September 11, 2014
September 11, 2014
September 8, 2014
Three weeks into the time from when we first moved, I happily posted this Facebook status:
Pretty much, it sums up the reason why we moved in the first place, and is the best validation. Jamie’s allergies are finally, finally, FINALLY… under control. I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying that out loud to the universe, but it’s been a week since the status (and today is Mama Mary’s birthday — so it’s also great day to be thankful for this!)
At her well-check visit the pediatrician and I talked about her history. We still went home with a new arsenal of medications and topical creams. The oil is THE best I tell you. I don’t know why it was never prescribed in the first place!
I’m still in disbelief at how sparingly we use them. I haven’t even opened the prescribed oral medicines — to think I got two bottles out of habit.
Sometimes, Jamie’s skin will flare up in specific parts of her body, but it’s isolated and it’s not severe. My former three-to-four hour daily intervals of medication have now stretched over a period of 3-4 days. Her skin looks and feels so different.
Even Jamie is different. It’s like suddenly, without the discomfort or the pain from her condition, she’s bloomed.
After three years and four months, Jamie FINALLY — sleeps through the night. For two years she used to wake up to feed, but when that was done, she’d wake up because she was itchy. Even I’d lose sleep applying medicine constantly at night (if I wasn’t completely zonked out myself). Otherwise, she’d wake up with a new wound and blood stains on the bed. And she’d be very, very cranky.
These days she wakes up in good spirits. And she knows exactly what she wants to do or where she wants to go.
Her voice isn’t timid and uncertain anymore; there’s a confident undertone to it. Her personality is growing and she’s significantly more outspoken than she was before. Jamie has always been very good at knowing and saying what she wants, and it’s been quite the challenge compromising with her when things change. I do prefer that though over the non-stop tears and “clingy-ness” of the past.
Sam was in school almost immediately after we arrived, so Jamie and I had almost the whole day everyday to ourselves since. Thinking back now it’s actually the first time we had some quality time since Chapel Hill. Even back then Jamie was still an infant — napping constantly and learning to crawl and eat. We spent a lot of our time breastfeeding. Then in Manila, I had to make the quick adjustment to put her in school 5 days a week, and Sam’s days were still very short so we really didn’t get much time alone.
In the last two and a half weeks, I’ve just watched Jamie transform day after day, it’s made me so happy just to be with her 24/7. She is jumping, singing, dancing, and SMILING.
She doesn’t shy away from people she meets anymore, and she’ll openly talk to adults about something that’s on her mind. She’s gotten good at meeting new kids too.
There are still situations when she holds back, but she doesn’t cry about it (or rather, cries a LOT less). And just in case, she brings Bunny for extra support.
Suddenly she’s happy to explore. And open to trying new things. We’ve even made an impromptu trip down to Disneyland for a few hours because she wanted to get on the It’s a Small World ride — twice — meet some characters, and eat Mac-n-cheese.
She’s taken quite the interest in Merida and the movie Brave, and has asked for a bow and arrow of her own so she can learn archery.
Maybe it’s also the age? It could be. But it is a tremendous help that we don’t have to worry about her eczema as much anymore. And it’s so obvious — she’s just… HAPPY.
Today is Jamie’s first day of school. She’s been anticipating this day and was all smiles when I put her in the car, which was a pleasant surprise. Even if she loved school in Manila, she’d always put up some form of resistance or drama on our way there. Today, she couldn’t wait to go. When we said goodbye this morning, there was no lingering tight hug, and there were no tears. She walked into her classroom and waved to me like any little big girl would.
It’s my first day alone too. I finally have three full hours of peace. I was looking forward to today because of all the things on my to do list which haven’t gotten checked off in weeks. I wanted some time to hear myself think. As much as it was fun to be attached 24/7, it was also exhausting to be constantly needed.
But right now I find myself missing Jamie-boo, and in the car ride home, I was the one who shed the tears (Oh Momma!).
The roller coaster of motherhood, what can I say. I’m quite excited for Jamie though. It’s a good school, and she was so ready for it. It’s still a new adventure for us both, now in different ways. I wonder what’s in store for us next.
September 3, 2014
Before I left Manila, I invested in a little me-time for myself and attended The One Core’s Discover Your Core Weekend (DYC).
It was Coach Pia’s recommendation that I do this. She was confident it would help me with this big transition we’ve made. And I have to say, it was a good idea. No — it was a great idea.
