battery was dead. “Is the CD player still there?” I asked. Yes, it is.

On Monday, I returned my rental car early in the morning, which really upset the boys. In fact, they were more upset this time than when the Honda was stolen.

I proceeded to Boyd and finally got to see my Honda being repaired. Most of the items I had in the car, including the car registration papers locked in the glove compartment, were still there and gathered in a big plastic bag. I was able to take the car home that afternoon.

It took me a while to get used to driving the Honda again. It felt so light compared to the Impala which reminded me of the van I used to drive. But our car was very clean. As a procedure, ICBC had it vacuumed and decontaminated to make sure there was no undesirable object, like drugs perhaps, left inside it by the car thief. I had been wanting to vacuum the car for the last year. It had to be stolen before this could be done. Funny, I noticed the word Accord on the floor mat on the driver side for the first time! I could not remember seeing that. Good job, cleaner!

I lost a few things on top of the money I had to pay for the ignition assembly. I lost 8 or 9 CDs, mostly praise and worship, in the CD changer. I hope the thief listened to them. Who knows if those CDs might bring some God-consciousness to him. In return, he left 5 CDs, all rap. My boys were not interested. “Just throw them away, Mom.” I lost the two remaining hub caps and some coins too, all $1.50 of them.

My car is back and I’m thankful. It could have been worse. “Thank you, Lord, for recovering my car in good condition. But we will gladly welcome a new one if You will give us,” I added to our prayer before a meal. There were snickers.

Oh, what a ride!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lost…

“Hello, I would like to report that my car had been stolen,” I told the lady at the other end of the line. I did not make a 911 call, just a regular police report. She courteously asked me a series of questions.

When did you see it last? 10:30 pm last night after I was dropped off from a party.
When did you discover it gone? 8:10 this morning when we were about to go to church.
Where was it parked? On our parking spot.
Is there broken glass? No.
Any valuables? None.
Make?... Year?... Plate number?... Colour?... I gave all the information she needed. Then I was told that an officer would be calling me shortly.

This happened two Sundays ago when I discovered our ’91 Honda Accord gone from the parking lot. At first, I could not believe it. Who would want to steal our car? How dare he steal it when I just had an oil change and top up the day before.

Dismayed, I broke the news to my family. They too were stunned. Surprisingly, I remained calm, probably too shocked to feel the loss while trying to make sense of what just happened.

It was not too long ago when I was thanking God for that car as I was pulling out of our parking lot. “Unless You give me a new one, please prolong the life of this car and help me maintain it,” I prayed. I had uttered this prayer several times. So when the car was stolen, even though I was piqued by the violation committed against me and my family, I also felt a sense of anticipation that perhaps God was going to give us another one. There had to be something good to come out of this misfortune.

Within an hour or so of my phone call, a constable called me back and asked me similar questions. “We usually recover stolen cars within the day,” he said, sounding very reassuring. “Oh, thank you!” I felt reassured already.

I spent the rest of the day at home awaiting word from the police. We were unable to attend church. I had to cancel a Christmas carolling commitment that night. I later called the insurance company, ICBC, to report the loss and file a claim. I was told to come in Tuesday morning. Still no call from the police.

When Monday morning came, it was when I really felt the inconvenience of not having a car to bring the kids to school and myself to work. Still no word from the police. I was beginning to wonder. What are my options?

Tuesday, I went to ICBC and met with a claims representative. She asked me a lot more questions especially about the condition of the car and its contents.

When was it last used and why? Condition of the tires? What about the transmission? How much gas in the tank? Mileage? Any dent? Any other damage? Contents? Colour inside? Lien on the vehicle? Etc…This must be how they estimated claims, whether the car was recovered or not.

ICBC allowed me to get a rental car for 20 days within the allowable amount that would be reimbursed to me. I was also given a $300 deductible. I was given a list of things to do in case the car was recovered or became a total loss. Arrg, too much information to absorb in one sitting.

I called a friend who had two Hertz branches and told him my predicament and intent to get a rental car. “Please get me the cheapest,” I requested. “Don’t worry, I’ll find you one. I’ll have someone pick you up tomorrow.”

To be continued…

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not a movie buff

I like watching movies, but I’m not a movie buff. I’m very poor at remembering plots or dialogues or characters and the actors who played them. I know people who can re-tell storylines and spout dialogues from old movies as if they saw them just an hour ago. Me, I ask my kids, Have I seen that movie? Mom, how come you don’t know?

Just two days ago, one of my boys asked me if I finished the movie Click when we rented the video. The title didn’t, uhmm, click. It sounded familiar but I couldn’t recall what it was about or if I even watched it. After jogging my memory through a series of questions that exasperated Markus, I vaguely recalled watching parts of it and probably sleeping through the rest.

At home or in the theatres, I tend to fall asleep while watching a movie. It is quite a challenge for me to sit through a two-hour film without losing my attention or consciousness. My family knows about this tendency so every time we go out to watch a movie, which is very rare, they occasionally check if I am still watching. They don’t like me asking, What did I miss? or What's the ending? See if Mom’s awake, I will hear someone whisper. Or, Mom, are you awake? Or someone will nudge me with his elbow. I get annoyed. It disturbs my watching or sleeping. Either way.

It’s not that I don’t make an effort to keep myself awake. In fact, I try to at least keep one eye open while the other starts shutting. In the theatre, I keep the eye—the one nearest a movie companion—open for as long as I could so that from his or her side, I will appear awake for a time. Eventually my two eyes will close. You know anyone else like me who sleeps with one eye closing before the other?

Contrary to what my boys say, I have watched some movies completely through one viewing. Comedies, war movies, suspense... They vary. The only kind of movie I don't like to ever watch, besides the x-rated, is horror. I know horror flicks will keep me awake, all right, but they might also keep me awake at sleeptime.

On the other hand, I have slept through parts of some of the best movies of late. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lord of the Rings. Passion of the Christ. The Last Samurai. Harry Potter... The list is longer, no doubt about that, but I can't remember them all.

I’m pretty sure though that adding up all the movie segments I have seen through repeated viewings on TV or DVD, I would have seen these films in full. Even so, I still won’t be able to recall or re-tell the plot of any of these movies like a good storyteller. As I’ve indicated earlier, my movie recall is poor. I get people and sequences mixed up. I even get different movies confused and interchanged. I forget titles a lot, or else I get them wrong. Like, Polar Bear Express for The Polar Express, Lost Without A Trace for Lost and Without A Trace (two different TV shows), and beat this, Going Back to College for Back to School.

I consider my poor movie recall as an advantage though. To me, every movie that I watch, though seen by me before, looks fresh and new. Very similar to the story of My First Fifty Dates.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Remote controlled

It’s amazing how we have become too dependent on the TV remote. We use it to turn the TV on/off and to change the channel, and get very upset when it goes missing. Nobody likes to leave the couch and walk three steps to push a TV button. WHERE IS THE DARN REMOTE CONTROL???

When the remote control goes missing, you are sure to hear whining or complaining or blaming in our living room. Okay, who was the last one to use it?... Did anyone take it to his bedroom?... Check the washroom!...Grrr... I, too, get annoyed if I can’t find it, as in, right now! I don’t watch too much TV so I sort of expect to have it easy whenever it’s my turn to vegetate on the couch to watch my favourite programs. I want to have the remote control handy.

Our TV remote is overused and abused. Dropped on the floor. Sat on. Stepped on. Stuck in a side of the couch. Mischievously thrown like a pillow at someone, only harder... Repeatedly tapped on the couch or on one’s hand when not responding. Thus, signs of wear and tear are all over our remote. It is cracked and broken in certain places.

