Welcome to the very last #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl. This last time, we all give our final words about the entire trailing spouse journey. Scroll down to view the other Trailing Spouse’s stories. I dedicate this post to a member of my extended family, who is, was and will again be — the ultimate Trailing Spouse! You know who you are! 😉
The last few months have been a little crazy, to say the least. I feel like I’ve been swallowed up in some parallel “trailing spouse” universe and suddenly my time isn’t my own. Well, it is, isn’t it (But then again with two kids, it never really was, right?) 😉 Hence, the trailing spouse’s version of a twilight zone.
I started this trailing spouse journey in 2008, and there began the self-taught lessons of surviving home away from home and parenting away from home. You’d think that seven years later, someone like me would’ve gotten the hang of it already.
In the last few months, I’ve learned and experienced some things I’d never experienced in my trailing spouse life.Continue Reading →
Part of our most recent trip back to Manila was reconnecting with friends and clients, and clients turned friends. Near our home was the new office of my friend Kaiz. I paid him a visit (also to deliver the cookies his wife Michelle ordered from Sam. 😉 ) and took a tour of the facility.
The entrance to the facility on the 8th floor.
His new office, LifeScience, is a Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine. Some may have heard of it before as it has been around for a while now.
Borrowed photo from RAPPLER.COM because I wasn’t able to take an inside shot myself!
I loved the hotel feel of it, it wasn’t a cold medical clinic at all. And all their technology looked like the most current I’ve ever seen. LifeScience’s focus is on over-all health more than just aesthetics. They have a program that determines what your health goals are and they will conduct tests, do consultations with the doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts that are all on their team, and even create your own special mix of vitamins and neutraceuticals that cater to your specific unique needs. That’s very impressive (it beats buying the generic ones outside any day!). Kaiz himself has been on his own program and says he’s lost a ton of weight from it.
At the end of my tour, he handed me a form and turned me over to a nurse to draw blood — for my Food Intolerance Test. Say what?!
“It’s just an Ant bite” is what I tell my kids. Uh-huh.
“Oh, you mean what I’m allergic to,” I said.
And so I learned my first valuable insight — that allergies are often misconstrued for intolerance, and the two were not (are not) the same thing. In my mind, the simple explanation is this: When you’re allergic to something, your body reacts immediately upon the ingestion of the food and it’s potentially life-threatening. When you’re intolerant to something, your body will react but you won’t necessarily die (Wonderful). You can also be intolerant to more than one thing at the same time, so you don’t know what the real cause is. An allergy is usually one identified source, like shellfish for instance.
Here’s the poster on the wall.
As Kaiz says, it all starts with our gut. Everything we eat passes through our intestines. And the food that we’re intolerant to builds up as gunk, and causes our intestines to inflame. That in turn causes our body to react. That’s why there’s bloating, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, skin problems, headaches, weight control problems, itchiness, etc. The list goes on. It sometimes even presents itself as fatigue. My theory is that your body is working harder to process these foods and therefore isn’t working as efficiently as it should.
It made so much sense to me because I do feel and experience most of the symptoms in the poster.
Eight days after the blood draw I came back for my consultation. I saw a doctor, a nutritionist and a fitness expert all in one sitting. I got a full body scan too with their Body Composition Analyzer, which showed me exactly how my body was “broken down”, so to speak.
The doctor taking me through my Body Composition Analyzer.
Over-all, my BMI and Fat Mass was still within the normal range, although they were on the high side. And my Metabolic Age reflected that of a 41-yr old. YIKES. I also have more fat in my upper body and the muscle mass “balance” showed I tend to use my right side more than my left. I have scoliosis after all and so I’m definitely imbalanced.
And then we talked about my Food Intolerance Test results.
Everything in RED and YELLOW I’m supposed to remove from my diet.
Surprise surprise — I’m intolerant to most of the food that I eat!
The doctor said that weight loss (which I declared as my main goal) would be harder if I kept eating these foods, despite any calorie counting.
In the carbohydrates group, corn surprised me the most. And here I thought I was already eating healthy! The cheeses I’d need to limit to mozzarella and those made with buffalo’s milk (ie Kesong Puti — that’s hard to come by here!). The milk and hazelnut results were also quite surprising. I love Hazelnut coffee, and I put non-fat milk in it too. It’s no wonder I get queasy after just one cup (and I’ve already limited myself to one cup a day).
As I scanned through my results, I felt bad!
I came home and looked at the ref, and realized this was all I could eat for dinner. Hmph.
I felt overwhelmed. Where do I start? Most of what I like, I can’t have. Even some of the usual substitutes like Soy or Oats, and some Beans aren’t options. So what now?
