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My Mommyology

December 1, 2014
by mymommyology
6 Comments

#TrailingSpouseStories: Christmas “Firsts”

Welcome to the second run of the #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl hosted by Tala Ocampo and Didi of D for Delicious.  This December we talk about our Christmases around the World and the similarities and differences the holidays bring.  Please see the end of the post for other #TrailingSpouseStories.

***

My memory of the Holidays and Christmas is marked by the kids.  “BK” (Before Kids), my husband and I would go on a 24-hour food binge with our four Christmases:  His dad’s side for Christmas eve, my mom’s side for Christmas morning, my dad’s side for Christmas lunch, and his mom’s side for a late Christmas lunch all through the evening.  It was like that even when we were still dating.  I don’t know how we managed to keep all that food down.

But after the kids came, suddenly I found something totally different about my Christmas, each and every year.

2008 was our first Christmas as parents, and our first Christmas in Chapel Hill.  Sam was three weeks old, and so we didn’t fly home for the Holidays.  Christmas mass was Sam’s first trip out of the house, and my husband got her a Christmas dress — which she only wore once.

Our first Christmas as a family of three.

Our first Christmas as a family of three.

It was the quietest, simplest Christmas I ever had.

In 2009, we flew back to Manila for the holidays for Sam’s very first Manila Christmas.  And though the 4-Christmas spectacle was in full swing, Sam and I were severely jetlagged, so we slept through most of the festivities.

I didn’t know it then, but it was also my  Mama Mia’s last Christmas on this earth.  Thankfully we got to capture our “four generations of women” in a photo.

Four generations of women in my family. :)

Four generations of women in my family. :)  Photo credit: Ku Manahan

2010 was the year of Christmas weddings where Sam was asked to be a flower girl at least five times (Gasp!  Dreams do come true! ;)).  However, we couldn’t make it to any of them!  I was pregnant with Jamie — which also meant, it was my first Christmas pregnant.  Can you imagine the maternity winter clothes I had to buy.  Can you imagine the layers I had to put on when I could barely see my feet on a regular basis!

I was too pregnant to fly, so instead my husband treated us all to the beautifully breathtaking Biltmore estate for Christmas Eve.  This was the first Christmas I spent traveling.

I'd forgotten how pregnant I was!

I’d forgotten how pregnant I was!

The next day we drove up to Virginia to see family, and experienced our first Christmas snow day.  Sam was already two at the time, and was happy to be the recipient of all the presents under the tree.

In 2011 we flew back to Manila once more, this time for Jamie’s first ever Christmas.

Their first Christmas as "sisters"! :)

Their first Christmas as “sisters”! :)

As you can see, the photos stopped being photos of us, and more of the two sisters (in matching outfits no less!).

That was quite the stressful holiday too because we rushed Sam to the hospital days before Christmas due to an upper respiratory tract infection.

My heart stopped beating.

Dec 20:  The day I thought my heart stopped beating.

In 2012, we flew home to Manila “for good” and spent our first Christmas in our new apartment.    Sam and Jamie performed their first Christmas programs in their respective schools, and I learned just what a stage mom I was.

I never thought I'd be such a sap watching their performances.  Now I know.

I never thought I’d be such a sap watching their performances. Now I know.

2013 is what I like to call the “adjustment year”, when things were slowly falling into place here and there.  For the first time in forever (cue Frozen), we were FINALLY adjusting to a Manila routine.  The Christmas programs ran as expected in both schools.  The kids were older so they could better handle the “four Christmases”.  They still got a ton of presents, and were finally able to maximize their Christmas outfits.

Thank you, Ines Moda Infantil (left) and Tita Kisa (right).

Thank you, Ines Moda Infantil (left) and Tita Kisa (right).

The “new” this year was the holiday cheer brought about by Two Tots.   It was crazy fun buried under all those stockings, what can I say.

This 2014, just as I thought I was getting the hang of a Manila Christmas routine, I find myself again with another first:  Christmas in LA.

For someone like me who looks forward to predictability and routine, these last six Christmases have been a lot to take in.  I spent almost three decades of my life with the same kind of Christmas rituals and the same kind of routine.  Then each year after that, something stark and all too new just threw off the balance.  Ninety-seven percent of the time,it was great and wonderful and I’m indeed thankful.  But it doesn’t change the fact that it was all new and unexpected.  So what else is there to do but re-build traditions and holiday preparations, and to learn from each thing every step of the way.