The Discover Your Core Weekend runs every 3rd weekend of the month at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo. The package includes food and overnight accommodations, although I chose not to stay overnight. My husband had already left for LA and I was alone with the girls. I couldn’t bring myself to also leave them overnight (even if it was just for one night), when they’ve never slept a night of their lives without me before. Thankfully The One Core was (is) very flexible and they accommodated me as a live-out guest for the weekend. Admittedly from where I lived, it was a trek, but I understood it to be my choice and I was okay with that. Again, it was totally worth it.
First I will say that it’s not one of those overly emotional retreats that leave you on a high (only to come crashing down into reality a few weeks later). I found everything about DYC to be down-to-earth and very realistic.
Coach Pia equips you with tools and a framework when making decisions big or small. It’s all promptly applied through her examples and through the sharing of the participants. In my weekend we were only 5 (there’s a max of 10 people per weekend), so we were able to share in-depth. And I liked everyone’s openness – which is essentially the first step: to be open to the process.
That’s one thing Coach Pia emphasizes: we each have our own process. We must respect that we go at our own pace. It may take some longer than others to reach a decision that they’re finally comfortable with, but in the end… it’s their process! And the only way is through.
Coach Pia still started and ended the 1.5 days around her five circles.
You’ve seen this many times in some of my past posts and she keeps going back to that. The ultimate goal is to make sure that each one is inflated equally. In DYC, the framework helps you prioritize and focus on inflating one bubble at a time.
My biggest take away from DYC was about staying true to your authentic self. How do you know that’s it? Decisions should be made freely, and not out of pride and/or fear.
Coach Pia’s tip: Look for a time in your life when you had zero self-doubt. It’s a memory and a time before the onset of adulthood. Find yourself in that mind frame before taking on a big decision.
It’s not easy! In hindsight, I realize some of the “not-so-good” decisions I’ve made were done out of pride or fear. The yaya situation for instance — no wonder I couldn’t find good help! But when the decision is made freely, then everything else will flow.
It doesn’t mean though that they’re always going to be decisions you’re comfortable with. Sometimes they’re also not the most accepted or the most popular decisions. And this is seen best when you’re married and when you have kids. As a mom, you do things that are better for them and for the family over those that you want for yourself. I can’t tell you how many of these I feel I’ve made in the last few years (days!). Disciplining them is one example. Is there any parent who enjoys being the bad cop? We do it though because we know it’s best for them, even if it’s tough on us.
I will say that after the DYC, there’s less heaviness and doubt hanging over my head after I make decisions. I’m clearer about why I make them, and I’m more confident too. And therefore I feel lighter — and don’t need to apologize for them (Coach Pia did say I apologize too much for who I am and what I do or don’t do — which shouldn’t be the case). I still need to practice though to make the framework second nature, but isn’t that what life is all about — a constant work-in-progress?
Recently the girls have been addicted to Rise of the Guardians. And because of the movie, Sam keeps asking us what our “center” is. It’s a good reminder too – to constantly ground myself in what makes me authentic and true. After all, being a better self is always the best place to start.
Coach Pia is currently helping out couples in the latest Reality TV Series called #IDo. Catch her and the rest of the I Do cast and crew onSaturdays after MMK – 9:30 pm, and on Sundays after Rated K – 8:45 pm.
August 29, 2014
It’s a well-known fact that Filipinos love to eat. It’s why we have so many restaurants and gastro-pubs popping up in different areas around the metro. And really, no matter what type of cuisine or dish, it’s not hard to find some really good restaurants to choose from.
The weeks leading up to our move, I stopped cooking. I truly had no time and energy to think about what we’d eat. Miraculously the girls wouldn’t run out of food (thanks to everyone who was feeding us and my mom’s trusted helper for just bringing food over). As for me, I had one meeting after another, and they were usually held with food at the center. Many knew I was leaving, and so the question always was, “What food will you miss when you leave Manila? Let’s have our meeting or get-together there.”
I’ve come up with a list of my favorite restos from Manila. They’re places I would recommend to people visiting and staying for a while, and to those like us who’d leave and not come back for quite some time. They’re definitely the places I’d want to eat when we go back for a visit…
1. Cibo – Cibo has and will always be a favorite staple. I’m sure many will agree, it’s the no-brainer default I have. It’s also because the girls love it and ask for it. Jamie has been my date there since she was 9 months old!