When we thought its life was over and it was needing more than new batteries, I had the urge to fix it. Even though it was not too much to buy one, I wanted to save the old one that came with the TV when we bought it. Besides, I couldn’t wait for a new one. My show was coming up. So I decided to open the remote control. I used a teeny weeny screwdriver to open up its back. The remote’s inside parts were not as complicated as I thought. I taped the broken part that held the batteries in place, put the screws back on. It worked!!

“Guys, the remote is fixed. You have to be gentle with it. I just taped the thing inside,” I warned the kids.

We were careful at the start, then people forgot about the tape. The remote stopped working again and it looked even worse with bigger cracks and holes. I cracked it open—no more using the screwdriver this time—put more masking tape inside and duct tape outside. The gray duct tape blended well with the gray case of the remote. I got it to work again.

“You can throw this around now. I put a lot of tape around the batteries and on the outside,” I told the guys. Seeing the bandaged gadget, my sons asked me, “Mom, what if you need to change the batteries?” “Then I’ll do it over,” I said.

A few days later, it stopped working again. The remote failed to withstand the shaking, the tapping and the throwing around as I said it would. Frustrated and challenged, I untaped and retaped everything, this time making sure everything was secured in place. It worked again.

“This won’t be broken anymore,” I told the kids. “Mom, what if I hammered it?” Markus asked. Anything but that!!

Now that our old remote is working again, even though it looks pathetic with duct tape all over, I’m no longer thinking of buying a new one. It will likely suffer the same fate anyway.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Snow day is fun for some...

In this amateur video that I put together on the defunct Jumpcut, you can easily tell for whom it is fun.

Enjoy! Snow is "funner" when there's a soundtrack.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A snowy day



Friday night, we were looking at the sky and saying how white it was. We knew snow was coming soon just like it said in the forecast. True enough, snow fell the next day while I was at our deck fixing the barbeque cover. It came rather early. We usually get snow in this area towards Christmas.

"It's snowing!" I shouted. The first snowfall is often exciting and beautiful. And because we were just about done putting up our Christmas decors, I felt it could not have come at a better time. Although I don't dream of a white Christmas--because it often is anyway--it felt more like Christmas already.

The snowfall continued throughout the night. By morning we woke up to about 6 inches of snow. Lovely!



View from our deck

A white thick blanket of undisturbed snow covered our ledges, the deck floor, the deck table, the bushes at the front, the parking lot, the car... Then it hits you! Yikes! You need to scrape snow off the car and shovel the parking lot, the sidewalk in front of your house... If you are going anywhere--if you really have to--you have to give yourself more time to do these things and to drive slowly. It being Sunday, we had to prepare earlier for church.



Our parking area. Our car, left of the the van, is blanketed in snow.

No one gets more excited about the snow than the kids. Gabriel and Markus immediately started making snowballs and throwing them at each other. I was excited to take pictures and video clips.

At church, we arrived to find people, including our assoiciate pastor, shoveling snow at the parking lot. Some kids were outside playing snowball fights. After the service, we came out and scraped snow from the car again, and skidded out of our parking spot.

It was snowing non-stop. In fact, it was one of the worst November snowstorms here, according to newscasts.



The undulating terrain of our backyard makes for a good winter playground. Gabriel and Markus are the first to bring out the toboggan.

"It looks like Narnia!" Gabriel exclaimed as we drove back to our complex. Yes, indeed. Gabriel and Markus spent the afternoon building snow forts and tobogganing at our backyard. They had snowpants but no winterboots. I forgot I had given their old ones to charity.

I decided to walk to a thriftstore to get them boots and winter stuff. I enjoyed walking while snow was blowing all around me. It was cold and slippery. The 20-minute walk down a mere two blocks was like doing the Stairmaster. I ended up sweating inside my winter jacket even if I was all wet outside, rosy cheeks, red nose and all. The walk back home seemed easier.

In the afternoon, Bud and I walked to the mall to check out the newly opened Future Shop that used to be our neighbour. I checked out Zellers too for more winter stuff. By evening, I was so tired from walking. It was almost like a silly thing to do in a weather like this, but the boys needed to be properly attired for the snow.

Monday, schools were closed. I was unable to go to work, which was okay because people who managed to report for work were sent home anyway. Gabriel and Markus spent the whole day tobogganing outside with more kids. With a backyard like ours, they can have fun without the expense of going to a commercial tobogganing area. Cheap thrill!





UBC was closed too so Gino was home and loving the weather. He even went out for a quick photo op in nothing but shorts and a scarf.


Gino, what are yout thinking?

Mickey had work, and because some areas had no power, people flocked to Church's Chicken, where he works, to eat. "It was so busy," he complained. Mick doesn't enjoy snow. "It would nice if it were warm," he says.

In the afternoon, I decided to clear the car of snow before the snow froze into ice. I decided to shovel the parking spot and the walkway to our house too. Here, we have a bylaw that says residents are responsible for clearing the snow on the sidewalk in front of their homes. I read that if you don't do so by 10 am after a snowfall, you can be fined. I was several hours late. Besides, you don't want people sliding on your front steps. You could be sued.

The bad part of winter is shoveling. It is so exhausting and backbreaking. I had cleared much of the snow on the car and around it when Bud arrived and completed the task. Today, I woke up feeling sick, with a headache and back pains, I decided to call in sick.

Though it's sunny out, which is nice, the temperature is below freezing, -6 I think, and with wind chill, it's probably -16, which is how it really feels. Tomorrow we have another snowfall, not as bad as last Sunday's but still a snowstorm. I am so not used to this. Vancouverites, who gloat about mild winters, are so not used to this.

I should remember to keep a steady flow of water on our taps to keep the water from freezing. Thanks to Ate Ma for the warning. Their pipes are frozen. I should get kitty litter too just in case the car gets stuck in the snow on some parking lot. Oh yes, and I have to find my de-icer for the car keyholes, too, or make my own from rubbing alcohol.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A stormy day

As I was driving to work this morning, I heard on the radio that BC is just 90 mm of rainfall short of breaking its record November rains ever. Some people viewed this as some kind of silver lining (Wow, a new record!) on the dark clouds that have hovered over the province for weeks now, pouring rain like never before – okay, not yet until the record is broken.

Last week, we had a strong rain and wind storm that had never happened here before. That’s what people, including those who have lived here all their lives, said. For my family who’s been here more than 8 years, it was certainly the strongest we had experienced.

Though no match to the Philippines’ strongest typhoons, last week's storm still gave me the jitters. I was at work when the wind descended and knocked out power in many parts of the Lower Mainland including the area where we live. Good thing my boss allowed us to go home a bit earlier.

What normally took me 30 minutes--max--to drive took me 2 hours Wednesday night. Traffic was horrible. Most traffic lights were out which meant that drivers had to follow the four-way-stop procedure. That’s one good thing about traffic here though. Whenever the lights don’t work, drivers take turns at intersections, one vehicle one at a time, depending on who got there first. Might be tricky at times especially when there are 3 lanes in one direction, but you won't see a traffice policeman directing traffic even at the busiest intersection. So even though traffic gets heavily backed up, it is not in knots where everyone is stuck at the center. I like four-way-stops and drivers who respect them.

My right foot and leg hurt from stepping on the brakes for most of the 2 hours on the road. My bladder was swelling. On top of these discomforts, I started to feel sleepy, which hardly happens to me on the wheel no matter how sleep-deprived I am. The slooow traffic and bad weather were lulling me to sleep. Thank God, I made it home safely and was able to pick up Mickey from his workplace as well. I got us some Church’s Chicken for dinner because there was no way I could cook without power. We have no gas range.