I have to look at the things that are green. These are the ones I can eat. So it means, I need to get creative.
What happens if I follow this diet? Strictly speaking, in 6 weeks the weight loss and the change in energy levels are evident. And if you eat any of them after that “cleanse” then you’ll know how it directly affects your body. I can say that much for cola. I’d stopped taking it in my attempt to diet for my brother’s wedding, and one jet-lagged morning I had it with potato chips. Boy did my stomach hurt!
It took me a while to fully absorb my intolerance test results and make concrete changes. One thing’s for sure, it’s okay to take it slow. The term they use in Girl Scouts is PROGRESSION. So I try to follow that mantra week after week, and I don’t kill myself if I take two steps back on some days.
As each week goes by, I slowly remove one item at a time. I now drink brewed coffee with a non-dairy creamer and cane sugar. And surprisingly, I don’t have that queasy feeling anymore. I’ve cut out the rice in my meals, decreased the bread, and started exploring the gluten-free aisles in the supermarket.
I used to skip over this aisle. Not anymore.
My recent purchase included a bag of quinoa which I had with Maga’s Kitchen Tuyo the other day (Maga’s Kitchen ingredients are all on the “ok” list), Couscous, and dried apples and coconuts as snack. Not my usual fare, but it’s a start.
After three weeks of trying it, I recently put some french fries into my stomach (how can you not with kids around), and I didn’t feel too well after. At the very least I’m learning not to like some of the food that I once frequented.
I need to figure out what I can eat for breakfast though as oats, granola and yogurt are off my list. The kids usually have bread, pancakes and cheese, and I end up eating what they don’t finish (for the life of me, I can’t let good food go to waste). I know that doesn’t do me any favors, but it’s what’s there.
It’s frustrating to say the least — when I go into the grocery aisle I need to read all of the ingredients on the packs, or think about what I can substitute for some of the regular stuff. My girls have specific favorites and I also don’t want to cook much more outside of what I already make for the family. I realize it’s a prioritization exercise. I determine which ones I’m willing to let go of first, and which “intolerances” I will tolerate for a longer period. Like chocolates. And wine. Oh, most definitely wine. 😉
And I am slowly teaching my kids to eat healthier too (I hope). Apparently, food intolerance can also be hereditary. I don’t know for sure, but Jamie gets constipated with too much cheese and ice cream, or bloated after a bowl of rice. Sam complains of a tummy ache too when she eats certain foods. So it’s definitely a watch out point, and something I’d consider doing for my kids in the future.
It’s definitely a process. And it has to work together with a whole system of exercise, sleep, diet and kids eating the food on their plate. Awareness they say is always the first step. Consistency is a good next goal. And hopefully the positive lifestyle change will follow soon enough.
My husband and I have been going back and forth with this decision for a while now and we get the question from friends. Here are some of the reasons why we’d choose to renew the passes, and why we think we could do without them for the time-being.
Because it’s Disneyland! How lucky are we to live so close to the Happiest Place on Earth? The kids never tire of it because it’s always a different experience when we go. Despite the number of times we’ve been there in the last twelve months, they “haven’t lost the magic” so to speak. It still excites them.
The annual passes also allow us a pressure-free visit each time. Sometimes we spend the day in just one “land”, and sometimes we see only the shows and meet the characters. When the lines are long for one particular ride, there’s the luxury of just coming back another time when the park isn’t so crowded.
It makes for instant, ultra fun playdates. Several of our good friends and their families have annual passes too, and it’s fun to go together. As another co-parent of mine said, it beats going to the mall over the weekend.
We’ve celebrated birthdays there as well. Being with friends at Disney is definitely a whole different kind of fun than just being there with your family (all the time), and again — how many people get to do that on a regular basis?
Jamie’s birthday celebration was at Disney with friends and family!
Also, going with other people adds to the different experiences, because some will take note of things you don’t, or do things you wouldn’t think of doing. One of Sam’s friends got her to go on Big Thunder Ranch for the first time and she loved it. Another recommended the Radiator Springs Ride (which we’d never have thought to try because of the impossible lines! The Fast Passes run out pretty quick too) — and it’s become our absolute favorite.
Clockwise from Top Right: Sam with friends on Soarin’ over California; Sam, Jamie and friends meet Anna and Elsa; Sam’s first time on Big Thunder Railroad was with her friend. :)
There’s always something new in Disneyland. From a marketing perspective, Disney is an awesome brand. It keeps current, so no matter how many times you’ve watched the same show, or see the same characters, the jokes are updated. The cast members and staff stay in character too, and they react based on the latest from that particular sub-brand or Princess.
