Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hum de dum

I often find myself humming. Anything. Familiar tunes or ones that I make up. Sometimes I’m not even fully aware of it until I catch myself humming a dirge or the Star-Spangled Banner. Ooops, wrong song. O Canada is more like it. Or Lupang Hinirang. Music is constantly playing in my head, it seems, and coming out of my vocal chords. I wonder if my humming annoys anybody.

I am not a composer, but I wish I could write one song in my lifetime, one with a nice melody and nicer lyrics. I’ve heard some wonderful melodies in my dreams and how I wish I could recall them upon waking up. I couldn’t, even if in my dream I knew I was dreaming and trying to remember each and every note. Composing music awake is not one of my talents. Not yet.

One of these days I might just surprise myself.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Blah blah blah

I was unusually irritable this week. I lost my temper a few times. My guess is it was that period of the month when my hormones go bonkers, or I was just plain crabby. On most days, I would be quickly appeased by Markus’s “There, there, Mom. Calm down, calm down.” This week, he didn’t even try.

When upset with my kids, I tend to repeat myself over and over. They often react with, “Okay, Mom” or “Mom, I heard you the first time” or “Yah, yah, yah” because I sound like a broken record, a remix, or extended version. Blah blah blah blah blah. If only they wouldn’t test my patience in the first place. I don’t enjoy nagging. Blah blah blah..

I have observed that I rant in two languages when addressing my kids. English, Tagalog. Tagalog, English. I can’t tell which one is easier. English requires less saliva but the more wordy Tagalog captures more of my thoughts. My younger kids can’t fully understand Tagalog; when upset, I can’t say everything in English. So I switch between the two languages back and forth, back and forth.

There are times when just at the peak of my emoting, I say a boo-boo like, “ACCIDENT HAPPEN!” What a spoiler! Everyone, including me, pretends to ignore it though everyone, including me, feels like saying it right a second time. I think that’s what Gabriel did when he quietly walked over to Markus and whispered something.

On another occasion this week, I snapped at Markus for wearing a jacket with nothing underneath and there was no time to go back to the house.  Blah blah blah blah blah, I went again on the way to the supermarket. It’s so hot! Nobody’s wearing a jacket!... only to find out later that the air-conditioning inside the Superstore warranted an outerwear. I had to admit this boo-boo.

“You are right to wear that after all, Markus. I’m sorry…You are smart to wear a jacket.” Time to eat some humble pie.

Without excusing my outbursts, I still see some merit in expressing negative emotions and being real rather keeping everything inside. It’s even better to identify those feelings while they are happening. I’m upset, blah blah blah… I’m angry blah blah blah… Definitely better than numbing or flatlining in stressful situations.

Well, if my kids never see me in a bad mood, they will not appreciate the good.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Girlie stuff

A dear friend of mine I’ll call Merry, who never misses to come to my workstation daily for conversation, recently suggested, “Lerryblossoms, why don’t you do girlie stuff?”

Girlie stuff. I have been thinking about doing “girlie stuff” like sewing and making crafts to alternate with my handywoman projects. Maybe Merry thought I could use some fun out of doing lighter activities that can be done while sitting down, chit-chatting or watching TV. I’d been thinking about that too.

I cook, I bake, I keep house, on top of caring for my boys. Now I garden also.  But I want to try more girlie stuff, not just the practical ones. Maybe it’s time to squeeze out latent creative juices for things that are nice to do or to look at.

Merry knows lots of girlie things. She can sew, crochet, cross-stitch, bake fancy cakes, decorate, and she has a knack for knick-knacks. Me, I was never good at any of those things and just managed to pass Home Economics in elementary and high school. I think I had poor small motor skills. Couldn’t cut straight, stitch straight, do tiny things well with my hands. I enjoyed P. E. better. Even today, I would rather go for bowling or ping pong, even practice swinging at the driving range, than repair a loose button.

But maybe I can do it, you know, the girlie stuff. If I can do gardening, I could probably do other things. Maybe I could make nice floral arrangements so that my house doesn’t look like a guys’ dorm all the time. Or string my own necklace. Or sew my curtains, bed linens, skirts, and the boys’ boxers!

Last Sunday, I was happy to complete another handywoman project after fixing our storm door and replacing the screen. I have four or five more projects to do and I’m ready for some girlie projects.

Ahh, so many things to do and so little time.  

Monday, May 08, 2006

Grrrdening

Here’s another Canadian first for me. Yesterday, I actually did some gardening in a small fenced in area, about 8’ x 7’, in our front yard. I will mark this event as a milestone: Me gardening at midlife! 

I had been thinking about gardening, but what pushed me to actually do it was helping a dear friend weed her big backyard last Saturday. In doing so, I learned a few things about weeding.

“It’s just a matter of pulling, right?” I asked my friend.

“No, you have to dig. Otherwise you might leave the roots and the weeds will easily grow back,” she said.

She gave me a pair of gardening gloves, a trowel, and a stool, then led me to the backyard to show me where to start.

“Okay, which ones are the weeds?” I asked.