When I got home, Bud Wiser was waiting for me before heading out to an appointment. He had lit several little candles including the scented ones and the citronella candle that was meant for outdoors to drive away mosquitoes. The boys were entertaining themselves by playing games on the cellphone.

Mickey was worried about not being able to recharge his phone. “What am I going to do? I can’t charge my phone.” he fretted. “Well, what you have always been doing before you had a phone,” I answered.

Markus tried to pass time by creating shadows on the wall while Gabriel and I guessed what they were. “This is the fastest creature on earth,” Markus hints. “Panther?” I ask. He and Gabriel laugh at the way I said pan-TER, and not pan-thur. “Mom, it's cheetah.” “Waaat eber,” I reply.

I was already relaxing on the couch and falling asleep when the boys started to bug me about going to Tita Ma’s house because their place had power. Outnumbered and outwhined, I gave in and we all drove to Tita Ma’s place, only a block away. Markus brought his homework and Mickey his cellphone for recharging. We were glued to Terminator 3 on TV when Gino called my cell at past 9 pm. Past 10 he called again. His bus still had not come and could I pick him up from Langley? He had come off his part-time work at my office’s call centre. Ugh, I have to drive back to Langley. I hope the traffic is no longer as bad.

I packed the boys in the car, dropped them off (No scaring!) at home and drove off to Langley. I had told Gino to get on the bus if it came and just call me on my cell so I could make a U-turn. Nearing the bus stop where I was to pick him up, I called Gino to let him know I was in the area.

“I’m already on the bus, Mom,” he said. Gino’s bus had come, he had called my cell, but I didn’t hear the buzz. I headed back home, and Gino and I arrived within a minute of each other. Fortunately, traffic on the freeway had cleared.

Power came back past 11 pm, was out again before 8 the next morning after I had washed all the dirty dishes and boiled a big pot of water. We were on a boil-water-advisory because the rains had stirred up the reservoirs. Just as a precautionary measure, we were told. We were advised not to even use tap water to brush our teeth or wash the plates. Too late. I had done all those things before I heard the news. No, wait, I think I forgot all about it because our tap water was not at all turbid unlike in some areas.

Our power and water were back to normal after 2 days. I realized how unprepared we were for these kinds of emergencies. We just assume there will always be power and water and cellphone and Internet. Suddenly, we were helpless.

At least I had spare batteries for the flashlights.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Costume fest

Here are some photos of Gabriel and Markus in their costumes last October 31. As usual, we went to church where kids have lots of fun and candies without having to go door-to-door. This year the theme was Fiesta so many were in Mexican costumes, but you could wear something else. Nothing of the dark sorts though because it was not a Halloween party but rather an alternative costume party that many churches provide the community every year.



Markus wearing a Mexican hat and poncho. Posing like un hombre.



And here's Gabriel prize-winning make-up which he did on himself.




At church, Markus took off his Mexican outfit and put on red face paint. Looks like he ate too much burrito.





They do more acting at home...

And here's a clip of Markus doing one of his funny antics. He himself drew the face on the head. You can hear Gabriel and me giggling in the background.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Therapist

Here’s the continuation of my last entry. As I said, I will write about what Markus and I talked about while squished in my old but comfy armchair.

“Kuya Gabriel is the only good older brother here,” Markus complained. “Kuya Gino and Kuya Mickey always kick me off the computer...” That started his litany of complaints.

Not that he and Gabriel are always on good terms. On the contrary, they have more squabbles between the two of them on any given day. Strangely, they do get along well.

“Kuya Gino needs to do homework, and homework comes first,” I explained. He then cited several instances when he was unceremoniously booted off the computer by either one of his brothers only to find that brother chatting or playing a game.

“That’s not fair!” I said. “That must really suck.”

I am learning that you don’t dismiss children’s emotions. You validate them. Boys especially need to be affirmed in their feelings because, unlike the more emotional women, guys somehow lose touch with their true feelings, or they become unable to rightly express them, which often leads to some kind of emotional, mental, social or spiritual baggage. Just look around you.

“You know what,” I continued, “your brothers will mature. You will all grow up and things will be different,” I assured him. Markus was not convinced.

“I know how you feel. I am the youngest in the family too. Sometimes you can’t speak out…” I sensed Markus start to pay attention. So I continued. “When I was a child, my siblings were like that to me too. I felt like a nuisance. I understand you…” I think I told him more of my experiences growing up as the only child in a house full of older people, way older people. “But look at us now. We’ve changed. We care for one another. Things will change, Markus.” I tried to sound as encouraging as I could short of saying, Sooner or later, your brothers will be on their own. That is still premature.

That evening, I was lounging in bed and watching TV with Gabriel when Markus came into the bedroom. Before hopping into bed, he waved his hands beside his ears and asked in a funny voice, “How does a mother with four children think?”

Amused, I asked, “How?”

“Like a therapist!” he said, again in a squeaky tone.

“And what do you think does a therapist do?” I rode along.

“They talk about people’s emotions,” was his response.

I should add that to my Mom job description.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Early morning devo

My two younger boys have the habit of sneaking into my bedroom early in the morning or late at night or whenever. They sometimes catch me in the morning sitting on the armchair by the window and having my Bible devotions.

Last Friday morning, at around 6:00 am, I began to drag myself out of bed into the chair. It is always a struggle for me to take those six or seven wobbly steps from the bed to the chair. But I have to do this to force myself to wake up. Otherwise, if I just sit up in bed, I would be back to sleep in no time.

Before I could even start opening my Bible or praying in between yawns, it might take me another 15 minutes or longer to be fully awake. Sometimes I just sit and stare at whatever. Sometimes my mind reviews past events or wanders into the future. Sometimes I snooze. That Friday, I was thinking of the past week and some of the amazing but seemingly unrelated things that had happened to me that week. As I was trying to make sense of those things, in wonderment I blurted out, "Wow!"

As I turned my head towards the door that was left slightly open, I realized that Markus was peeping through the opening. He pushed it open and joined me on the chair.

Wrapped in a blankie and squeezing himself beside me, he said, "Mom, I thought you were doing something useful."

I chuckled. "And what would that be?" I asked.

"Like praying?" he answered. "But you were just saying, 'Wow!'"

Yeah, I might have looked odd to Markus. It was as if I was talking to myself and not to Jesus. Well, I was.

"I was thinking of some good things that happened as I was about to pray," I told him. I am not a very disciplined person who can jump right into prayer before dawn. I need to get into the spirit. It takes effort for me to focus. And honestly, I don't always succeed with the time I have before preparing for work. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Note to self--Keep plodding on...

Because Markus was already nicely curled up beside me, I decided to engage him in an interesting conversation, the contents of which will be in the next blog entry. Then I reached out for my Bible on the table beside me. That was his cue to keep quiet as he leaned on my shoulders. After reading, I prayed for Markus, the family and whatever else entered my mind--the useful thing Markus had expected.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rotten tomatoes

Gabriel and I were picking out tomatoes at the Fresh Produce section of Canadian Superstore when I started storytelling. I recalled my childhood habit of tagging along my mother to the corner store.

“You know, I enjoyed picking tomatoes every time Lola and I went to the store,” I said. “But I felt sad for those that were not chosen...”

Shaking his head, Gabriel muttered to himself, “Mom is weird.” Then turning to me, he said, “Mom, tomatoes have no feelings.”

“Yah, but I do,” I remarked. Thank goodness, tomatoes have no feelings or I might end up taking rotten ones.

Gabriel chuckled. One more weird thing about Mom.