There’s no struggle to eat when they know we’re going there. They’re usual orders are the Spinaci Zola, Penne Al Telefono, and a fresh fruit shake. I’d eat the Insalata di Mare (Seafood Salad) and lately, because I was trying to get Sam to eat vegetables, we started ordering the Pomodoro Bruschette. Cibo is easy to find — it’s been in the country for over 17 years and is present in many malls.
2. Wildflour - another instant favorite, and not it’s not because of their Cronuts. Wildflour has some pretty good Mushroom Salad (yes, salad again!). The names of their dishes escape me, but their Foie Gras spread is good as well as their whole chicken dish and steak with rice. I wish I took pictures! For sandwiches, their Croque Madame is pretty decent too. Oh and so is their coffee! It’s always so packed, I was so glad I got to eat there for lunch before we left.
Facebook: Wildflour Cafe + Bakery FortBonifacio
3. Keizo – This was the good Japanese restaurant closest to where we lived, and it was a frequent go to for our Japanese fix. Sam learned to love the Chicken Teriyaki here and Jamie would concede to eating Miso Soup and Gyoza. My husband and I would always get their Salmon Sashimi, Spicy Tuna and Mixed Tempura. The nice part about it was that whether we’d eat it at home or eat it there, we would always call first and say we were coming in 15 minutes. Hence, there was always a zero wait-time.
4. Il Ponticello – The nice thing about Il Ponti is that there’s always something new going on. And I love Italian food, so it’s always on my list of places to eat or have meetings. They have the affordable and filling lunch sets. Now they’ve added the Porchetta, and most recently the Flat Iron Steak. They’re becoming such popular dishes that it’s best to call and pre-order before you go. Then when I went with the #SoMoms the other week, we got to try the Vongole pasta!
Of course I rave about the food, but the drinks are pretty great too! Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, a DJ plays. And we enjoy it so much we don’t know how much we drink really. Nonetheless it’s always ALWAYS, a good time.
Facebook: Il Ponticello Instagram: @newilponticello
5. Sentro 1771 – Sentro and the 1771 group of restaurants is always a classic favorite. They’ve been in the restaurant business for 25 years, which means they’re actually doing something right. My last few meetings and social gatherings were in their newest branch, Capitol Commons. The interiors are bright and spacious, it’s very well done. And the second floor has a lot of space for group functions (with a minimum consumable amount).
Favorites and must haves (apart from their famous Corned Beef Sinigang which is what the girls eat all the time!): Kesong Puti Salad, Macau Chorizo and Tidbits, Catfish Sentro Style, and the Seafood Bagoong Rice. For dessert, DEFINITELY the Coffee Pie and their version of a local cheesecake, the KesoFlan. (I am drooling just thinking about these dishes!)
6. Juju - I discovered this because it was a favorite of the Two Tots moms, and then I became addicted myself! Half salads are quite filling, and you can have them for lunch and dinner. My favorites are their Roast Pumpkin, Crispy Catfish, the Inasal Salad, and the Chicken Caesar. How can you go wrong? It’s a fresh salad (can you tell I’m a salad person?!)! Also very good for digestion.
I’ve also tried their juices, and my favorite is the Alkazest. It’s got grapefruit, pineapple and Coconut water.
7. Mamou – I have to admit I don’t eat in Mamou very often, but we do on special occasions. And we go for their steak.
The weekend before I left, my family and I enjoyed a meal at their Rockwell branch. They’d just turned three years (and their Serendra branch, 7). They asked us if we were celebrating anything and my mom said a despedida. So they gave us this!
Facebook: Mamou Serendra
Now after writing this, I’m hungry. Hungry for all of my favorite Manila eats! At least I have a list to look back on when we do visit. Or who knows, there may be new restaurants to add-on.
What are your recommendations that we add to this list?
August 26, 2014
While we’re still in the month of August…
August in Manila is commonly known as Buwan ng Wika. It’s the month we Filipinos pay tribute to our native language and formally celebrate the culture and heritage of our country — at least in the school setting.
Sam’s school had it as an inherent part of their curriculum since Kinder. And it was only up until last summer when she really began to like and love the little things that were taught to her. And it was something she wanted to “bring” with us as we moved back to the states. So I had to figure out how.
Speaking the Language. Last summer Sam attended Filipino classes at the Learning Library. They had just opened a center near us in Makati and we were looking for something for Sam to do in the morning while Jamie was in summer school. Thankfully, Sam loves learning and considers it an adventure. So there was no struggle in getting her to complete the Basic Filipino sessions held over the course of a month.
