My way or the highway

After driving on the highway for 30 minutes or so, Jammy had had enough:

Mama, I want to get off the highway! I want to get on the low way!

Mrs Grossmans Sticker Factory


Are you in the Bay Area? Do you love stickers? Last week we went to Petaluma to visit Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory, a small, family-owned company where a fat red heart is the company symbol, where people smile a lot, and where dogs wander freely around the office.

The tour lasted about an hour. First we watched a twenty-minute video about the company and the sticker-making process. All the kids paid surprisingly close attention, perhaps because the video was narrated by Angus the Dog (Mrs. Grossman's pet), or perhaps also because the tour guide told the kids she would quiz them on some video facts and give stickers out to those who got the correct answer.

The second part of the tour was a walk on the actual sticker factory floor (which smelled strongly of ammonia; The Pea walked the whole way pinching her nose). At the end of the tour, we were ushered into a room with lots of craft tables and given a sticker goody bag (grownups included!) and a postcard to decorate.

The factory sticker store, not surprisingly, was located just outside the craft room, so sticker-hungry kids and their parents, after being tantalized by rolls and rolls of cute stickers on the factory floor, could buy Mrs. Grossman's stickers to their hearts content. We all got coupons for $3 off any $20 purchase, so guess how many families chose at least $20 worth of stickers? With sticker sheets ranging from 50 cents to $3 (sticker sets and books cost more), spending $20 was easy. For cheapskates like me, I would definitely recommend buying the sticker grab bags for $1.99. No sticker in the bag was truly crappy anyway, and my kids had hours of fun trading stickers with each other.

So was it worth the 1.5 hour drive to Petaluma (for a 1 hour tour) and the $3 per person tour fee? Absolutely. We got to have a nice little day trip (we brought a packed lunch and ate at their visitors' picnic center), thereby avoiding the dreaded late-afternoon-"I'm bored"-syndrome. The kids had a blast, I got to release my inner sticker-loving-little-girl, and we all got to take home a ton of stickers. My kids have already used up all their stickers, but like a good girl, I've stashed my own goody bag away for future bribery needs.

Save our Tree!



One month ago, the lemon tree in our backyard was a sturdy little thing, tucked snugly away between an azalea and a hydrangea. It had lovely deep green leaves and a fat little lemon.

We decided to move it to the newly-cleared flowerbed by the back fence in order to give it more space and more sun. Sadly, one month later, I have a sinking feeling that our lemon tree is dying. The leaves have turned a sickly yellow, they have curled up, and the single lemon is now shriveled and dried up. We really thought the sun and space would help it thrive, but the opposite is happening.

We suspect overwatering. We've stopped watering it for now, but we're still not sure if the tree can be saved, or how we're supposed to care for it anyway. Does anyone have any ideas? Can anybody save this plant? Somebody call 9-1-1-P-L-A-N-T!

For more sinking feelings, click here.

Photo Hunt: Happiness

How do you know if you're happy? 3Po and Jammy know....



Other than clapping your hands, the best way to tell if you're happy is your smile...


Messy smile...



Toothless smile....


Toothy smile...


Smirky smile..



Giraffe-y smile! Hope your day is as happy as ours!




For more happiness, click here.

Love Thursday: Hearts in the Park


It has been some time since the Karen and Irene stopped running the weekly Love Thursday posts, and I do miss looking at the ways people are surrounded by love all over the blogosphere. I couldn't resist posting this photo of us at Union Square in San Francisco. I haven't been there in years, and was pleasantly surprised to see these cute heart sculptures displayed on two corners of the square. Apparently these hearts are all over San Francisco. What a nice way to show some love.

Passport to Insanity

I've just been through passport hell. Normally I don't like to trash the Philippine government; they have enough problems as it is without their own citizens ridiculing them. But hey, that's what a democracy is, right? We have the right to express our opinion, and after Monday's fiasco, boy do I have to vent!! Why does applying for a passport have to be so convoluted? The whole process seems riddled with inefficiencies, redundancies and miles of red tape.

1) Take those passport photos. It's bad enough that they have to be this weird size (1.77" x 1.35"). But why do we have to be wearing a shirt with collar and sleeves?

2) What's with all this inane data you need to fill out on the forms? Why do they need to know:
* The name and address of the attending physician at the applicant's birth.
* The civil status of the father and mother of the applicant.
* The religion of the father and mother of the applicant.