I didn’t say I bought them, okay? I maybe weird, but I'm not stupid.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Versatile

When I was in second year high school, I encountered the word versatile for the first time in a homework given by my English teacher. If I had come across it before then, it probably didn’t register. Our homework consisted of an alphabetical list of adjectives, one adjective per letter, and versatile was the V-word. We were told to write a classmate’s name for each adjective. I think the papers were to be collected and tallied.

As I did my homework, I learned the meaning of versatile and I instantly liked it. I was so impressed with the word. I want to be versatile! I don’t remember getting the highest votes for versatile, but the word stuck and became like a personal goal. After all, I had been trying out different things, and my interests were so varied and changeable.

Fast forward. I am still aiming to be a well-rounded person before I become... just round. I try this, I try that, hardly mastering anything. But having fun, and picking up new skills in the process.

Would things have been different had the V-word been voluptuous? Hmmm…



Saturday, September 30, 2006

...dirty enough to be happy

As the youngest child in my family, I had the privilege of occupying a big bedroom all to myself after all my older siblings had gotten married and left the nest. I enjoyed this for a few years until I too got married. I absolutely loved it – the space, the privacy, the peace and quiet of my own bedroom. I kept it neat—not perfect—just clean and neat. My bed was always made. My books were organized according to height on the wall shelf. I had a nice palm plant beside my keyboard. The wooden floor was clean and shiny, the windows had curtains of my choice, my mementos were in the cabinet. My desktop (the tabletop) was decorated with my tacky artwork. My mess was contained or hidden in drawers and boxes.

Gone are those days. Today, if I could clean even one section of the house here and there, I’d consider it an accomplishment. And if it stayed that way for more than three days, I’d say what a surprise!

Sometimes I feel like a failure at housekeeping. When will our house ever be neat and tidy, not like a playground or a giant hamper? Then I ask myself, Would you rather have peace and quiet, a place for everything and everything in its place? OR, traffic in the hallways, footsteps up and down the stairs, bursts of laughter, chatter, chatter and more chatter?

Come to think of it, when my house becomes spic and span for any prolonged time, that might well mean I am retired and my children have moved to their own places…. Nahh, I’m not excited about that.

A messy house is sometimes a happier house. Ours is.


Friday, September 22, 2006

What’s not cooking… or Who isn't

If you've read my previous blog, you know that I love reading recipes more than I love cooking. I enjoy cooking and it helps me unwind after working all day in front of the computer. But it’s not my big passion. I know people who are really into cooking. I’m not like that. I won’t think twice about handing over the apron to anyone who wants to put it on. If you want to cook in my kitchen, please, feel at home. I will eat whatever you cook.

To avoid cooking every night, I sometimes prepare a big batch of food and serve leftovers—as-is or recycled—the next day. Or, I freeze make-ahead portions that can easily be thrown in the pan with other ingredients. Or, I buy and serve roast chicken from the supermarket. Or, I heat up frozen pizza. Or, I declare a junk food night of chips and pop and some other comfort food. Nobody complains. In fact, the boys get excited. After all, we don’t often have junk food at home. Our agreement, er, my policy is that we can have chips and pop—Sprite, Gingerale or Seven-Up—only on weekends.

On special occasions, we get to eat out as a family. This is not very often, so I welcome the opportunity when it happens. Like last Sunday after church. We had all-you-can-eat lunch at Top Gun, a Japanese restaurant in New Westminster for Markus’s post-birthday celebration.

That afternoon, I felt really heavy and bloated. Sushi expands in the tummy. I didn’t want to see any more food or even think about it. I thought everyone felt the same.

“Guys, I’m not cooking tonight,” I happily announced.

“Mom!!” I didn’t expect a chorus of protests.

“What? We’re so full. I don’t want to eat anymore,” I answered.

“I’m already getting hungry, Mom,” Markus replied.

“Mom, just because you’re not hungry, you won’t be cooking. What about us?” I think that was Gabriel speaking. Or complaining.

“All right. We’ll have something light and fruit-y,” I said. I went to the supermarket and did my weekly groceries. I bought lots of fresh fruits—longgans, grapes, oranges, guava… As a compromise, I served canned spicy Portuguese sardines in olive oil to go with the buns or pan de sal I baked the previous night. I did not cook. Everyone was fine with that.

Tonight, I get another reprieve from the kitchen. Gabriel and Markus left for church camp and there’s more than enough siopao for those of us at home. Tomorrow is Saturday. No one wakes up early so breakfast is the same as lunch. Mickey has work in the afternoon and will most likely eat Church’s chicken. Gino’s going to watch a play in Seattle. There’s leftover adobo… Hmmm, I may not have to cook dinner too. Yippeee!! I have a lot of time to read recipes!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What's cooking?

I am an imaginative cook. I like to IMAGINE cooking. That’s why I have this thing for recipes and recipe books. They trigger my imagination.

I have a HUGE collection of recipes. Some date back to my Home Economics days in high school, and some to my bachelorette days when I started thinking about marriage, but the bulk were collected when I was finally a homemaker.

Today I have several recipe books, a recipe box with my handwritten recipes copied from everywhere, recipe cards from food manufacturers, recipes at the back of can labels, recipes from newspaper and magazine clippings, recipes from friends and relatives, and recipes I had written on various pieces of paper while eavesdropping on other people’s conversation or after stumbling on a cooking show on TV. When I started using the Internet in the mid-90s back in the Philippines, I went crazy over cooking websites and email lists. I printed off page after page of recipes. I still keep these in a binder now gathering dust in my bedroom.

I am a recipe nut.

Unfortunately, my passion for recipe collecting way exceeds my love for cooking. If I were as passionate about cooking, I'd be a great cook. I believe I’m a fairly good cook, but I can do better.

The problem is, or was, after reading all those recipes and cooking them in my mind, I fail to actually follow through. I resort back to adobo, tinola and sinigang and some other familiar dishes which do not require me to do a lot of thinking.

It was only recently when I really challenged my brain to think variety and go out of my default cooking mode. Yes, I have tried and added several new dishes to my culinary portfolio ever since landing in Canada. But it was only in the past, say, two years when I gained and sustained the momentum to cook more and cook better.

As a result, I re-discovered my recipe books. What I’ve been doing is going through each book for a period of time and cooking several recipes in it. Then I move on to another one. I see to it that I cook familiar foods alongside or in between new ones.

I am currently using a cookbook that has been with me from the Philippines. I know I have read it through in the past as shown by my pen markings, but it’s only now that I’m actually cooking recipes from it. It has good packed lunch ideas. So far I have done menudo roll, puto cake, pan de sal, siopao… I can easily buy these things from a Filipino or Chinese store around here and spare me the trouble of kneading the dough and waiting for it to rise. But after doing these myself, I think I prefer them homemade—like I have all the time and energy in the world! Last night, I stayed up till 1 am steaming siopao. This morning, they were gone so fast. Tonight I am doing another batch.

One thing I like with my boys is that they love to eat, which is very rewarding to any cook. They give me instant feedback too. Often they say it with words, but mostly they show it by their mouthfuls. When they like something, they are very vocal about it. But they also give comments like, “Mom, add more salt and sugar in the pan de sal.” “Mom, add more cheese topping on the puto.” “Mom, Make the the siopao bigger!” I have heard a lot more unflattering remarks. I take them all in stride—good or bad.. From these feedback, I make a mental note of which recipes are wonderful, so-so, or never-again.

I still do a lot of imagined cooking, but I am also cooking more real food. Yummm…

Friday, September 15, 2006

Crouch!

One of my sons developed a rash on his upper thigh. He was told by our family doctor to apply Fucidin Cream on the rash twice a day after showering. Then he was to cover the affected area with gauze. Last night, he did as he was told. He struggled to get the tape to stick, but he refused my help.