Even when things go wrong, there’s a magical story behind it. One time the Finding Nemo submarine sprung a leak and while waiting for them to fix it, the girls asked the staff what had happened. They said that “Bruce got carried away and bit the ship.” You should’ve seen them, they hung on every word!
I’m quite impressed at how Disney times the release of their merchandise too, and how they inject the “new” into their tried and true activities. Just recently they added the Inside Out Pre-Parade over at California Adventure, and so of course, despite watching the parade about a hundred times now, we still made it a point to go see just that.
At the moment they’re running their Paint the Night Parade at the main Disneyland Park — I’d say it’s one of their most awesome parades yet. The quality of the experience is unparalleled.
Now this is really a must-see!
So, should we even ask…
Why Shouldn’t We Renew?
It’s Expensive. Even with the Annual Pass renewal discount and monthly payment scheme, Disney admittedly is expensive. And the prices go up every year (I do suppose it’s because they’re in such high demand). It’s a major motivation as to why we feel we need to go a lot — to maximize its value. Rather than spend and explore another theme park or another museum, we know we already have these passes, and therefore we should use them. Again and again.
We’re also at that point in our lives where we need to prioritize where to spend the money (I haven’t found a way to grow money trees yet). We’re soon moving homes, and the girls are venturing into other activities this fall, so every penny counts.
It doesn’t help either that when we’re in Disney, Jamie likes to shop. And she has daddy wrapped around her little finger, so she walks away with something new (and expensive), almost every time. Yes, it’s all dad’s doing. 😉
One of Jamie’s many conquests. They did say she looks like Boo in pigtails.
It’s Time (and Energy) Consuming. Going to the Disney Parks takes up a lot of time. No matter how short or long we stay, at the end of it I’m exhausted. Getting from the car to the tram with the stroller and the two girls, walking, carrying, holding them and the sunblock or the jackets, or the snacks and water bottles… well, you understand.
Then of course there are the rides. At some point, there’s always a line to contend with. And even without the lines, there’s the ride itself. I’ll admit that while I can still stomach these rides, the muscles in my body tighten for one reason or another, and THAT, on top of everything else, is very tiring too.
Exhibit A: Space Mountain. I think my face says it all.
For the kids, it’s great and they sleep like babies at night. I on the other hand, have other chores to finish when we get home. So the exhaustion doesn’t help at all.
Jamie’s Height. Then there’s the “tiny” fact that Jamie isn’t tall enough to ride some rides yet. While Sam gets the better deal of it and rides twice (Read: switch pass), Jamie and I stay at side waiting.
Our other default is to sit and watch the Soundsational parade or the Pixar Play Parade, depending on which park we’re in. And whileit’s Jamie’s cup of tea, the people beside probably think I’m crazy since I can sing (and dance) the whole parade from start to finish (Maybe I’ve seen it too many times ey…).
I still love it that she gets giddy over the parade though!
It’ll probably be another year or two before she’s tall enough, and then she’d need to muster up the courage for the thrill attractions.
There you have it my friends. Equal weight across the pros and cons. If you were in our shoes and you only had just a few more days to decide, what would you do?
Will you say hello, or say goodbye to the mouse and the magic? ;)
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on Sleep Training, precisely because not much has changed in three years with respect to our sleeping habits.
The girls still both sleep in our bed.
We still have this whole ritual of “bath, bed and book” before we say our prayers, turn off the lights and turn on the sleepy music. But they still require my presence in the room; specifically in between them both with arms wrapped around them. Yes, I’ve turned into a lovey.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the snuggle time and the late night conversations. I’m well aware they are fleeting but sometimes, I really just need a breather. My focus and all my energy during the day are already dedicated to them and the home: what they need, what they eat, their daily activities, the chores, etc. There’s not much else I do for myself apart from the occasional bathroom breaks.
Also, sometimes I’m just too exhausted that I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow, and so much is left undone. Usually the time I use to work is when they’re all in bed — and that hasn’t been happening very often lately because I turn into sleeping Snoring Beauty — as my fellow Two Tots Moms like to call it.
But it is also exhausting to have the girls in my bed. My sleep is nowhere near restful, since they both squish up to me and when I wake up I have anywhere from a foot to half of their bodies on different parts of mine. It’s no wonder I wake up tired every morning.
This is a typical sleep pattern, according to my Fitbit. Yeeesh!
Sam is the one who clings to me when bedtime rolls around, and as the older sibling, she sets the tone for Jamie too. She’s always asking what it is I have to do and why I can’t lie down and sleep with between them just yet. I’ve tried every gentle measure I could think of and every kind of positive reinforcement to get this habit to change. I’m short of bribing her to sleep with toys and chocolates (I haven’t gone that far!).