3) Why does the consulate need three copies of everything? Birth certificates, marriage certificates, passport data page, you name it -- I need to provide the original and three photocopies. Why do three different departments need this information? Haven't they heard of computers and centralized data?

4) Why do I need to fill in the Report of Birth by hand -- three times?? Why not make 3 copies and I can sign each one?

5) Why require notarized signatures if I'm applying in person??

6) The passport info page on the website and the passport forms have different requirements: one says I need a notarized Consent to Travel Form, one doesn't mention it at all.


In any case, I had no choice. I spent the whole of Sunday gathering documents and filling in forms. On Monday, we left home at 8:30AM so I could swing by the notary and make the 1 million photocopies required by the application. Sorting out which copies go where for 4 people took almost 1 hour! We rushed to San Francisco so we could submit the application and hopefully get there first and maybe even get the passports by the end of the day.

And after all that, guess what? The consulate was closed for Ninoy Aquino day. Apparently they announced on August 4 that the consulate would be closed on Aug. 20, Monday, instead of Aug. 21, Tuesday (the actual holiday). Just my luck that I had checked the consulate website in July to make sure of the consulate's office hours, so I knew nothing about this closure.

After biting my lip so I wouldn't swear in front of the kids, I did the only thing I could: took them into Starbucks for a chocolate milk and some chocolate-covered graham crackers. That's our beloved Banana Republic, whattayagonnado?

Save the date: Great clothes, Great cause!


Mark your calendars, you hip, fashionista wanna-be-bongga moms, and get ready for the second Hip Kids Boutique Sale! Organized by one of the founders of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, this sale features over twenty unique designers under one roof in Palo Alto., with a percentage of the proceeds benefitting InnVision. More info to come soon!

Dear Diary...


Dear Diary,

Today we went to the Farmer's Market as usual to buy nectarines, mushrooms, tomatoes and a baguette. Lunch today was at Round Table, where we used the Free Pizza coupons that the kids got as a prize for completing the local library's summer reading program. In the afternoon, we puttered around the garden, pruning trees and preparing for our upcoming patio project. We measured Pea up against her sunflower; it's now taller than she is.

***********

When I was a child, I thought that everyone wrote diaries this way: Dear Diary, today I did this..... BOOOORING!! Who wants to read a minute-by-minute account of my day anyway? Not me (I already know how my day went); okay, maybe my mother. But no-one else. Needless to say, I haven't kept a journal since I was about twelve, and I was never able to keep a journal for more a month or so.

But a blog is not a journal, and a journal is not a logbook. I think I've finally learned to appreciate the difference; hey, I've had this blog for almost a year now and I'm not tired of it yet. With my newfound wisdom, this is how today's entry would go......

***********

Dear Diary,

Today we measured Pea up against her sunflower; tall as she is, it has definitely surpassed her. It's amazing to think that it was just a little tiny sapling, only a couple of inches tall, when she bought it at the farmers' market at the beginning of summer.

This farmers' market has truly been our Discovery of the Summer; we've made a habit of biking there together as a family and enjoying the fresh, natural taste of the things we buy. The food inspires me to cook and the kids love it so much I no longer need to make a separate dinner for them; as a result, we have been eating healthier and eating together.

The kids have really enjoyed caring for their sunflowers and watching them grow and bloom over the summer, just as their parents have enjoyed caring of their own little "plants", and watching them grow and bloom.

For more diary entries, click here.

Photo Hunters: Two


Here are my two when they turned two. It's hard to believe that the photo was taken almost two years ago; in December they'll be twice the age they were back then!


For more twos, click here.

More Free Shipping: LL Bean

Hey, I'm starting to enjoy this! Okay, from now on, every time I get a decent coupon in the mail or email, I'll pass it on here.

Free Shipping with no minimum purchase from LL Bean online (expires 1/1/08):

  1. Click "Redeem Coupon, Gift Card or Promotion" when you reach the "Place Your Order" screen during checkout.
  2. Enter the following code: LL 7420530 (note: I'm not sure whether you need to type in just the number, or include the "LL" as well, I haven't actually used the coupon yet).

Happy Shopping!