This morning, he took a shower again and did the same thing. From the kitchen across the washroom, I hollered, “Do you need help?” “No!” was his instant reply.

“Where’s the rash?” I asked. “Is it on your crouch?”

He didn’t answer. Instead he started snickering. What’s so funny about that rash? I thought.

“Mom… It’s crotch, not crouch,” he finally said, still laughing.

“Oh, yeah. Crrr-otch, crrr-ouch, they sound alike.” I tried to save face.

“No,” he quickly answered back. Then, teasing, he said, “Mom, you should make your own dictionary.” He thought I had uttered enough malapropism to start my own book. He was very amused.

Riding along, I said, “Crouch is when you have an ouch on your crotch.” There’s my first malapropistic entry.

Monday, September 04, 2006

September morn

Wow, September already? I can’t believe summer went by so quickly. I had a good summer, a very productive summer. Autumn is at the doorstep. I will miss a lot of things…

I will miss Beth. She and I have become very close over the past months. Rode to work together, prayed for each other, chatted endlessly about gardens, recipes, family, work, church, life in the Philippines, and thrift buys! A woman after my own heart! Her family’s moving to Alberta today. Another goodbye. Too bad we only had about a year to get to know each other. Thanks to the Internet and cheap long distance rates, we will easily be in touch. I am happy for her and her family as they carve out a new life in Edmonton. And I am happy to have someone to visit in that city. Hopefully, next year!

I will miss my vegetable garden. I still have broccoli plants, tomatoes, peppers, basil and parsley left, but these will soon thin out like my lettuce, sweet peas and cucumbers. I didn’t imagine I would feel so sad to watch my garden fade away. It has been like a pet to me. Cheered me up every morning and every time I came home from work. I plan to plant tulip bulbs this fall so there will be blooms in early spring. They will be very pretty. Haven’t done this before, so let’s see how it goes—or grows.

I will miss long days. Sunrise before 5 am and sunset after 9 pm. Looong day. Makes me feel like I can do more during the day.

I will miss summer clothes and outings… It’s time to prepare the sweaters, turtle necks, nylons, boots, scarves…Time to do more indoor stuff. I will learn to sew! I took home my mother’s old sewing machine from Seattle yesterday and I’m so looking forward to doing something different. First, I need to learn how to thread that thing. No more sawing. Time for sewing.

Ohhh, September. While I will miss some things that will go with the summer season, I look forward to new things.

I look forward to the colours of fall. Reds. Yellows. Oranges. Maroons. It’s what I like to call nature’s last hurrah before everything turns dreary and grey. It is so beautiful in the fall. I like looking at the mountains gradually turn yellow. Although I like lush and green trees, I find art and beauty when deciduous trees start shedding. They are like women without make-up, or men without steroids. The naked beauty of a tree’s skeleton. So nice to look at against the sunset or a cloudless sky, or through the fog.

I look forward to all my sons being back at home. Gino’s finally back after 4 months in Toronto and 2 weeks in California. We picked him up from my mother’s Seattle apartment this weekend. Mickey’s flying in from Bangkok tonight. See you at the airport! Welcome hugs to you, guys! Back to reality, back to school and work, back to chores. It would be interesting to see how things get back to normal…

I look forward to school opening. Gabriel will be in high school, wow! Big change. Markus will be by himself in grade school. I will have the same morning route as I drop off the two at different schools. The car will be emptier though. It used to be full every morning with all four of them. Now, it’s down to two.

I look forward to new TV shows. We watch House, Mantracker, Malcolm in the Middle, The Simpsons. I have dropped Desperate Housewives from my few favourites after I realized that the stories and relationships are way too dysfunctional and too desperate. We’ve seen the first two episodes of Prison Break, and I feel I may dropping this too. Aside from the violence, it’s getting badder. I won’t last watching a TV show that regularly leaves me feeling bad and angry. Gimme a break! Have some redeeming value. I’ll get back to your program towards the end of the season when the good and the truth will hopefully have the upper hand. I hope to see more feel good TV series appear this season. I don’t mind shallow comedy. I like family sitcoms.

I look forward to more stories to blog. New season, new colours, new stories.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Marbles galore

Marbles fascinate me. I think they are the coolest thing in the world. As a child, I would closely inspect marbles and marvel at each one. I wondered how they were made. I still wonder about this today. I am particularly intrigued by the classic cat’s eye. Although the information is just a click away on Google, I’m not that eager to find it out. I want to keep my childlike wonder.

Growing up at a time when children mostly played outdoors with things likes rubber bands, smoothened sticks and branches, flattened bottle caps, folded empty cigarette packs, and yes, marbles, I played a lot with these cheapie toys with children in the neighbourhood. Marbles were among our staple playthings. I was able to build up my meager stock until I had enough to fill a Milo can with my winnings. I kept that can for a long time. That was until we had a homemade pool table in our garage and, to my disgust, my marbles were snagged from my can to serve as mini-billiard balls. I lost ownership of the marbles, and then I lost them altogether. I had fun at the pool table, all right.

Eventually, I would outgrow my marble years. But my attachment to marbles would resurface every now and then in rather vague ways. Like, I would suddenly sense a warm, fuzzy feeling at the sight of certain colours or colour combinations, which could be on any object. Then I would realize it was because they looked so much like the marble colours of my childhood. One time, I bought a polo shirt on impulse for then 9-year-old Mickey. Kulay holen!

Sometimes I wish my boys had enjoyed marble games like my generation did. I feel like they missed out on this one (although I only allowed marbles back into the house when my youngest was already big enough not to put them in his mouth.)

Today, I have a jar and a bag of marbles at home. I couldn’t resist buying some really pretty ones from a tourist shop in Bowen Island and also from Toys R Us. The bag of marbles was a Christmas gift from Markus. He knows what Mom likes.

A few years ago, I tried to invent an indoor game of marbles on the carpet floor so my boys could experience flicking those little glass balls with their thumb. To them, it was a novelty. They were initially awkward at it, sometimes they still are. But I think playing with marbles gave them a different, perhaps archaic, kind of fun.

I'm not sure if I'm going to start a big collection of marbles, but I am not about to lose the ones I already have. After all, you don't like losing your marbles!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Do-it-yourself-er

Life in Canada teaches—even forces—you to work. I don’t mean money-earning work, but those daily life-sustaining mundane tasks. Cooking, for example. Or doing the laundry. Or driving. Back in the Philippines, we could afford to pay labourers for most everything. Here, you learn to do things yourself. Can’t be sitting pretty.

When we were new in Canada, I used to go to the laundromat and see all kinds of people loading, unloading, folding clothes. Young, old, male, female, of various ethnicities. What often caught my attention were men doing their laundry like it was nothing. That was new to me. Where I came from, doing the laundry was the women’s turf. Men who did it on a regular basis were perceived as henpecked husbands or not macho or simply unfortunate. That was then. I’m not sure if things have changed… Here, this task is for everyone. In our home, everyone, including Markus, does his own laundry. It helps, of course, that there are washing machines and dryers.

Cooking is another thing you have to learn here. Filipinos love to eat. In every gathering, you can expect to see good food and not just salads and pastries or simple western food. We serve lots of meat and vegetable dishes that require a lot of preparation. What I find very interesting is that many of us, ladies included, learned to cook these wonderful Filipino and international dishes only in Canada. I am always delighted to see men—Pinoys, Caucasians, and other nationalities—cooking and even sharing recipes.

