Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sherry red

Meet Sherry, the newest member of our family.



We took her into her home last Thursday. We are all very delighted to have this adorable dog around the house. My boys had been wanting a dog for a long time, but I was not very open to the idea. If you read an old entry in this blog, I set several conditions before getting a dog. I said it had to be free, has had shots, toilet trained, etc.

To find one meeting the first criterion, my boys had been searching craigslist for free dogs looking for a loving home. They found a few and contacted the owners, but nothing came out of those.

A month ago, my officemate emailed a bunch of us regarding a dog that was being given away by someone she knew. I immediately contacted the person. That night we checked it out. We instantly liked Sherry, also called Sheli by her current Korean owners.

There was one hitch though. It turned out that Sherry's original owner, who gave her to the current ones this past summer, wanted her given to someone she knew. She didn't know us. As a compromise, we had to wait for a month while owner #1 tried to look for a potential owner.

Since then, my boys kept counting the days and weeks. They were getting impatient. Me, I was fine with it. It gave me time to pray about this particular dog joining our family. God, if this is going to be good for us, let us have the dog. But if not, please do not give it to us.

When the time came, I got an email that we could get the dog. I thought, It is meant to be. We all got excited and bought dog food, treats, a dog collar and leash. Sherry was coming with her own doghouse.

Sherry is a red-coated Shiba Inu, the smallest of 6 original dog breeds from Japan. She is intelligent and knows several tricks. However, the commands she understands are mostly in the Korean language. So know we are trying to memorize those commands at the same time shifting her to English.

For now, we can get her to "sing" and "pray". I saw her respond to dance, wait, and other Korean commands. I wonder who will learn faster--Sherry on understanding English commands, or us on speaking Korean.

According to the National Shiba Club of America, adult Shiba Inus readily adjust to a new family and almost instantly adapt to being a spoiled only child. So true. She is now at ease with us and loves being pampered.



Sherry is easy to have in the house. She doesn't chew on slippers or chairs or jumps at the Christmas tree. We can leave her alone in the house and not worry about her making a mess. She is housebroken and will only pee or poop outside. The only thing is she loves to go for a walk and will give you good exercise when you take her out even in the snow.




As to diet, she is not a big eater. And she is a very healthy dog too. Never had health issues.

Sherry is a welcome addition to our family. We are so happy to have her. I read on some websites that pets, especially dogs, are good for your health, physically and emotionally, unless of course you are allergic to them.

Let's see if we can still teach Sherry new tricks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Claus, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White

"Mom, if you could be a fictional character, what would you be?" Markus asked me as I was driving him and Gabriel to school one morning. Before I could answer, he continued, "Me, I'd like to be Santa Claus so I will work only once a year."

"Not really," I said. "You make toys the rest of the year."

"No. Santa doesn't do it. He just says, 'Yeah, you make toys.'" Right, Santa has many helpers.

"Then I'll be Sleeping Beauty. I will just be sleeping and my Prince Charming will come," I said. He will wake me up and because I'm still groggy and wanting to sleep in, he will bring me a tray of apple-cinnamon topped oatmeal, eggs, pancake and hot mocha... Wait, that's not fiction. That's what MrB did for me last Sunday.

"Or I could be Snow White and have seven Dwarfs," I continued. "I have four already. I only need three more. Yeah, I'll be Snow White."

And live happily ever after.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pests

These past few days, we've been noticing a growing number of fruit flies in our kitchen and dining room. There are always fruits in the house but it seems that whenever we have grapes, the flies aren't far behind. And these flies multiply fast.

This morning, Gabriel got a flyswatter and started swatting these pesky creatures on the walls and mirror. I was at the dining table, checking emails on the laptop.

"Don't do it so hard. You might disturb the neighbours or break the mirror. You're not swatting rats. You're only swatting flies...," I said.

Gabriel snickered. "Mom, you don't swat rats," he replied.

"Whatever."

When I stood up, Gabriel used the laptop. I got the flyswatter and started hitting the flies. Pretty soon, I was hitting them hard.

"Mom, the neighbours!" Gabriel blurted.

There's something about flies and flyswatters that arouse a "killer instinct" in me. I think I have memories stored in my limbic brain of the many flies, ants, cockroaches and rats we had to exterminate in some way inside our houses in the Philippines.

Soon after we moved into our own house that was still unfinished, among the first things we had to get installed were screens on all our windows and doors to keep the flies and mosquitoes out. The flies were not just fruit flies, but full-sized ones. Occasionally, one or two would manage to get in so you need to keep a flyswatter handy.

And the ants! I know we can learn a thing or two from their diligence, but apart from that I loathed these smart critters. They are so tiny but so many and so organized. I was amazed but extremely annoyed at the speed at which they found our food and swarmed on them. Oooh I hated that!