Fridays Feast #156


Appetizer: Describe your laundry routine.
Behold my laundry routine:

  1. Wait until we have no more clean clothes to wear or until my husband complains.
  2. Then all the laundry in one go so that by the time I'm done, I'm so sick of laundry that I put it off for as long as possible.
  3. Go back to step one (see photo above)
Soup: in your opinion, what age will you be when you’ll consider yourself to truly be old?
I'll start feeling old if ever I need to be cared for like a baby: when I start needing help to get dressed and fed. I hope I never become a burden to my children!

Salad: What is one of your goals? Is it short-term, long-term, or both?
To be a happier parent and a happier person.

Main Course: Name something unbelievable you’ve seen or read lately.
Three things come to mind:
1. I recently blogged about the Pot-Smoking Mom, and it still boggles my mind!
2. All the recent toy recalls from China leave me wondering, what next?
3. Finally, maybe I ought to move to this town in Italy and get paid to lose weight!

Dessert : On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how happy are you today?
Life is good! No time like the present to work on being a happier person (see Salad, above), so I'll say 10.

For more feasts, click here.

Bonggamom rocks!


Jennifer has bestowed upon me the Rockin' Girl Blogger award; who knew that this little hot-pink badge could make a girl feel so good! To celebrate, here's a great back-to-school coupon for Free Shipping at Land's End (till Aug. 21, 2007). And here's how to get it:
  1. On the Billing Information page, go to the section labeled “Source Code” (below the credit card payment box) and click the “add” button.
  2. Enter the Source Code FALL and the PIN 457826560 in the space provided.
Or if you have a Lands’ End “Personal Shopping Account”….
  1. Make your selections
  2. Click “edit your payment information” on the Order Review Page
  3. Enter your Source Code and PIN (shown above).
Or call 1-800-800-5800 and give your Source Code and PIN to the customer service representative

For those who care, I'm not being paid to endorse Lands' End. I just like their products and love free shipping. A Thanks! You rock! is payment enough :)

Now that it's time to pass the award along, I can't think of anyone right now who deserves a bit of recognition more than my future sister-in-law, Erica. She works full-time, pays her younger brothers' college tuition, maintains a long-distance relationship with her fiancee (my brother), who's halfway around the world from her, and is planning her wedding almost singlehandedly. She's even found the time to creat a neat little wedding wedsite to make sure that everyone is in the loop. Rock on!

Pot Smoking Moms

Now here's a hot topic that seems to be burning up the blogosphere lately: Pot-Smoking Moms (brought to my attention by the Ravin' Picture Maven, a fellow Maya's Mom participant). I try not to be a judgmental person, especially when it comes to parenting. I've had enough crazy moments of in my three-plus years of being a full-time parent not to appreciate how difficult it is, and I honestly think that many or most parents are really trying to do the right thing by their kids. And I think smoking pot -- just like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol or dancing at clubs all night -- does not necessarily make one a bad parent.

But in this case, we're not talking of moms who smoke pot when their kids are in bed; this is about moms who smoke pot with their kids. In "I'm a Better Mother when Stoned", Pot-Smoking Mom writes, "It turned out I could not only manage taking care of my son while I was high; I could excel." Oh dear -- that's definitely not bongga. I'm all for sipping martinis at my daughter's soccer game, but I think I'll draw the line at this.

Pot-Smoking Mom claims that getting stoned helps her relax, focus on her child, "get down to his level", appreciate things from his point of view, and rediscover the simple, here-and-now pleasures with him. All very well and good, but honey, someone still needs to be the parent. So who's the responsible adult while you're stoned? Who's going to set limits and ensure your child's safety? Yes, it's great to wander around the mall with your child, delighting at the baubles in the windows and throwing coins into the fountain, but who's to say you won't decide to jump into the fountain with your child in tow? Yes, it sucks being the fuddy-duddy, boring old parent, but someone's gotta do it.

Everyone wants to throw away their cares sometimes and be focused solely on their children. But surely there are other ways to achieve the same end? How about spending some time away from your kids? That'll relax you and recharge you for the next time your kid has a "Kid from Hell" moment. Hire a babysitter and get thee to a spa. Or watch a movie with your partner. Or shop (that's my favorite method). And if you can't afford it, lock yourself in the bathroom with a glass of wine and/or a box of chocolates. All perfectly legal and guaranteed not to endanger your child.

What gives you goosebumps?