Luckily enough, I didn’t have to. Thanks to Girl Scouts!
Two weekends ago our Girl Scout troop scheduled an overnight camping at one of their program centers. It was basically a facility with a fenced-in backyard, and our troop leader said if our daughter wanted to go and it was her first time, then we moms had to go too. They didn’t want to have to call us in the middle of the night if our girls came out crying asking for us.
Of course, when it comes to Girl Scouts (and earning a badge), Sam is 200% all in.
I prepped her as best as I could for this day, and that meant trying to fall asleep without me at night. I didn’t want to force her but she really wanted to go camping, and so while it seemed like she was torn about it, every night she would try. She’d definitely succeed, because by the time she’s settled and the questions have stopped, it only takes her a few minutes and then she’s out like a light. She definitely doesn’t do it without a lengthy repeated discussion though.
She was excited about the trip and sleeping with her friends, and we tried to focus on that. I involved her when we packed her overnight bag and chose her sleeping bag. I even taught her to bathe herself, just in case. We kept it as part of our regular conversations with friends and she seemed excited and determined to try.
On the day of the trip the girls set up their own tent and got to choose who they’d sleep with.
We’re all learning to set up a tent.
Sam seemed fine and it looked like she would be able to do it. The whole day she stayed with her friends and did the activities. Then at night, she said good night to me and walked away with her friends while I stayed inside and prepared my own bed.
Jamie stayed with me and said good night to her Ate.
My first reaction was relief. FINALLY! Maybe this was the next step we needed. Thoughts about reviving the topic of sleeping in their own room came flooding back. And for a first time attempt for a night out with friends in a strange unfamiliar place, she was doing really well. I was proud; this was a huge, huge deal!
And then of course, the mixed feelings washed over me and I suddenly got sentimental. I missed my big little baby. I don’t remember my parents ever allowing me to sleep away from home and in a tent at that.
I’ve to admit, it’s moments like these when I want to trade in a good night’s sleep and the undone chores and keep them in my bed for longer.
That lasted for a few hours because the fatigue I was accustomed to set in. Sam had trouble falling asleep, and I had to go up to her tent twice to talk to her. We eventually made a deal that if in an hour’s time she wasn’t able to fall asleep, I’d finally take her inside with me to bed so we could both get some rest. At that point, I was more than happy to accept she wasn’t ready to sleep away from me, in a tent or otherwise, and maybe moving into her own room would be more traumatic than beneficial for either of us. But, (And I think it was because there was a badge involved…) Sam asked to try one last time.
Photo Credit: Patti
Our troop leader came in shortly after and said Sam finally dozed off so I didn’t go back outside. It was a good thing too because my airbed failed me and I ended up on the hard concrete floor (ouch!).
I woke up the next morning and I found her up and playing with her tent mates. I estimated she got a total of 6 hours of sleep at best, half of what she’s used to. She was in good spirits though for having accomplished what she did. Her tent mates did a good job too of helping her through it and gave her the positive reinforcement she needed to stay and not ask for mom.
Happy chatter in the wee hours of the morning.
So we survived, and there was no crying from either of us ;). And ever since then, Sam has gone to bed with less of a fuss. She asks me to stay a while, and eventually she’ll let me leave and will quietly fall asleep with just Jamie beside her. When my evening’s done, I still crawl into bed between them. It’s a happy compromise for now. Some nights still aren’t that restful, but I’ll take the small wins where I can get them. At the very least, we’re making progress, one baby step at a time.
The Moral of the Story: When you need to sleep-train your child, sign them up for Girl Scouts. 😉
The ballet studio’s year-end dance recitals aren’t new to us, thanks to Sam’s enthusiastic desire to join every single one of them (in true, Peacock nature). And yet every year, there’s still always a first time experience — or two! — that comes with it. Ah, the parenting roller coaster indeed.
This was Sam’s first recital in California, but being our seasoned performer, she just took it all as she always does. The exciting part about it was that her group got invited to perform on the Disney Performing Arts stage at California Adventure!
Sam’s Disney Dream Come True!
It was pretty exciting even for me, as I got to be a parent who got to go backstage and see a little bit of Disney’s behind the scenes. Unfortunately they banned any kind of photo whatsoever (they said they wanted to ensure that everyone’s memory of Disney is the way they see it at the parks. Imagine that!) Only the performers were given free passes into the park, so it was thanks to those Annual Passes that we were all able to go in and watch her. Sam says it was a “dream come true” to be considered a cast member even for just a few hours.