Being a stay-at-home mom, I was constantly finding ways to outsmart those ants and kill them in the process. What worked best for me was to place a shallow bowl or bowls of water in the middle of the dining table, and put an empty glass at the center of each one. I then placed the plate of food on the glass like it was perched on a tower. Let's see you all drown. Bah!

Another public enemy -- cockroaches! We were the first residents of our house, but it seemed those vile roaches had been there before us nesting in the surrounding lot. I was a very squeamish person, but when I had enough of these vermin creeping on our floors and kitchen counters, I declared an all-war against them. I hit them with a slipper, a flyswatter, a rolled newspaper. No mercy! Finally, Baygon killed their colony. I did not allow a stray roach to wander inside the house again without me running after it. Whaack!

OK, I will not even describe to you how we killed rats and mice. Oh, I forgot to mention termites. For these ones we had to call professional exterminators because they knew where to find the queen. You can't have termites in the house. They are destructive and very insidious.

When we first came to Canada, I was so relieved that we could leave the food on the table and not see an ant or a fly or coackroach. Deliverance!!! I was almost delighted to finally see a mosquito.

So here I was this morning, flyswatter on my right hand, reliving the same aggressive emotions I felt when I was battling pests that disturbed our home life in the Philippines.

Ooomph!....Hrrm!...Hah!... Oomph! I grunted as I hit the flies here and there, almost obsessively.

"Mom, the neighbours! Calm down," Gabriel said.

Once I got the momentum, I couldn't stop. I felt a great sense of satisfaction with each fly killed. I kept muttering things like, "Patay kang bata ka!" (You're dead, kid!"), "Buti nga sa yo," (Serves you right), "Akala mo makakaligtas ka sa 'kin, ha!" (You thought you could escape me!)... Oh, I can do this all day. It is good for releasing aggression!" Better than nagging.

"Mom, stop! You're annoying," Gabriel complained as I kept swatting around him.

"Oh, there's one! Move your head," I said while jolting his head forward. Now that's annoying--and intentional. "Oops, there's another one," I did the same thing, teasing Gabriel even more.

At one point, I stood quietly, flyswatter raised on my right hand, ready to pounce. It was as if I was taking an oath, "Do you swear to swat a fly and nothing but a fly?...

"Mom, stop standing there," Gabriel said. He grabbed the flyswatter from my hand. I remained standing.

"Mom, stop looking around. Watch TV," Gabriel insisted.

I was relentless. I went to the kitchen and looked around. I found a few more flies perched on the cabinets. I swat them with my bare hands.

"I love swatting flies," I exclaimed. Did I just say that? I thought to myself. Either my life is dull and pathetic, or I am one who will find excitement in anything. I won't ever get bored.

I think I have killed most of the flies. I don't see them flying anymore. Good riddance!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Here we go a-caroling

If you happen to visit the Philippines at this time of the year, you will see many groups of children and adults alike caroling on the streets at night. They are singing for a little gift of cash for children, a bigger amount for adults. I don't know what is considered acceptable these days. During my time, we were happy to get 25 centavos from a house.

Caroling is one tradition I grew up with back in my home country. I was first allowed by my parents to go caroling with friends around age 7. We lived in a campus where neighbours knew each other, so it was safe for small kids like us.

It was an exciting time to go out every night with friends. We roamed around the neighbourhood as soon as it got dark till about 8 or 8:30 pm. We became bolder as we got older, and ventured farther and farther. But it was still within the campus.

We considered 4 or 5 as a good number of carolers per group. Less than that, homeowners might think the rest of the group was just hiding behind the bush or at a corner, waiting to have their turn. We tried this sometimes. In effect, the same group was trying to get a shot at the same house twice. Smart! But adults were suspicious and quickly dismissed very small groups of carolers with "Patatawarin" (Sorry). Smarter! Also, if there was just one or two of you, adults would give a very small amount, if at all.

At the end of the night, we split our earnings by the number of singers so it was really better to keep the group fairly small so everyone got a good share.

We made our own musical instruments. I used to collect pop bottle caps, flatten them with a hammer, make a hole in the middle and string them into a circle with a galvanized wire. They sounded like bells. Others might bring a can and a stick. Others might have two rocks they hit together. We probably made more noise than music, but that was for the homeowners to decide. They could give us money quickly or dismiss us with Patatawarin as soon as we sang Jingle bells....

We took note of which homes were generous or stingy, and which had dogs. We avoided the latter two. We went back to the givers, say, 2 or 3 days later. We tried not to go to their homes on consecutive nights or they might say, "Kayo na naman!" (It's you again!) and not give anything.

