Monday, January 30, 2006

Taking responsibility

I was busy cooking and cleaning in the kitchen when Markus came down and excitedly said, “Mom, this is the messiest I’ve seen our room!” They were cleaning up as well.

“Somebody has to take responsibility for it being that way,” I replied.” “So who’s taking responsibility?”

“I do!” he said without batting an eyelash.

“Good for you!” I told him as he left to go back up. At least he was not in denial. And he took responsibility.

Now I’m looking at my bedroom. It’s quite a mess too. “So who’s taking responsibility?” you ask me. I want to point fingers. My kids hang out here to do their homework, watch TV, go on the computer… but at the end of the day I still have to say “I am” or like Markus, “I do!” and take responsibility. I was negligent and lazy, I was procrastinating…I put things where they don’t belong… I will do something about this chaos, starting right now!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

English is my second language

My sons often tease me about the way I repeatedly mispronounce certain English words. Growing up in the big city, I don’t have a provincial accent. My English isn’t bad, but it is still somewhat “Filipinized”. I try to get away with it by saying, “Filipino English is American.” Or, “That’s British pronunciation.” But they aren’t falling for it.

I sometimes challenge my sons to check the dictionary. Or I discreetly check it myself. When they ganged up on the way I said HYOO-ricane instead of HÜR-ricane, I looked it up in the Canadian, English and American dictionaries hoping to get vindicated. I did not find my vindication, not from the dictionary anyway. I was at a Bible study with some fellow Filipino immigrants when I heard a guy say, “My life is a HYOOricane.” I knew it! That’s how we said it in the Philippines. I couldn’t wait to tell my sons. It didn’t make me right, but at least I could say I was not the only one wrong. There are many of us who are better off saying typhoon.

The word vehicle is my other pitfall. I keep saying VE-hicle instead of VEE-hicle. Gino is quick to point that out every time. So I have to consciously and deliberately say vee-hicle if I am to avoid being run over by these speech patrols. Maybe I should just stick to cars and S-U-VEEs.

Here’s another one: excitement. I say ig-zitement instead of ik-sitement. My kids find it really funny the way I say excitement with a g. My tongue finds it hard to unlearn this faulty pronunciation --- until this afternoon. I was driving with Markus to Home Depot and we were chatting back and forth when I said, “It’s going to be exciting when you join the youth group in September!” I was referring to the church group he will move up to when he turns Grade 6.

Markus tapped my right shoulder and very calmly said, “Mom, you’re on the road to recovery.” His response caught me by surprise and I laughed, the hi-hi-hi kind of snicker.

“What do you  mean?” I asked.

“Mom, you said iksiting! Before, you always said igziting. You’re on the road to recovery, Mom. Now you just have to work on your laugh.” He then mimicked my shrill akward laughter.

I guffawed, and let out a hearty ha-ha-ha.

“That’s better,” he said in a dry but comical way. Ahhh, so now I have to check my laughter too?

I must say my spoken English has improved a lot since we migrated to Canada. I still don’t have the twang but I have more confidence in speaking with just about anyone. Occasionally, I run out of English or a Tagalog word comes out of my mouth as I’m speaking with a non-Filipino, but hey, I’m on the road to recovery!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Eat all you can