My boys are slowly finding their way in the kitchen. Gino once told me that he wants to learn to cook before moving to the dorm later. He sometimes experiments in the kitchen. Mick, having worked at Swiss Chalet and now at Church’s Chicken, tells me how simple it is to do this or that. Gabriel and Markus occasionally volunteer to help me in the kitchen. They can prepare simple things, those they like to eat.

One other skill that is indispensible here is driving. I only learned to drive in Canada. I took lessons back home, but did not really have the need to drive there. In the Philippines, public transport was round-the-clock, and there was the ubiquitous tricycle that took you to your doorstep. Here, buses have routes and schedules. You miss it, you wait another 15 or 30 minutes for the next one. So I had to learn to drive to gain mobility. After that, it took me perhaps another year to have the courage to fill up my own gas. I had an irrational fear of gassing up. I am over that fear now. No more imagined explosions at the gas pump.

Life in Canada has taught me other practical skills. These are the less basic ones that are often left to the male counterparts or to the professionals. Car maintenance, for instance. It was only last year when I took responsibility for my car maintenance. I am more knowledgeable and confident now than I was last year. Less intimidated too by auto shop people. I can look for replacement parts at the wrecker’s, or go aisle to aisle at the auto centre without feeling dizzy. I am also just starting to wean my car away from the Honda dealership towards cheaper service centers.

Doing simple carpentry and home repairs is another thing I’m learning. It helps and saves you a lot of $ to understand and do these things yourself. I don’t do a great job all the time but I believe my skills are improving with practice and repetition. Besides, I love looking at the fruit of my labour, no matter how amateurish. This summer, I painted and redecorated the washroom upstairs and I am so proud of how it turned out. I also worked on all the upstairs window sills and frames that get neglected and ugly in the winter. With a few tips from my brother-in-law, I replaced the rotten sill in Mickey’s room. I admit, I was just guessing and imagining how this was done and I’m still not sure that I did it right. But the end result looked better. Well, better than rotten.

Because our house was a definite fixer-upper when we bought it, I have learned to repair cabinet doors, fix leaking faucets and broken water closets, replace door knobs and door screens, install blinds and curtain rods, and do other little things we’d call a handyman for in the Philippines. Being a bit of a tightwad, I recycle materials too. I have re-used old wooden bed slats for a shoe rack or for another bed frame. I still salvage screws and odds and ends from broken stuff and keep them for future use. You can check our basement and tool boxes.

Life in Canada has certainly enriched me in practical ways. I have more skills now than I ever had. I’m not saying that I relish the fact that I can’t hire someone else for every odd job, or that I look forward to doing more repairs around the house. You think I don’t miss sitting pretty? On the other hand, I have learned to like studying and trying new things myself.

Here’s an unsolicited advice for those of you who are thinking of migrating and leaving the comforts of home. Acquire as many life skills as you can and practice living without a maid. It will make your transition so much easier and less depressing. I believe taking care of four small boys and being stay-at-home for years, mostly without a househelp, was my best training for Canada. You are your own servant here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Here's another one

I don't know what's up God's sleeves, but I believe He's giving me a new song, or songs, so to speak. You know, just like what the psalmists in the Old Testament wrote about. In fact, two days ago, as I was meditating on Psalm 40, I came across verse 3: "He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see this and worship. They will trust in the Lord." Maybe this is what's going on.

Yesterday, words flowed again and by the end of the day, I had adapted another favourite song of mine, Once Again by Matt Redman into Tagalog. Now, I want to be careful here and tell you this is for personal use only, because of copyright issues. But I guess, if you just sing this in an informal small group setting or in the shower, that should be fine. Or you can even change the melody, that's fine with me too.

So this is my second set of lyrics in one week. I don't know why I get them. What I know is that when God gives you something, it has to benefit others. So I'm not keeping these words to myself, just in case one or two of you need to "hear" it.

MINSAN PA

Minsan pa
aking ginugunita
Diyos Anak na si Kristo
Nagkatawan Siyang tao
Layun Niya
bayaran ang aking sala
Parusa’y inako Niya
Parusa ko ay inako Niya.

At minsan pa nadarama ang pagtubos na
hindi ko maaani kailanman sa gawa
Luha ko’y umaagos
Pasasalamat ko ay lubos.

Ngayong Siya’y
kapiling na ng Diyos Ama
Hari Siya ng langit, Hari pa rin sa lupa
Ako’y mangha
sa naranasan kong awa
Walang hanggang biyaya
Walang hanggang biyaya.

At minsan pa nadarama ang pagtubos na
hindi ko maaani kailanman sa gawa
Luha ko’y umaagos
Pasasalamat ko ay lubos.

Salamat o Hesus, salamat o Hesus
Dugo mo’y pinadaloy mo sa krus.
Salamat o Hesus, salamat o Hesus
Ako ay inilapit mo sa Diyos.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Happy campers

We were at a church camp last weekend in Hope, BC.  This was the second year that the Filipino group from our church held a family camp, and my family’s first time to join. I didn’t know what to expect.

Camp Hope is nestled in a valley where the Fraser River flows from the interior mountains into the Fraser Valley to the Lower Mainland (where we live), out into the Pacific Ocean. The campsite rests at the foot of beautiful mountains. We drove almost two hours to this place.




Entrance to the campsite. The road ends here,
then it's the wilderness.


We were the first to arrive at the camp on Friday afternoon. Some campers would be arriving later that night but most were expected Saturday morning. Originally, our plan was to pitch a tent. When I learned there were cabins still available, I immediately reserved one. Tenting is fun, but given a choice, I’d rather stay within four walls. Worth the few extra dollars.




The cabins. Better than tents.


We were fortunate to get the nicest cabin complete with a good fridge, cooking range, toaster, vacuum cleaner, lots of mattresses and other pieces of furniture. It was close to the common washrooms too. We didn’t go checking out cabins. We picked the first one to open with the master key. I instantly liked it.

Friday night was spent settling down and getting to know the first few campers. Back in our cabin, we played cards and Scrabble. Late that night, we were told there would be singing at the assembly area, but by then we were too tired and sleepy. Besides, it was cold outside and we all forgot to bring sweaters. Somebody had to lend us some.

Early Saturday morning, we walked around the campgrounds and ventured into the woods. We wanted to see the waterfalls. “You should follow the narrow trail. It’s the one that leads to the waterfalls,” someone told us. We saw a marker that said Waterfalls Trail but took the wrong trail that only led us to a dumping ground for fallen trees and branches. We missed the narrow trail. I saw some signs nailed to a couple of trees. I thought they were trail markers. Instead, they turned out to be warning signs: BEAR ALERT. We quickly turned around and headed back to our campground.

When the campers had assembled for breakfast and orientation, the camp director gave some guidelines. “Just behind the campgrounds is the wilderness. Don’t go into the forest alone. Every tree looks like every other tree. The greatest danger is getting lost,” he said.




You can get disoriented in these woods.


One lady gave tips on what to do in case we encountered a black bear. “Look down. Avoid eye contact as the bear will take that as a sign of aggression. Quietly walk away. And if the bear becomes aggressive, make a lot of noise.” I don’t think I would have the presence of mind to quietly walk away from a bear. I imagine myself screaming and running like crazy. I heard there might be cougars in those mountains too. I remembered my officemate saying that if ever you saw a cougar, it was too late. You will never outrun it.

I love the mountains and I enjoy hiking, but not as much as I fear wild animals. Although the camp director seemed to downplay the possibility, the slightest chance of bumping into black bears and cougars doused my enthusiasm for a mountain adventure especially with my kids. Nah, not worth the risk.

Typical of Filipino gatherings here, every meal was potluck with lots and lots of food. Not your regular camp food of canned goods and instant food. We had home-cooked buffet food, mostly Filipino dishes. I shared my sinigang, longganisa, itlog na maalat with chopped tomatoes, pork adobo and rice. Food went fast--all the time.