Sometimes we were lucky to find a home that always gave. This might be our own homes, or our next door neighbour, or the rare regular giver kind. More often than not, people gave randomly. Many said "Bumalik kayo sa Pasko" (Come back on Christmas Eve.) People tend to be more generous closer to December 25.

But there were Scrooges too. When we encountered such a home, we sometimes softly sang to ourselves, "Thank you, thank you ang babarat ninyo thank you!" (...You're so stingy, thank you!) as we left.

Caroling ended on December 24. On December 25, people were already tired from the celebrations and probably sleepy from staying up late on the 24th, they were no longer in the mood to hear carols. "Tapos na ang Pasko!" (Christmas is finished!).

I probably stopped caroling at age 12 or 13. At that age, it no longer felt appropriate. I knew I was outgrowing it when I started to feel embarrassed to sing especially when I had a classmate in the house. I sort of hid in the dark.

For adult carolers, it was different. They were more musical, usually had at least a guitar, and gave advance notice to people. There might be an occasional group that would just sing in front of your gate without notice, but they are the kind you will enjoy. Beautiful singing, guitar, sometimes speakers too. It would be a shame not to give anything.

After a long break, I went back to caroling when I joined a group of college friends from Christian Communicators. We went to a few homes that our leader knew. Our purpose was not only to bring cheers but to have fellowship and share the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. I can't remember if we raised funds too.

In the following years, I joined our church choir in caroling. This was a real musical treat to people we visited. We sang in four voices, a capella or with a guitar. It was lovely. In between songs, someone shared his or her testimony about God's salvation. At the end, someone shared the gospel or an encouraging Christmas message. Then we shared a sumptuous snack prepared by the host.

Here in Canada, the caroling tradition is still alive among Filipino groups. I have joined our University Alumni Association's caroling 2 or 3 times. It was a fundraiser for some project in the Philippines. There was a lot of eating, too.

Last year, I joined the Filipino group at our church in caroling at the homes of new immigrants from the Philippines. I played the guitar. We brought them gifts and goodies. We went to give--not to receive--not just goodies but more than the the Christmas message, God with us.

I missed caroling this year. But plans are already in place for the one next year. I hope I can go then. It's a good tradition.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Stalked

I was talking with my sons one morning about young girls stalking guys. "Be careful," I said. I think, to a normal degree, most teens go through a "stalking" stage--following their crush around, trying to get a good view of the girl or guy, trying to get noticed or unnoticed... Or maybe this was back in my time? In this Internet age, you can easily find people online.

Going back to stalking, do you know that I was stalked once? I only knew about it when it was over. I was then in my 20s and still single. It was not a fatal attraction kind, no harm intended, just an unusual kind of getting-to-know-you...faster. A new acquaintance tasked his "connections in the underworld", he said, to find out if I was in a relationship or not. They followed me everywhere. He later confessed to it.

"That's an intrusion of my privacy!" I said, very upset. That ended the getting to know me--faster.

Nowadays, there's no need to go to that extreme because everyone seems to be online anyway. Facebook, MySpace, and a host of social networking sites have changed the way we do community.

But it's still different from seeing the real person, not just the virtual one. So yeah, maybe lovestruck girls or guys may do a bit of "stalking". However, when it becomes creepy and obsessive... "Don't play along with it. Be careful," I told my boys, just in case they encounter that experience.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Too hot to handle

OK, I have 18 minutes to blog. That's the time remaining for my cake to bake in the oven. I promised the boys I will bake something tonight. Choco chip cookies, Markus said. But we don't have choco chips and we ran out of eggs. So I'm making this No Egg Chocolate Cake recipe that I found on the Internet. I hope it turns out well.

Here I sit, making sure I don't forget I have something in the oven. I have learned my lesson. It was about this day last year when I almost burned down our kitchen. I partially burned my arms.

What happened was, I was preparing to fry something and had poured canola oil in the pan when the phone rang. A telemarketer. It took a while before I could say, sorry, not interested. When I went back to the kitchen, I was distracted by the dirty plates in the sink and proceeded to wash them. I forgot about the frying pan.

As I was washing the dishes, out of the corner of my left eye, I noticed flames suddenly rise from the pan. OH NOOO! I panicked and lifted it straight to the sink under the running water. BAD IDEA. I knew I wasn't supposed to do that but I was not thinking.

What happened next was that the flames grew and burned the paper towel hanging above the sink. I got more scared and carried the hot and burning pan out into the adjacent foyer. I thought it was safer there.

I carefully put down the pan on the floor, while enduring a burning sensation on my hands. During those 6 or 7 steps to the foyer, I saw something burning on the right side of my face. OHHH NO MY FACE!!! I thought it had caught fire.