The one complaint I frequently hear around the house is that there’s nothing to eat. “Nothing” could mean 1) nothing that they like, 2) nothing that needs no preparation, or 3) nothing on the table or on the stove. The truth is, there is always something to eat in the kitchen, fridge or cupboard. Even when we are running low on supplies, there is always something edible for anyone who cares to look or cook. No one has to get hungry till my next grocery shopping.
My boys looove to eat. They are growing and so are their appetites. I enjoy watching them gobble up whatever I cook. There are times, however, when I just serve leftovers from the previous meal or something ready-to-eat from the supermarket. Weekday breakfast is usually something quick and light. Over dinner last night, Gino said that perhaps we should have a normal breakfast so he would be motivated to wake up early.
“We always have bread in the morning,” I said. There are at least four kinds of sandwich spreads in the fridge, usually there are cold cuts and eggs too. I alternate these with oatmeal or champorado (chocolate rice porridge). When there’s time, I make French toast or pancakes from scratch. I also prepare sliced cantaloupe with peach yogurt, a combination that I love.
“We don’t like bread, Mom,” they chorused.
I believe they prefer a Filipino breakfast of rice and a viand. Not your western breakfast of toast and jam or cereals.
Having all boys at home, I don’t imagine I will ever have to deal with anorexia or bulimia. I won't say the same of gluttony…
Last Saturday, I cooked a big pot of chicken arroz caldo. It’s a reliable one-dish-meal like Chinese fried rice and Kenyan rice pilau.
“This is my number one favourite, Mom,” Markus said as I served him a hot bowl of  arroz caldo. “My number two favourite is siomai.”
So last night, I prepared a big batch of pork siomai (dumpling). I cooked half in broth with a bunch of pechay leaves. The other half, I steamed and served with soy sauce and lemon, dimsum style, because Gabriel did not want the soupy kind.
Back to Markus’s list of favourite foods, he had a third one.
“My number three favourite after arroz caldo and siomai is all-you-can-eat buffet,” he said.
If that were a dish, then it would be everyone’s top favourite. Every meal I prepare is like all-you-can-eat. And, boy, do they eat all they can.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The steaming kimchi bowl noodle on the dining table seemed delectable. I was famished. I grabbed it while asking who owned it. But without waiting for a response, I quickly took a mouthful of noodles with a pair of chopsticks.

“Mom! That’s mine!” Markus exclaimed. But not fast enough.

“Mom asked a question and then she ate my soup before getting an answer,” Markus told Gabriel who was standing close by. Pretending to protest, he was more amused than annoyed.

“With Mom,  that’s just a rhetorical question,” Gabriel said.

Still chewing, I added, “Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question and it needs no answer.” Mom gets away with it.

A few minutes later, I was in the kitchen when Gabriel saw the big umbrella I had been asking him and Markus about.

“Oh, here’s the umbrella, Mom!” Gabriel said.

“Yeah, I know. I saw it in the trunk of the car,” I said.

“And you were accusing us of losing it in school.” It was his turn to accuse me.

“No, I was not accusing you. I was ASKING you a question: Did you leave it at school?” I defended myself.

“But that’s just a rhetorical question,” Gabriel replied.

Now how do you get away with that? (another rhetorical question)

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I know better now than to use my cellphone as a calculator while grocery shopping. I thought this was a good idea since I always brought it with me anyway. Saved me space in my purse.


Last night, I was at Canadian Superstore and I remembered to calculate the items in my cart as I picked them out. How convenient it is to have a calcultor on the phone! That way I would know my running total and stay within my budget. No surprises at the check-out counter. And in case the cashier made a mistake in punching prices, I would be alerted right there and then.

I had been shopping for about 45 minutes, taking my sweet time and going from aisle to aisle when I got to the bakery section. I took a loaf of bread, keyed in its cost and my cellphone/calculator read $19.62. Forty-five minutes and that was all the value of my purchases.

Apparently, my boys at home thought I had been gone for too long. Gabriel called me on my cellphone and it vibrated.

Well, guess what? This sent my cellphone flying into the air. I was so startled that I flung it over buns and muffins. Fearing it might land on the floor and break, I quickly lunged to catch my phone as I was not prepared to replace my bottom-of-the-line Nokia. Fortunately, it fell on the table in the middle of packs of bread.

A guy across the table was watching while this was all going on, probably wondering, What’s wrong with this woman?

I know what’s wrong with this woman. I have never gotten used to my phone ringing, beeping or vibrating because these rarely happen. I often get startled when they do. (You can tell I use a prepaid phonecard.) And by startled, I mean, jumping to my feet, being jolted from my seat, scrambling to find my phone, and the latest, flinging my poor Nokia into the air…

My phone was still vibrating when I picked it up. Embarrassed, I quickly walked to a corner and spoke with Gabriel. After my brief conversation with my son, I checked my phone and my running total had disappeared. Good thing, I remembered it said $19.62.