I get goosebumps all the time. Nights in the Bay Area are chilly all year round, and the medication I take tends to slow down my metabolism (okay, I'm also too lazy to throw on a sweater and socks). But the best (and sometimes, the worst) goosebumps are the ones that have nothing whatsoever to do with the temperature. Here are ten of my most memorable goosebump-inducing moments:


1) Receiving my first real kiss from my first boyfriend;

2) Seeing beams of light streaming through the stained glass windows into St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican;

3) Seeing the peaks and falls from Yosemite Valley for the very first time;

4) Hearing the Flower Duet from Lakme for the very first time (I will always love my husband for playing it to me);

5) Seeing the view from my husband's (then boyfriend's) bedroom for the first time and knowing without a doubt that I wanted to wake up one day staring at that view;

6) Hearing my husband (then boyfriend) tell me he loved me for the very first time;

7) Seeing image after image of courage, sacrifice and loss during the months following the Twin Towers Collapse on 9/11;

8) Feeling my newly-born daughter being laid down on my chest;

9) Hearing a door slam, seeing my two-year-old son's finger trapped in a door, and upon extricating it, seeing his poor little pinkie squashed as FLAAAT as a pancake (it was broken, of course).

10) Hearing my son run into our bedroom at six in the morning, feeling him snuggle up to Alfie and me, and smelling his sweet baby scent as he falls asleep between us.

What gives you goosebumps? Find out what others say here.

Photo Hunters: Row


This is the only time in my life I've had cornrows in my hair. I had so much fun with them that I resolved to get them done every time I went to Hawaii. Unfortunately, that was almost six years ago, and we haven't been to Hawaii since :( Oh, well, one of these days (or years) we'll be back.

For more rows, click here.

Fridays Feast #155

Appetizer
What is your favorite kind of pie?
Apple pie, with a crumb/streusel topping.

Soup
Name something that made you smile this week.
My daughter's first sunflower bloomed earlier this week :)

Salad
What do you do to cool off when the weather is hot and humid?
Go to an indoor airconditioned mall and shop!

Main Course
You receive $1,000 in the mail with a letter that says you can only use the money to redecorate one room in your home. Which room do you pick, and what do you buy to spruce it up?
I'd pick our living room, and to spruce it up I would buy my husband a wide-screen TV. The poor dear has wanted one for so long!

Dessert
Fill in the blank: My ____ says ____, but I ____.
My horoscope reading today says there has been a lot of change in my life lately, but I disagree.

Hungry for more? Click here.

The Pea dives as well

Not to be outdone by her brother, The Pea decided to get over her fear of the diving board and give it a go. Her first couple of tries were almost belly flops, so it's no wonder she's still a bit nervous, but in the end she managed to hit the water feet first.

Eat it or Wear it

Overheard at breakfast:
(Pea is trying to convince me that she is big enough to pour her cereal and milk into her bowl all by herself)

Pea: Mama, may I pour the milk on myself?
3Po: You don't want to do thaaaat, you'll get all sticky!

Back-To-School Savings at Gymboree

I can't believe we have less than three weeks left of summer vacation! The Pea starts school on August 28th, and her brothers begin a week later. My mother, who is here for her annual "see the grandkids" visit, brought a ton of hand-me-down clothes for The Pea, courtesy of my aunt and my 11-year-old cousin, and my sister sent along her 7-year-old son's clothes for the twins. Since both my aunt and sister are certified shopaholics, all three children have more than enough clothes in nearly-new condition -- and to them, it's just like getting new clothes anyway.

But for those who can't rely on hand-me-downs to stock up on their kids' back-t0-school wardrobe, here's a Gymboree back-to-school coupon I got in the mail, good for 20% off your entire purchase (one-time use per customer, expires August 15, 2007). Just type in the promotion code below when you check out online:

210503818173

(For those of you who care, I'm not being paid for this post, I'm just a mom who loves to shop and hates to pay full price). I'm sorely tempted to use it myself, but the kids' closets are already bulging with stuff! So use it with my love, and Happy Shopping!

Jammy dives in

I'm sure Jammy isn't the youngest person ever to jump off a diving board; somewhere in the world there's probably a 1-year-old who's toddled off or a 9-month-old who's crawled off. But I'm proud of him anyway. Maybe it's because he looks so absurdly small compared to the length of the board and the distance from the water. To me, it was like he was jumping off the cliffs of Acapulco. I was terrified he would slip and hit his head on the way down, but Jammy showed no fear whatsoever. He just cautiously made his way to the edge and calmly stepped off into his teacher's waiting arms. That's my boy!