According to founder Vanie (who once upon a time interviewed me for a corporate post!), the children are assessed as to their comfort-level with using Filipino. Sometimes even when it’s taught in school, it’s not reinforced as much at home because it’s not used as much as it used to be. That’s why the goal of their Basic Filipino classes is to simply get the kids used to using common Filipino words and define them properly. The teachers accept responses in English but try to teach the kids still in Filipino by continuously using it during the class. The class is set up to start with a story, and it incorporates Filipino songs as well (music as we know is a great way to teach kids!). Sometimes, there are guessing games of matching the Filipino word with its matching picture. After which, the kids do their individual work that is based on their learning levels, still on the same topic.
At the end of 12 sessions, The Learning Library had Sam more confident in using specific words and phrases in her everyday sentences. I was quite pleased. She was bringing home books in Filipino too that we would read to try to learn more. In fact I really think it helped her in the few weeks that she was at school, because she would always come home with some recognition from her 1st grade teacher.
Most importantly though, we still continue to speak the language at home. Sometimes I purposely point out what specific items are in the three languages she knows (English, Filipino and Spanish), and we teach Jamie as well. Sometimes it’s a natural occurrence. I’ll say something in Filipino to her and help her pick up the context clues so she can give me a practical response. And we really wouldn’t have been able to jump-start this interest without the help of Learning Library.
Don’t forget to like them on Facebook: The Learning Library
Reading the Books. Before moving back to Manila, I started off Sam with some simple Filipino books. My friend Frances works at Tahanan Books, and happily gives the girls some of the new books for them to review. The books that we have are so wonderfully drawn! And Sam even has the Bugtong Bugtong books signed by the author himself. Jamie loves their Ay Naku! that even if we got it for Ate, she’s the one that pulls it out and asks to read it before bedtime.
One of their more recent titles is an interesting take on Filipino ghosts and folklore.
From the standpoint of someone who’s never heard of any of these ghoulish creatures before (ie Sam), she actually thought it was amusing. But the minute she talked to the older generation about it and mentioned the word Tikbalang for instance, she’d get gasps and shocked stares, as if she said something wrong. My sister rationalized it’s because we were all taught about them in such a scary way (because really the history of Filipino folklore creatures is very dark), that seeing it in a child-friendly format will throw anyone off. But at the very least, there’s a new way of learning about them in their purity, without having to instill the fear in them first. Quite an interesting point of view, but most probably true. After all, we brought the book along with us (along with other Filipino books) and occasionally inject it into our story time moments. But I will admit I’m only brave enough to read it when the sun is up.
Don’t forget to like them on Facebook: Tahanan Books
Wearing the Clothes. Every year for school, the girls have to come in some traditional Filipiniana costume.
And Sam would wear this more often, even to school here if she could. I find though that the material and fabric may not hold up in a boisterous playground around active kids. Plus, the safety pins I need to attach worry me. The thing is, before Anthill and Mothering Earthlings came along, these Kultura finds seemed to be the only available options!
I learned more about Anya and the social enterprise behind Anthill when I met her for a separate project. I must say, I love everything about Anthill. It’s a modern take on woven indigenous fabrics, and it’s all for a worthwhile cause. When I visited their pop-up a few weeks ago, I bought some unique fashion pieces as gifts for family here. And of course, I got a little something for myself too! After all, who says only the kids need to wear Philippine-made clothes?
You can also find Anthill on Facebook: Anthill Fabric Gallery
Loving everything Filipino-made. It’s not hard really — to love everything that’s made in the Philippines by Filipinos. A lot of the items are of good quality. And the girls see it first hand because of Two Tots. At Two Tots, we source Filipino materials (like solid Philippine Mahogany wood, and rattan crates) for all our furniture and accessories. Our hand painted range of items are done by local artists. It may not look indigenous, but they’re all built and made to last. That’s why we made sure to bring all our Two Tots furniture pieces here to our new home.
Of course, Two Tots is also on Facebook: Two Tots Home Accessories Inc.
Sam takes great pride in being a Filipino. She talks and acts like a little American kid (with her unmistakable American accent), but she loves that other side to her that she can share with all her other friends. A lot of her new friends are multicultural too . So we continue these little lessons informally to enriches her contribution to the class. More importantly, it instills a deeper appreciation for her heritage and our roots. I hope this helps ground her no matter where life takes us.