Next time I go shopping, I will see to it I have a real calculator handy. What if my cellphone hits somebody’s head? I could be sued, you know. Then I could be calling an attorney and calculating more than groceries…

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Darn knob

In the midst of preparing for our New Year’s Eve party at my place and re-tiling the washroom floor on the same day, I had to deal with a jammed bedroom door -- with Gabriel and Markus locked inside the room!
I was taking a shower when I heard rapid knocks and Gabriel’s muffled voice. “Mom, our door won’t open.”
This sounds bad, I thought to myself. I couldn’t quite tell where he was calling from.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“We are inside,” he replied.
Ow, worse, I thought.
We didn’t have a key to that door, and the knob, if locked accidentally, could not be opened any other way, not with a pointy tool nor a plastic card.
“Wait till I get out. Leave it alone. Do something else…” I tried not to sound alarmed, trying to suppress a sense of panic rising within me.
I heard Mickey come to their door and try to open the darn knob. “Why don’t we just break the door?” he asked. I could already sense the two boys’ anxiety. 
“Wait, just wait for me. Don’t break the door…” I told the three while quickly calculating the costs of a broken door and the trouble of repairing it. Think, think, think. Should I call 911? climb through the window? ...break the door?
After I got out, I calmly asked the two boys inside, “Do you see screws on the doorknob?... How many?... What do they look like? Straight or cross?”
Yes… two… cross…were their consecutive responses.
With these vital pieces of information, I thought of a plan. “Mickey, get a ball of string and a cross-tipped screwdriver from the toolbox downstairs.” Mickey ran downstairs and was back within seconds with the cord and a phillips.
“Okay guys,” I started giving instructions. “Pull this string under your door. Tie a pen or highlighter at the end. Pull as long as you need and throw it out the window to Kuya Mickey.” To Mickey, I said, “Go outside and get the string and tie the screwdriver so they could pull it back up.” Gabriel and Markus were intently following the instructions and did as they were told. I heard unscrewing sounds as soon as they got the screwdriver.
“Mom, it won’t work. The screwdriver is too small,” Gabriel, sounding frustrated, said from the other side of the door.
I asked Mickey to get a flat nose and a bigger phillips screwdriver and slipped the tips under the door as far as I could.
“Do you think these will fit?” I asked. Gabriel thought the flat one would do, but just the same, I asked Mickey to tie up both. “Okay, let’s do it again.” Mickey went back outside.
Moments later, I heard unscrewing. Then arguments as to who would undo the second screw. You said I can do the other one... 
They successfully loosened the knob from the inside while I pulled out the knob on the outside. Unfortunately, there remained the metal thing in the middle, the horizontal rod that locked or unlocked. It was still jammed and the door wouldn’t budge.
I decided to get the hammer. “Mom, what will you use the hammer for?” Mickey asked.
Hmmm. I don’t know. I was thinking of hammering the rod, but chances were, that would ruin the wood as well. Aha! A little oil might do. I quickly got a small spray bottle of lubricant. Without any warning, I sprayed through the hole not knowing Markus was peering from the inside. A mist indirectly went to his eyes.
“Mom, you sprayed at Markus’s eyes!” Gabriel said.
“Ooops, sorry Markus.”
Gabriel and I put back the inside and outside knobs together and turned them a few times while pushing the door. The door finally opened. We were very relieved.
“Wow, you became handymen!” I told the two, now amused by the incident and proud of what they had accomplished.
“That was scary and funny,” Markus said. Gabriel had a momentary anxiety about closing doors shut after that. 
I removed the door knob completely. I will replace it with a more fitting door knob I saw today at Home Depot. It’s one that doesn’t require a special tool in case it is accidentally locked. Good for the kids room.
Imagine if this incident happened with no else in the house but the two boys. Ooh, scary...

Monday, January 02, 2006

How our Christmas holidays went

This Christmas must have been my least stressful one, though probably one of my busiest. I started putting up Christmas decors on Remembrance Day, a holiday (November 11). Little by little, I added decors here and there and by middle of December, I was quite pleased with what I had done.