Speaking of firsts, it was Jamie’s first ballet recital too! She was finally old enough to participate. She didn’t want to at first, but Sam convinced her by saying “It’ll be great — Daddy will give you flowers!“, and with that, Jamie instantly changed her mind.
She enjoyed every minute of it, and despite being the smallest and the youngest in the group, she had no qualms about performing and smiling on stage.
A Dutch Maid on her very first recital!
I got many compliments after from members of the audience and the teachers and parents backstage about how it seemed she knew exactly what to do, and exactly where to look. I’m always worried because Jamie is a Dove, and can be self-conscious and timid at times, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. Well, she’s proven me wrong before. I forget her intrapersonal intelligence is her strongest innate intelligence so that must be what comes into play.
What followed Jamie’s decision to participate was another first: I volunteered to be a backstage “group mom”. It made perfect sense to me because both girls would be backstage and I was driving them to and from recitals as well. Plus as I mentioned, I was worried about not being around Jamie. Maybe it was more my fear than hers, but all the same I put my name down.
The ballet studio we joined had a similar curriculum to that of our old ballet studio in Manila, so I was familiar with the drill of multiple dance rehearsals, long hours, hair and make-up and all that came with it. The big difference was, the production here was put on by a few teachers and a whole bunch of parent volunteers.
Note the pack and play on one side, and the stroller on the other….
I learned (as the practices and days went by), that the job of a Group Mom isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I was assigned to Jamie’s group of six girls, along with another first time group mom. We had the smallest group to handle, and so while I was over-the-moon stressed, some of the seasoned group moms said I “had it easy” (Hu-what?!).
The first and biggest bit of it was managing the kids. Our age group of 4-6 year olds was a bit of a challenge precisely because of that developmental stage they were in. The budding personalities and budding sense of independence yet co-dependence and desire to do everything the other was doing, drove me up the wall. They wanted to get dressed and undressed at their own schedules (which never really matched — plus we had to keep those costumes clean!), or sit anywhere else except on the mats we provided.
The one shot where MOST of them are on the mat. It lasted for all of 2 minutes.
Taking these girls to the bathroom was also a chore, because they would always resist going and wait until the last minute when they couldn’t hold it anymore. This was always the time we had to get in line to get on stage.
They weren’t allowed to eat in their costumes either, which of course they did. As much as I had set aside the snacks to wait until we were back in our cover-ups (we’d also have to leave the room to eat), some of them knew exactly where I had them put their stuff and would just go for it.
The snacks that weren’t supposed to be opened just yet. But we were outnumbered…
Then there were the range of emotions and social conflicts, like pushing or sharing and separation anxiety from parents. We had to handle all of that too. Thankfully Jamie was as calm as ever. I supposed it helped because I was there and because she knew the dynamics of having me as an authority figure. The other kids had to learn as I had to learn and adjust to them as well.
The other half of being a group mom was managing the parents. Half of the parents had done this recital the year before so they kind of knew what to expect. But still, the young age of the group made them anxious about leaving their girls in the hands of a stranger — me. Some were overly anxious and were right there when we called to say practice was over earlier than expected. Then there were those that really didn’t care to follow or listen to instructions given. They would send their kids in costume when we said not to, or send chocolates as snacks when we’d said not to as well (It’s terribly hard to remove chocolate stains on costumes I tell you!).
Then there was the parent who couldn’t grasp the concept of her child staying through the whole recital, when she was only dancing for two minutes. Yes, I admit, this is my karma. Thankfully in my time, I had seasoned parents who walked me through it, and so I tried to be that for this particular mom as well. After all, this is what you sign up for. I don’t know if I was effective, or if it was because we really didn’t know each other all too well (she wasn’t at the weekly ballet classes), so it didn’t make much of a dent this year. They were still always late to practice, and always late to pick-up (which meant the girls and I couldn’t leave because we had to wait until all my five other girls had been picked up).
That whole experience gave me a new-found respect for preschool teachers.
Of course, it all worked out in the end.
We made it to the curtain call! Hurray!
Everyone was excited and the costumes, hair and make-up held up nicely too (considering I was running around the backstage after them with a hairspray bottle in one hand and q-tips with lipstick in another). Whatever spots or crumbs we weren’t able to remove weren’t noticed. The parents were all happy and grateful that they got their children back in five whole pieces with smiles on their faces. I still needed a tall glass of wine after though, but I’m glad things worked out well and I was glad it was over.
Before we left, one of the other group moms came to me and said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be better next year when they’re older.”
“Once a group mom, always a group mom,” she said as she walked away.
When she said it, I couldn’t imagine doing it again. Although after I’d had my glass(es) of wine, I completely understood.