I quickly stepped back, covering my face with my hands, spun around, bumped into oven and lost my balance. I dropped to the floor with a loud thud. All these happened within seconds.

"GABRIEEEEL!" I screamed. I knew he was in the basement. I alerted him to what was going on so he could call for help or run for safety.

"Mom, what was that?" he asked, looking at the pan on the floor. The fire had almost died out. I was composing myself.

"I almost burned the kitchen," I answered. I checked myself in the mirror. My hair was singed but my face was spared. I was so relieved. I ran cold water on my hands and forearms which had turned red and were hurting.

I looked around the kitchen. How did the paper towel not completely burn? I wondered. It was like the fire was snuffed out as soon as it started. Same thing with my hair. Only the surface of my thick hair got singed.

I imagined my guardian angels must have been busy putting out fires here and there. Oh you foolish woman...

For the next several days, I applied lots of my doctor-prescribed cream that looked like mayo on my forearms which I then wrapped in saran wrap. "My lunch," I joked to the kids.

I still have burn scars on my right forearm. They look like a map, slightly browner than my skin.

"When your pan catches fire," a friend said, "just toss salt into it." Really? I never knew that. I know I can simply turn off the stove and toss in a wet cloth, which I forgot to do. I tried to grab the fire extinguisher, but didn't know how to work it.

"When you get a burn, rub toothpaste on it," another friend said. She swears by this first aid technique.

"Stop, drop and roll..." I used to sing with my young sons at their daycare class on Fire Prevention Week years ago. That's what you're supposed to do when you catch fire. Stop, drop and roll. I dropped and rolled on the floor, all right, but it was unintentional.

The most important lesson I learned from that experience is not to leave hot oil cooking in the pan. I am very aware of this now.

I think the cake is done. It will be ready when the boys wake up.

Take care in the kitchen.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Day of rest

Two weeks ago, our pastor challenged us to observe a day of rest or Sabbath each week. I will not attempt a theological discussion here of the biblical Sabbath or mention all that was brought up in that Sunday service. Suffice it to say that I came away from the service agreeing that, yes, having a Sabbath is a good idea.

It does not have to be Sunday or Saturday. Whatever suits your schedule, that's what our pastor said. The important thing is to take a break, spend more time meditating, reading God's Word, praying, visiting with people who will refresh not drain you, doing things that restore the body and the spirit.

I have read other materials on keeping the Sabbath. I remember one author saying that on this day, do things you don't HAVE to do.

I decided I will try to have this day of rest from now on. How hard could that be?

Fortunately MrBlossoms and I were on the same page on this. He agreed to take Saturday for himself. I get Sunday.

On his free day, he goes to a nearby forest with his books and iPod. I do the chores at home. Me, I prefer to stay at home, cooped in the bedroom, served food (ah, wouldn't that be nice?)... He does all my chores.

He suggested that I go out, to the mall maybe, but that is hardly rejuvenating for me. Shopping exhausts me. I want to stay home. They can all go out and leave me alone at home to enjoy some total peace and quiet...Wait, that's not good on the wallet.

Anyway, I thought resting for a day would be really easy. NOT! At times I felt guilty doing nothing, lying in bed, resting. At times, I thought about chores. NOT WORKING requires discipline!

Last weekend, I had to drop off the car at the shop for a tune-up. Hubby had to follow me in the van so I can have a ride home. Since we were already on the road, we did our grocery shopping too. As agreed upon, hubby would move his rest day to Sunday because of all these errands.

This meant I had to do all chores on Saturday--laundry, cleaning and cooking our Sunday food on top of our Saturday food... I didn't quite finish everything. By Sunday, there were a couple of little things that I had to do that were chore-related. I need to plan better next time.

Still, I was able to get much rest on Sunday. By night time, I was tired of resting. How odd! I am so not used to this. As I said, I need better planning so that my day of rest doesn't feel like wasting away. It's supposed to be rejuvenating, remember? For the body, mind and spirit.

So I will list ideas on how I can spend this day of rest. While the weather is cold and rainy, I will probably do more journaling, reading books I had long wanted to read, blogging, trying creative things... MrBlossoms has agreed to give me some art lessons in January. I was planning to take lessons at the city recreation centre here, but hubby can very well give me that--for free! (Or maybe in exchange for a back massage oh HIS day of rest...)

Thank God for Sabbaths. He probably knew our propensity to get busy, busy, busy and to work ourselves to death. Maybe that's why He had to set the example for us by creating the heavens and the earth in 6 days and resting on the 7th, and then declaring the day of rest sacred.

I wonder how my life will change after consistently keeping a day of rest?