Like getting the kids involved in the Holiday preparations.

As you can see, our tree is bottom heavy.  Take a guess why.

Santa Sacks are ready!  And as you can see, our tree is bottom heavy. Take a guess why.

And bringing something to remind us of home.

All by Two Tots!  How can you not have them for Christmas?!

All by Two Tots! How can you not have them for Christmas?!

And then of course, teaching the girls the true meaning of Christmas.

My beautiful Belen, a gift from my Mom!

My beautiful Belen, a gift from my Mom!

And maybe it’s because the last six years have each been so different that they’ve all stuck to me more than the Christmases of previous decades. It feels like parenting with a holiday flair, where no two days are the same, and no two children are the same!  Each year brings about many surprises that, like children, teach you a life lesson.  Learning to run with the new as well as holding on to a little bit of the old.

Somewhere in all that chaos, there is a certain familiarity and a semblance of knowing that each year will be just the same.  It doesn’t matter how many firsts each year brings your way. :)

 ***

Check out the other #TrailingSpousesstories by clicking on the links here:

Didi’s story on D for Delicious :  How Christmas abroad started out tearful, but turned tearless after some time.
Yuliya’s story on Tiny Expats:   Their journey and experience of the winter holidays in 6 countries.
Abigail’s story on Cuddles & Crumbs :  A look back at Christmas and family traditions.
Tala’s story on Tala Ocampo: Their first Christmas abroad in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with the birth of their first child.
Marie’s story on D is for Delicious:  How Christmas celebrations change with the times, and the one thing that keeps it the same.
Glendale’s story on G’s Kandy Krush:  Her first Christmas in Sri Lanka with her husband and 2 sons.
Third’s story on Pinoy in America:  How Pinoys have successfully brought the Philippines’ best-loved Christmas customs and traditions to America.
Marc’s story on Fatherland, explaining how Christmas is different this year compared to past Christmases; and
Kristine’s story on Tala Ocampo where Mac shares her reflections on spending Christmas away from home for 15 years.

November 23, 2014
by mymommyology
0 comments

A Weekend For Me

In the last six years, I can count the number of times I didn’t sleep with Sam at night.

The first time was when I gave birth to Jamie.  I stayed in the hospital overnight as mandated by the doctors.  I’d just given birth, what do we expect.

The second time was when I rushed Jamie to the hospital one weekend for aspirational pneumonia.  Someone had to watch Jamie through the night too.

The third time was when I was weaning Jamie from breastfeeding, and we collapsed in exhaustion in another room in the house.  I don’t know if that counts though, because at about 5am Sam found us and snuck into bed with us.

And as you can guess, in the last three and a half years, I’ve never slept away from Jamie.  There’s been no business trip, no weekend get-away, and no vacation without them.

Land, sea and air... they've always traveled with me.  EVERYWHERE.

Land, sea and air… they’ve always traveled with me. EVERYWHERE.

These facts surprise — and often shock — a lot of my fellow mothers.  By this time, most of them have had some weekend away from their kids, by themselves or with their husbands.    While they share their first experiences away, I often sit quietly with nothing to contribute.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the re-charging moments and the good night’s rest, and they know this —  so it makes them wonder why we haven’t done it yet.

My husband has never been “for” the idea.  He always says there will be time for us later when the kids are older.  Right now they need to be around me (all the time?) more than him (because he has taken trips away from them).  It’s having me around all the time that’s reassuring for him (them).  He worries a lot about how they’d be away from me (since it’s never happened!), and (I secretly think) how he’ll handle them without me there.  His hesitation has been the main deterrent to why we’ve gone as long as we have without a night away from the kids!

But really — it couldn’t have all been him because if I really wanted to, I’d have found a way by now, right?  I realize I probably don’t want it as much either.  Maybe it’s the loss of control over our routine.  I’m so used to doing it all my way, I’m not sure how I’d handle it if someone else did it differently (hence all my yaya issues of the past!).

However, it doesn’t stop me from broaching the topic when an opportunity presents itself, just to see where we stand.  I honestly feel he’s more-than-capable handling the girls without me.  If there’s anyone who can, it’s him!  And the girls are older and more independent too.  There’s always a lot for them to do in 48 hours (or less).  In fact one trip to Disneyland ought to do it.  And of course, connectivity makes it easier to stay in touch.  With the right pre-preparations and the accessibility of Jollibee and Chowking, I’m confident they’ll be fine.