Gift buying was a different story. As much as I would have wanted to do it early, I had to work around my budget. Still, I got everyone a gift a few days before Christmas Eve and had Gabriel and Markus buying everyone a gift too from the two of them. They enjoyed picking out their gifts, more like token gifts, from the Dollar Store and Wal-Mart. They were willing to use up whatever little cash they had, but of course, I had to cover the slack. Markus insisted on getting me a nice pink wristwatch from Wal-Mart that was already beyond his “budget”.

Gabriel was a bit embarrassed that they were only buying little (and cheap) items. “Mom, who would want to get gifts from the dollar store?” he asked a few times.

“They know you don’t have a job. They will appreciate whatever you can give,” I assured him. “You should keep this tradition of gift-giving in the family,” I told the two. “When you grow up and have your own money, you can buy better gifts, not Dollar Store ones.”

Markus spent one evening wrapping their gifts. It was so fun watching him do it in a very childlike manner – no fuss, no frills – just getting everything covered with gift paper. Me, I prefer to use gift bags.

We spent Christmas Eve at Ate Ma’s. Including family from Seattle and the UK, there were about 19 of us. There were lots of food, as usual. I brought my Magic Mic and we had fun singing for hours. This was the first time we had karaoke in our family parties here in Canada.

Christmas Day, we went back for lunch at Ate Ma’s, then late afternoon till evening, we were at my niece Grace’s house in Vancouver. There were more of us with the presence of my nieces' BFs. More eating and more karaoke.

Amazing how my family loves to sing. People were shy with the mic, but as soon as one held it and the music played, everyone sang. There were even back up parts, you know, the choo-chu-waah, and second voice or harmony. Gino and I were the more thick-skinned ones, and we each scored 100's too! The trick is to sing loud, not necessarily good…Mickey did not sing on the karaoke but he gamely played the guitar and sang Tagalog pop songs -- his first public performance in front of the family.

December 26 was my grandniece Joey’s second birthday. She is the youngest in the clan and is visiting from the UK with Mom Nats and Dad Joel. We went to Ate Ma’s house again for her party. More eating and more karaoke.

The next few days were spent digesting the food and drinks we binged on for three days straight. I did not want to cook nor eat anymore…

Ed, my brother-in-law from Seattle stayed behind for a couple of days after Ate Lan and E-A went back home. Being in the reno and construction business, he did handyman work at each of our homes. I had him see what could be done to my disgusting linoleum floor in the kitchen. He suggested vinyl tiles and I immediately drove to Home Depot and got two boxes of Newport stick-on tiles. (And I thought I was done going to the hardware store for 2005!) He came over one night and installed some tiles in the middle of the kitchen. I did the rest the following two days. I love my kitchen floor now. Looks neat and pretty.

December 31, I was cleaning the washroom downstairs in preparation for the New Year’s Eve party at my place when I had the urge to do the floors as well. With the leftover tiles from the kitchen, I did the washroom floor too! I wanted the two floors to match and I couldn’t wait till after the New Year. I still need 10 more tiles to complete the washroom.

The last day of 2005 seemed to stretch on and I was able to do many things including changing the washroom floor. I started cooking in the morning, drove to two supermarkets for last minute grocery shopping, did more cooking and cleaning. (Thanks, Mick for vacuuming.)

Finally, family started coming at around 8 pm. We ate in installments while waiting for the strike of 12 midnight. Except for Ate Lanie’s family who had returned to Seattle, it was the same people who were partying for the fourth time. We always enjoy the New Year countdown and midnight meal. Everyone greets, hugs and kisses everyone, watches fireworks on TV. After people left, I cleaned the kitchen till about 2 am then slept soundly.

January 1, we attended church then headed to Ate Ma’s house again for lunch. More food and six(!) hours of karaoke. I got to sing only once and let them hog the mic. By this time, they had shed off their timidity with the mic and they sang to their heart’s (and ear’s) content. Me, I dozed in and out of sleep in between more eating. We stayed till dinner and left feeling like fattened cows (well, that’s how I felt…)

Our Christmas holidays were a lot of fun, but I am now eager to go back to work tomorrow and to the gym tonight!! I want to shed off whatever weight I had gained from too much eating. I will enjoy our decors for a few more days and take them down on the weekend.

2006 is looking great for me, regardless of how it appears (go figure…)