My friend laughed out loud, surprised by my ignorance. Frankly, I can’t always tell weeds from plants here in Canada. In our first house just weeks after our landing, I was very happy when flowers started blooming around our yard that first spring. One day, our landlord came by and asked why I wasn’t pulling a weed that had grown so tall beside our front door. “Oh, I didn’t know that was a weed…” (I know a Filipino, also new to Canada, who borrowed a vehicle and filled the trunk with dandelions for potting later. Hilarious!)

“These here are weeds, these are plants…” my friend began to orient me around.

“Are those weeds?” I pointed to a cluster.

“No, those are plants.”

“Are those weeds?” I pointed to another cluster.

“No, those are plants. These are weeds.” Realizing that her plants were in danger of being prematurely pulled from the ground, my friend led me to a big vegetable plot at the farther end of the yard.

“Okay, everything here is a weed,” she said.

I spent about two hours crouched in the garden. The scent of the grass and the soil brought happy thoughts I couldn’t exactly pinpoint from where or what. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Encouraged by this pleasant experience, I decided to work on my own hideous front yard and apply what I just learned. I was sure that everything in my yard was either a weed or trash so no worries about taking out something I shouldn't. It took me about three hours to clean the tiny space. I can't remember ever pulling so many weeds in one sitting. But surprisingly, I enjoyed it.

I was very pleased with what I had accomplished. How come I never liked gardening before? I wondered. I think I had the answer while washing my hands and they started itching. I recalled having badly infected eczema on my hands growing up in the Philippines. That was probably why I avoided getting my hands soiled--literally.

Here in Canada, it is wonderful to see flowers, vegetables and fruit trees start to grow in abundance around this time of year. I thought maybe it’s not too late to take up gardening as a hobby. I might yet discover my green thumb beneath my brown one. Besides, my eczema has not bothered me in a long time. I think I've outgrown it.

I will start planting some vegetables and herbs this week. Hopefully, I will remember to water them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Baaad words

My boys have learned that certain words are inappropriate, even unacceptable, especially around me. These words are rude, hurtful, disrespectful and upsetting to other people. Yet, some of these rude words creep into their vocabulary just the same, after which they are too hard to weed out.

I did a bit of research on why people swear and I found this info on a kid’s site (Child and Youth Health): “Swearing is a way of speaking that some people use to express their feelings of anger, annoyance, and frustration or when they want to hurt someone else's feelings. Sometimes people swear because they think it is smart or funny.” It goes on to say when swearing is not okay, how to stop swearing, and even suggested creative alternatives for swear words. Heck and double heck! Oh sheep! Silly sausage!

When I’m really frustrated, I say LINTOGENES! (lin-to-ge-nes, with a hard g). I don’t know what the heck it means or where it came from, but it does help me vent at the same time avoid setting off a barrage of unprintables.

Recently, I asked Markus if he had ever heard me swear. “Yeah, I heard you say the S-word once when you had a paper cut…” he said, recalling other details I had no memory of. Moms, your kids are listening behind those walls....

“Really?” I asked. “I didn’t say SHOOT!? They sound similar… Or maybe I did say the S-word…” I tried to rationalize at first then took it back.

“I’m not really sure…” Markus backtracked.

Gabriel and Markus have their favourite swear words of the Level 1 category. By Level 1, I mean the common ones like stupid or idiot. If left unchecked these can quickly deteriorate to level 2, which by my definition includes everything else. Level 2 ones would be a definite no-no in our house and would provoke more than my dagger looks. Unprintables are Level 2. You won’t find these Levels 1 and 2 categories anywhere because I made them up.

As for my teens, they are old enough to know what’s right from wrong. I don’t hear them say the Level 2s, but if they do so in my absence, that’s their choice and I am not their conscience. Eventually, they will have to be responsible for their own behaviour. I’d like to believe that I did my part, or at least tried to, when they were younger.

But with Gabriel and Markus, they are still at that age where as a parent I could steer them this way or that. To their credit, they seem to make some effort to rein in their tongues. Not always, but at least they try. However, I have noticed that sometimes they find a cunning way to avoid saying “bad words” outright and still express the same intent or emotion. It can sound funny, but I try not to laugh. Take these examples:

Markus was rambling and saying things that Gabriel found nonsensical.

“Markus, that’s so stu…” In the next breath, Gabriel said, “I almost said stupid.”

Markus said another thing eliciting a similar reaction from his older brother.

“Markus, you’re an i--… I almost said idiot.” Two hits in a row.

This morning, Markus forgot to do something for his homework and we were in a rush to leave.

“Markus, you’re SO not knowing anything,” Gabriel managed to take the long way to dumb.

It’s not as if Markus is always on the receiving end.

A few days ago, he rushed to me while I was washing the dishes. Apparently, he and Gabriel had just had a tiff while playing Lord of the Rings on the Gamecube. In a hushed but obviously annoyed tone, Markus said, “Mom, I shouldn’t be saying this but I think Kuya Gabriel is a Mordor scum!”