We talk about it, but I expect status quo.  So you can imagine my surprise one morning when I woke up to find this in my inbox:

*gasp!* What a wonderful surprise!

*gasp!*  weeee!

One of my best friends invited us to the Christening of her baby in the East Coast for a weekend.  To have all of us travel that far is admittedly too costly, and impractical given the three-hour difference.  It’s too much for a weekend, and they’re not missing school! 

I talked about the possibility of traveling by myself and being away for one weekend (46 hours to be exact, inclusive of all travel time to and from the airports!).  These friends (and some other girlfriends who are going too) are like family to me, so it would mean a lot for me to be there.  I’ve been so busy with our own family’s milestones and events, I’ve missed out on theirs.  So it was (it is) important for me to go.

I can’t deny I’m both excited and nervous about this breakthrough milestone in our parenting.  It should be good for us all though.  And besides, spending two full days alone with the kids is something I do all the time!  My husband can finally have a taste of it.  How hard can it be, right? ;) (Insert evil laugh here)

Thanks Dad!  It’s an awesome me-time gift (with shopping money to boot!  Ah-mazing!).  Between this and last week’s Date Night, you’re on a roll! ;)  Keep it up!  Heeheehee.

And by the way… good luck to you (insert more evil laughter)! ;)

November 21, 2014
by mymommyology
4 Comments

My Mommyology Likes: Parents’ Night Out

I’ve never had a babysitter.  Back in Chapel Hill, I thought the girls were too young to be left alone at night with a total stranger.  My friends definitely had their lists of trusted people to call, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to ask for it then.  You’ve probably guessed — I have trust issues about leaving my kids with people I hardly know.

Also, my husband — he’s a cheap practical date. ;)  Why spend on a babysitter to watch the kids when they’re asleep, and when we can access Netflix in the comfort of our own home, with food and drinks we’ve already paid for?!  We also still use the baby monitor to see and hear them while they’re in bed.

Clearly, there was totally no incentive to get a babysitter.

So these “at home” dates — I have to tell ya.  Sometimes, it’s such a knock out.

Can you hear the z's through your computer?

You’d think he’d stay awake to watch the program he’s chosen!

And even if we try to stay up by sitting at the dinner table, with wine…

I'm beginning to like sweet Moscato wine again...

I’m beginning to like sweet tasting Moscato…

The cold weather and the comfort of watching a movie (or a show) in our own home somehow still leaves me with this.

Looks familiar?

Looks familiar?

So I’ve begun re-thinking the babysitter bit.  Now that the kids are older, they understand why Mom and Dad need time away.  I also think they can handle themselves better with a trusted “stranger” that I’ve gotten to know.  And knowing me,  it’ll take time, so I wanted to get the gears in motion for finding one.  My goal was for us to have our first date night next year.  By then I’m sure we’d all be ready for it.

Then I get this email, and surprise surprise, I learn about something called Parents’ Night Out.

Parents’ Night Out is a service Sam and Jamie’s Kindermusik teacher offers every once in a while  (I learned later on that it is a service schools, studios, gyms and other centers offer all around the US.  Why did I only learn of it now?!  Where have I been!?).  Parents get to deposit their kids with the teacher and a group of older students for three hours.  The rate for two kids is about the cost of a babysitter at home for a shorter period of time, so I was told this deal was of good value.  The kids are treated to games and crafts, pizza, popcorn and a movie.  No mess at home, the kids are fed and are tired by the time you pick them up.  And the big plus for me — no trust issues (she’s their teacher, we’ve been seeing her every week for the last two months!)

The girls had no qualms about the whole idea either.  Usually they get anxious at the thought of us both leaving them for the night, but they had no problems this time.  They love their teacher, and like me they trust her.  Plus, I’m sure they were quite excited for a fun night out with some new friends.

The bigger surprise was that my husband agreed! So my one-year timeline for a date got cut down to 360 days, and last Friday, we went on our first night out in LA. :)

He wanted to take me to a favorite of his, Boiling Crab but the wait time was an hour and a half longWe ended up in a nearby steak house instead.  I can’t complain (except now I know I need to exercise more!), it was really good steak. And scallops.  And mashed potatoes.

Fancy dinner, fancy resto, and more importantly, my date stayed awake!