Our assembly place.


Camp Hope being owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, we had no organized activities from Friday dusk to Saturday dusk in compliance with camp rules. We were okay with that. In fact, I felt it made the camp more relaxing unlike previous church camps I had attended that were packed with activities. Having no campsite activities, we spent Saturday sightseeing around Hope. Most went to the Othello tunnels, site of some scenes from the movie Rambo. My family went to Harrison Hot Springs.





At Harrison Hot Springs. Behind Gabriel
is a lagoon. Beyond it is Harrison Lake.



Gabriel and Markus playing at the lagoon.
Hotels and bistros line the beachfront.



Sand sculptures on the beach of Harrison Lake


On Sunday morning, I went early to our assembly place with my guitar to practice with Jay, the keyboardist, the song I was going to sing at the service. I tuned my guitar and we had a run through of my song. When my time to sing came up, my guitar was surprisingly off key with the keyboard. I don’t know how that happened within a short time. I decided to put down the guitar and just sing along with the keyboard. This was actually better for my voice because I was able to concentrate on singing. It was actually harder for me to do both at the same time.

We had a wonderful morning service with Pastor Ken as our guest speaker. Great message about the Living Water. After the service, we had a huge lunch and then some games. We ended with halo-halo and group picture taking.



Pabitin for the children




I got to know a lot of Filipinos from church over the weekend. At church, I hardly have the chance to get to know them because we go to different services. I enjoyed talking with newer immigrants and sharing our experiences and challenges in starting a new life here in Canada. We all know how it feels.

There are plans to book Camp Hope again for next year. Hopefully, we’d be there again. We all enjoyed the camp and felt better connected with our fellow kababayans. We were all happy campers. I know I was.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Finally, a song!

Two Sundays ago, when I signed up to join an upcoming church camp with my family, the organizer asked me to sing a special number during the Sunday service at the camp. I didn’t have a problem saying yes immediately. It would only be days later when I would feel the jitters.

I chose one of my favourite Christian songs entitled Complete by Parachute Band from New Zealand. I love that song. It could well be my life anthem and prayer. When I visited the Philippines in 2004, I heard a Tagalog version at my former church and loved it too. I asked my niece Nikki for a copy and brought it home with me to Canada.

I was looking for this copy for two days and even asked Nik in the Philippines if she could email me the lyrics. I wanted to sing it at the camp. I thought it would be nice to sing something in Tagalog because the campers would be the Filipino group from our very multi-cultural church here in BC. But I would sing the English version too.

When it became clear that I wasn’t going to find the Tagalog lyrics in time, I started making my own. I kept writing and re-writing until finally, I was pleased with what I had written. Before we left for camp on Friday, I had my lyrics ready. I had written down the chords too. My voice was comfortable in the key of G.

I felt God-inspired throughout the writing process so I won’t take sole credit for the song. As you might have read in a previous blog, I'm not a songwriter though I wish I were. This song was a soul-and-Spirit partnership. The words flowed from my treasure chest of experience. Here goes, with feelings:

GANAP

Sa Iyo O Dios, aking inaalay

Bawat saglit nitong aking buhay.


*Wagas Mong pag-ibig, kay Kristo ko nakamit

Walang sing-tamis


Sa bagyo’t unos ng buhay

Ikaw ay aking karamay

O Hesus, tangan mo ang aking kamay

Di nais na ako ay mawalay.


Sa dilim, Ika’y liwanag

Sa dusa, Ika’y pag-asa

O Hesus, nasa Iyo hanap-hanap

Kay Kristo buhay ko’y ganap.



(Repeat from *Wagas… all the way to the end.)



If you know the English version, you’ll see that the Tagalog one is not really its exact translation, except perhaps for the title. But the two versions basically speak of the same truth – I find fulfillment in Jesus Christ alone.

The song made its public debut yesterday. Some campers already asked for the Tagalog lyrics. The lines are very simple, but because the song was in our heart language, it probably had a different ring to it that touched fellow immigrants. It had more impact than the English.

So there, try singing it to the tune of Complete. If you can set it to an original melody then we can have a collaboration of sorts. Don't forget to send me a demo or a music sheet, ok?

Thanks to Bud Wiser for throwing in the word ganap which eventually became the title. I had to re-write a couple of lines when I heard the suggestion.

More camp stories and pictures in the next blog entry…



Once more with feelings...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Amazing race

Whistler is such a beautiful place. In case you didn’t know, it is the first resort municipality in Canada. It has been rated the #1 ski resort for the seventh consecutive year by I don’t know which body, but it’s not hard to agree. It is a premier world-famous tourist destination that will host the alpine events in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

In the summer, people flock to Whistler for sightseeing, golf, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, and what-have-you. All the times I visited Whistler was in the summer, but my trips were confined to the cosmopolitan Whistler Village at the base of Blackcomb Mountains.


Inside Whistler Village


Our organization is having a 5-day staff conference up in Whistler this week. I, like all non-commissioned or salaried staff, am not required to attend our annual staff conference. But yesterday, we were all bussed up to the conference for a day of vision casting and teambuilding. Our company contracted the Canadian Outback’s Amazing Race Whistler to run the teambuilding event for us. More than 100 of the 200+ conference attendees signed up for the race. I was one of them.

The Amazing Race website said “anyone can participate as no special skills, athletic ability or experience is required.” I also heard the race was adjusted to suit our company. I had no misgivings about joining it at all. I saw it as a way to see more of the resort town beyond Whistler Village. I thought it was all fun, easy for everyone including those who didn't like running.

Regrets!!

As soon as we had the orientation and my team of five left the base, I immediately doubted my fitness to join such race. I was teamed up with 4 other staff – two young, athletic-looking guys; one young, petite girl; and Minnie, also Filipina who was about my age. My younger teammates seemed eager to race, while I was there for some sightseeing and picture-taking. When I saw my teammates excitedly take off in a hurry, I thought, This is not how it's supposed to be! We didn't even have any warm-up and just had a big lunch.



My teammates. On the way to Alta Lake park.



I was trailing my team early on. Minnie started fast but eventually her small strides were no match to the Canadians. My teammates soon realized they had to go slower. They couldn’t proceed to the next route marker anyway without all five of us. They had to wait for Minnie and me at intersections just to make sure we did not lose our way.



While my teammate was busy with a challenge,
I was busy with a photo-op.



“How are you doing, ladies?” the guys would ask to make sure Minnie and I were all right. “You’re doing great,” they would give us regular encouragement.

My biggest contribution to the race was taking on the challenge at one station. The choice was for a team member to scale the Climbing Wall, which sounded difficult, or to eat a bag of dried sardines the size of dilis or dried anchovies. I took the bag and started eating. That shouldn’t be difficult for Minnie and me who were quite familiar with dried fish. We started munching the fish, and the 2 guys were emboldened to eat a few. Ugh! Yuck! Eww! they said while eating. The other girl just watched us. The fish was tough, not crunchy. It wasn't fried. I finished the pack and then we were free to go to the next station. All in all, there were 7 stations. I thought I would collapse at 4. No wonder we had to sign a waiver.




I passed by scenic spots, but I could not
stop long enough to enjoy them.


We finished the race earlier than the allotted time of 2.5 hours. We received some kind of recognition at the awards ceremony. The race was very exhausting and fun, in that order. A good way of getting to know other staff, but I will not sign up for this kind of race again. I estimated that it covered about 5 kms. I heard someone say more.

I woke up this morning with my body all sore. I called in sick. I still can hardly walk or move about. My legs and hips hurt like crazy.

Lesson -- If I want to go sightseeing, joining a race, be it so amazing, is not how I'll do it.


After the race. That's me in Whistler Village.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Thunder!

Early morning yesterday, at around 6 am, people were awakened by a succession of thunders. I was already up by then, but I could not immediately distinguish what the sounds were or where they were coming from. When the sounds became louder and more frequent, I was like, wow, thunder! That is so rare here.

“Mom, what does it mean?” Mickey asked me later when he came down from his bedroom. I thought he was asking a philosophical question. Before I could say, no, this has nothing to do with the end of the world or Christ’s imminent Second Coming, he followed up with, “Does this have to do with global warming?” I just gave a simple grade-school explanation of what causes thunder and what it often precedes – rain. I didn’t think it was related to global warming nor to a global warning.

The peals of thunder yesterday morning were the buzz in town. Even in church, it was mentioned during the service, and today, as I was walking from Wal-Mart to my workplace, the two ladies behind me were talking about it. Big deal.

I have lived more than 8 years here in BC, and I’d say even nature here is relatively laid back, just like our pace of life. Our winter is mild, our summer is nice. Can be hot but the weather cools quickly with some wind and clouds. We get lots of rain, but not the typhoon kind. Okay, we have forest fires and occasional landslides. Still, it’s not as bad as those in other places. I have only felt one earthquake in all our life here. My officemate, who has lived here all his life, said it was the first earthquake he had ever experienced.

In this sense, it is more exciting to live in the Philippines if you like extreme nature. Strong typhoons, strong earthquakes, strong volcanic eruptions, huge landslides… we have them. And you should hear our thunders! Things I can live without…

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Urban forest



One of the things I like best about our city is its parks and nature trails. The city website says there are more than 600 parks and greenbelts, birdwatching, nature walks and bike trails all over this second largest city in BC. Although I don't get to go to parks as often as I did when we were new to Canada, I still marvel at the natural beauty we are fortunate to live in.

I have two favourite parks and one of them is the Green Timbers Urban Forest. Every time I go to this place, I am amazed that a forest can sit right in the heart of residential and commercial areas. This is a big chunk of land, one sq. mi. I think, complete with a lake, wetlands, meadows and some 20 hiking trails. Green Timbers is the birthplace of reforestation in BC and the public, on a number of referendums, have voted to protect it. Very wise.

Inside the park, you forget you are in a bustling city. You hardly hear any city noise. You hear birds and the sound of your own breath and footsteps when you are hiking. Sometimes the silence is deafening.

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I enjoy walking on the trails, but I will probably never go by myself because of coyote sightings in the past. I guess there would be snakes too. Yikes! And if you are a woman, you might think twice about going into the forest near dusk. The picture above is just the entrance to the park. Inside the forest, the trails are narrow and meandering, sometimes criss-crossing each other. And you walk underneath tall trees that block the sunlight. The undergrowth is thick. You don't want to stay away from the trails. You shouldn't.

I have not heard any bad news of wildlife or human attacks happening in Green Timbers. Still, I prefer to stay on the safe side. Besides, my imagination sometimes gets the better of me, and I might scream at the sight of a lizard. I remember once getting startled by an oncoming biker who suddenly appeared from a bend. I shrieked, thinking it was a hunk of a bear. He could have been the hunk Lance Armstrong, alright, but at that moment, who cares?

Yesterday, we decided to go to Green Timbers at around 5 pm. Markus was reluctant to go because he was playing on the computer.

"What are we going to do there, Mom? Just walk? It's gonna be boring," he whined. He didn't want to go without Gabriel who was at a birthday party.

"It's good to walk rather than just stay in the house and play on the computer," I replied.

He was moping and fussing all the way to the park, which was about a three-minute drive from our house and just across his school.

"Are we going fishing?" he asked, still in a foul mood.

"No, we don't have a license. Besides, we don't have a rod," I answered. They went fishing here about 5 years ago, but never caught a fish because they were quite impatient and kept pulling up the line.

When we reached the lake and saw the ducks, Markus started to loosen up. He walked in ankle-deep water.

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Later we walked into the forest just far enough to get some good shots. Markus preferred to walk under the bushes, not on the regular trail, and have his own adventure. He found a stick which I said was a good weapon against coyotes.

"Hold on to that," I told him. "I can use that to scare off coyotes."

"Why does it have to be you?" he asked. "I can beat the coyote with this."

"You are still little. I will hold it off while you run," I said, pretending to be brave.

Just then he started flinging the stick. "This is how I will do it," Markus kept going around. He displayed his moves. Watch out, you coyotes! Markus is gonna get you.

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Going back to our car, we passed through the meadows because Markus wanted to explore a less traveled path. He was running and rolling on the ground like a dog unleashed. I chuckled.

I think we should have more trips to the park and have more times of unleashing.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More English Bay snapshots

I enjoyed taking these shots. It was a lovely afternoon. Just attempting to capture some of its beauty. The digital camera is a wonderful thing...




Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Snapshots of English Bay

My photos from our trip to the beach in Vancouver last Sunday... building castles in the sand... walking on the beach... enjoying nature... simple pleasures... these are things I enjoy...























Monday, July 24, 2006

Beating the heat

The past weekend was I think record-breaking hot hereabouts. I swear, I would not have had the nerve to head to the pool at our complex in a two-piece swimsuit were it not so sweltering hot inside the house.

“Check how many people there are in the pool,” I asked Gabriel and Markus a few times. It was already past 8 pm. I heard it was crowded earlier in the day. When they said there were only four adults with little children, the three of us went out to swim. Ahhh, the water felt so good and warm. How relaxing! I did a few laps at the deep end. Swimming is one skill you never forget, although without practice, it could well deteriorate. My boys raced me twice, and I came in third two times! They were like tadpoles in the water, while I swam and kicked like, uhmm... a frog. At around 9 pm, when I could already see the orange sunset on the distant horizon peering through the trees at our backyard, I came out of the water. It took some convincing to get the boys to follow suit.

At home, I went straight to the tub and soaked again while reading Better Homes and Gardens. “Don’t disturb me. I’ll take long,” I told the boys.

After being refreshed, I once again felt the heat even before I was completely dry. How could I sleep in this heat? I decided to take out Markus’s round inflatable bed to the deck and enjoy some cooler air outside. Gabriel and Markus joined me later. We snuggled in that small bed and chatted while stargazing at the cloudless sky. Fun! We talked about UFOs and shooting stars and the planet Mars which is supposedly coming very close to Earth in August.




I love stargazing. The night before, when we went to a drive-in theatre, I had as much fun looking at the constellations as watching Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean.



This night, it was all constellation, no movie stars. In a short while, Markus and I were sound asleep until Mickey woke us up because mosquitoes were entering the living room through the open patio door.

Yesterday, the temperature was again in the 90s F or above the 30s in centigrade. We drove to a beach in Vancouver with a load of picnic food and mats. Wow, was it ever so crowded!



No, I did not don my two-piece this time--I will not do this again in public--but the beach was dotted with people who were tanning and showing off their summer bods, making people like me pregnant with envy, or just looking pregnant... I instantly thought of the aerobics classes I shouldn’t have missed, and the heaps of rice I could have skipped. But hey, I have a nice natural tan that white people get roasted for. Be happy with what you’ve got or will ever have realistically…

Back at home, I turned on the aircon in the living room, which is the surest sign that the heat was becoming unbearable. Our aircon at home is hardly ever used because I want to keep our electric bills as low as possible. “Mom, when are we turning on the aircon?” the kids ask. This weekend I finally did it.

So this was how we tried to beat the weekend heat. And I think there are more hot days ahead..