Fancy dinner, fancy resto, and more importantly, my date stayed awake!

For good measure we ordered our usual favorite dessert too.

Yummmmm....

All mine.  Ours!

It’s been a while since I thoroughly enjoyed this molten chocolate with ice cream dessert.  Usually when we eat this with the kids, Jamie gets the ice cream and Sam most of the cake, and I end up with the berries on the side.

It was nice to have three hours of uninterrupted conversation.  I kept my phone out only for picture purposes, and just in case someone from the center called about the kids, but other than that, it was just us.  What a refreshing welcome change.  Isn’t it funny how something like this can re-charge us parents and fill up the emotional tank (and fill up too much of the stomach).

When we picked them up, the girls were quite tired as it was past their bedtime, but without a doubt they had fun.

Can we do Parents’ Night Out Every Friday Mom?”  Sam asked me in the car.

I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack.  He says that the cost of the entire night should last us another 6 months before we think about going again. ;)

November 19, 2014
by mymommyology
0 comments

A Trip to Zoomar’s

Jamie is an animal-lover.  I don’t know what it is about them.  She’s always been fascinated by cuddly furry animals.

She’s always asking for a pet.  Her Christmas list, as enumerated by Sam is 1) a real live rabbit, 2) a real live hamster, and 3) a puppy.

And even when we go to museums where they sometimes showcase live animals according to the theme, she has a total fascination with them.  Doesn’t matter what kind they are, really.

Yep.  They're rats.  Eeeck.

Yep. They’re rats. Eeeck.

In Manila, Jamie would love trips to the Fun Farm at Sta. Elena.  She wanted to go as often as possible.  It was about a 2-hour drive from the city, and the kids could basically ride horses, and carabao-drawn carriages to their heart’s content.  Kids could also feed bunnies and guinea pigs carrots to their stomach’s content.  We were always worried about the rain so the trips were few and far between.  Each time we’d go, Jamie would put a guinea pig in a basket and ask if we could take it home.  Otherwise, she’d carry the poor thing (in said basket) all over the farm until we were ready to leave.

Imagine her delight when her school’s field trip was to Zoomar’s – a Fun-Farm like petting zoo.  Only here, there were more animals to feed and other fun things to do.  And it wasn’t two hours away. ;)

There were pigs, and sheep.  In the goat pen people could go in and brush the goats’ coats.  Jamie didn’t want to, because the goats were at her eye level, so she stayed outside to feed them instead.

They eat carrots too!

They eat carrots too!

And the guinea pigs are HUGE!  I spent a good deal of my time trying to catch them for Jamie and her friends to hold.

Left:  we caught one!  Right: Jamie talking to another Guinea pig.

Left: we caught one! Right: Jamie talking to another Guinea pig.

The guinea pigs were in pens which some of the chickens and roosters would visit.  Jamie has never touched a rooster before — hence the face.

As unpretentious as can be...

As unpretentious as can be…

There were llamas too (but you couldn’t feed them).

Llama llama face the camera!

Llama llama face the camera!

There was even an emu who approached me as I stayed by the fence, and an Alpaca.

And of course, the $4 horse rides.

Giddyyup horsie.

Giddyyup horsie.

There’s a train and a playground as well, and so many other things that kids can do.  The snack area is covered so it’s great for parties.  And what’s nice about it is that everything feels very clean.  By every pen, there are anti-bacterial hand stations and the kids are encouraged to get each time they leave a pen.  There’s also an accessible wash station for kids.  Of course you do come out smelling like the animals right after, so you can imagine the scrub down I gave Jamie when we got home!

It looks like we will definitely be back.  Jamie was so animated about everything we did that Sam got excited and also wants to go.

Their December highlights.

Their December highlights.

At least this time it won’t take us two hours for us to pet some animals.  And it might be a good idea in the hopes of “delaying” the need for a pet at home (Or then again it could backfire! Yikes!)

November 16, 2014
by mymommyology
2 Comments

Are We Too Busy?

Quite often, a family in our neighborhood asks me on a whim if my girls can come over to play with her little girl.  Right now?  Yes now.

Quite often I decline (politely) because my girls have one activity or another after school.  I assume she doesn’t keep track of our schedule, because after asking for the nth time, she walked away shaking her head. “Boy your girls are TOO busy,” she commented.  I smiled and waved, “see you tomorrow”, and we went on our way.

From the look on her face and the tone of her voice, I probably came off as one of those “busy” moms who over schedules her kids.  I know for a fact that they’re lifestyle is the complete opposite, where her child has no after school activity whatsoever.  It’s free unstructured play all day long.  She doesn’t believe our kids get enough play time at school, and they’re being worked too hard as it is for them to do anything else after (hence the judgement conclusion).

Her opinion of me doesn’t really matter (Thank you, Discover Your Core), but quite honestly, this “busy-ness” business is an everyday concern of mine.  I constantly ask myself this:  Are my kids TOO busy?

I know there are varied points of view on the topic.  And after going through several links, I found an article on the New York Times that resonated with me the most (click the link to read it if you like!).

Excerpt from the New York Times article.

Excerpt from the New York Times article.

I’m PRO extra-curricular activities.  Sam and Jamie have several of them.  They’re in ballet and Kindermusik — but different days and time slots.  They go to Kumon together.  And then they have their own after-school interests:  Jamie’s are Spanish and Soccer, and Sam’s is Basketball (She does her Spanish on the iPad at home when she feels like it).  As members of the Catholic community, Sam also attends a separate Religious Education class once a week as part of the two-year requirement for First Communion.

When I the kids if they think we’re too busy, they always answer “no we’re okay.”  On days when I feel entirely overwhelmed and exhausted by our schedule, I wonder how that’s possible.  But on the days when things run smoothly, I somehow find the answers to my question.

These extra curricular choices, we made as a family.  The girls were involved in every decision.  And it wasn’t because it was something that I wanted for them but rather, something they were excited to do.  They went through the brochures with us and discussed their options.  Even three-year old Jamie appreciates this process.

Jamie loves soccer.

Jamie loves soccer.

Like any human being, on some days, it takes a little more convincing to keep this commitment.  Other fun things pop up and distract them from it.  But (thankfully) I’ve never had to drag one kicking and screaming.  That tells me that the initial protests are superficial, and once they understand the value of sticking to our commitments, they get excited about going all over again.  I feel it’s just as important for me to show I’m equally committed to getting them there and supporting their choices.

Of course school and homework clearly come first, and we all know this will always be the priority.

Ate finishing up her homework first thing in the morning.

Ate finishing up her homework first thing in the morning.

My smart little Sam sees the extracurriculars as an incentive for her to complete her homework quickly so she can get to them.  New activities are good for her adventure-seeking personality.  She has a productive channel to work out all that energy and thirst for knowledge.

And while I know the Tiger Mom in me can push, I’m also not that hard-core about it.  I want my girls to learn, but I also want them to enjoy doing so.  I don’t have dreams of them becoming the next Tiger Woods in their field (sorry, it’s the only analogy I know thanks to my husband!).  And we only skip class for good reason (an illness or schoolwork for instance).  I put their needs first.   If they need sleep, I won’t wake them the next morning.

...And this is too good to move! ;)

…And this is too good to move! ;)

Contrary to popular belief, my husband and I don’t say yes to every request.  For one it’s costly, and I haven’t figured out how to grow money on trees yet.  Secondly, I’d go crazy shuttling them back and forth (I go crazy enough as it is!).  But more than that, I do believe they need time for the mundane everyday stuff: errands and chores, play dates, toys, and yes, even the electronics.  These keep us busy too but in a different kind of way.

Even if my girls assure me with words, that “they’re ok” and “not too busy,” I still validate this against their behavior, and make the call if I see overtiredness rear its cranky head.  After all that’s said and done, I still adjust where I can depending on their needs.  The health and well-being of the girls come first above all else.

Finding the balance is hard, but it’s also very relative.  One may need more “free play” than the next.  Some may need more structure.  And what may be “too busy” for some, may be just right for others.  It all depends on the parents and the child.

Our days are usually pretty full (I should know I’m the first to feel the fatigue), but it’s not always because we’re running from one class to the next.  I purposely left days “free”, and we get to decide on what fun things we can do together.  Somewhere in between the routine and set schedules we have our own spontaneous moments that are just pure fun (more on that in a separate post).

Random game night over dinner.

Random game night over dinner.

So — are we busy?  Technically yes.  I’m a planner by heart; I like to know what’s next.  So in the eyes of an outsider we really do a lot.  But when I look at my girls, I think they’re right and we’re really ok.  After all, we’re never too busy for each other.

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