Seven Best Things I did This Year

On this last night of 2006, I find myself looking back on the events of the year. Here are seven of the best things I did this year:

1) Started blogging -- In April I joined the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and began blogging for the first time ever. And I find that I really enjoy it. It gives me something to do that doesn't involve directly interacting with my kids, the first thing that I can see myself doing after I finish this chapter of my life as a stay-at-home-mom. It also exercises my brain, the part that I put on hold after I quit my last job. I find that, just like a long-unused muscle that is just being used, my brain is waking up slowly. Sometimes it's really hard to come up with something to say, sometimes it's difficult to organize my thoughts into a complete, coherent and interesting piece. But just like a muscle, the more I use my brain to blog, the easier it gets.

2) Started my own blog -- After a couple of months of blogging for SV Moms Blog, ideas for blog topics started popping into my head, right and left. But I found myself wanting to write about more personal things that I didn't feel were suited to that blog's character. Like I wanted to brag about the amazing things my perfect kids did in the day. Or the amazing lip plumper/gloss that I found. And I wanted to post photos, lots of photos. Things that friends and family (or anyone wandering around the blogosphere) would be interested in. So I started this blog. And here I am, still enjoying this blog and fully intending to continue it in the new year.

3) Did a half-marathon -- ok, I walked it, not ran it. But it's still an accomplishment for me because I've been really sloppy with the treadmill workouts, keeping my runs to a mile or so, or walking for 40 min. or less. I didn't think I could do the 13.1 miles without some serious pain. And at the time, I was having seriously weird heart murmurs. But I took it easy, and with 3 other friends, finished in 3 hrs. 45 min. And we did it, and it was much easier than I thought. My feet were a bit sore, and my thighs hurt a bit the next day, but that was it. And the best thing is, my completing this half-marathon has already inspired several of my friends -- two to finish their own half-marathons and two to start running.

5) Found a kids' table -- I found an old adjustable height table near the dump at my daughter's school, all ready to be thrown out. I asked the school secretary if I could have it, and she said, sure. So Natalie and I carried it to the van (it was HEAVY). It seats 8 kids comfortably and is just the right height. Now our kids eat at that table and Graham and I sometimes join them (squatting in their little kiddie chairs) and we get to eat together as a family. This table also enabled me to do.......

4) Threw a kickass Halloween party -- this is the third year straight that I've thrown a Halloween party. I guess that counts as a tradition already. Here's to building new traditions!

7) Fit into my old jeans -- I first got them in 1993. 'Nuff said!!!

6) Started going out and dressing up more -- 2006 was a great year for my nightlife -- with a regular babysitter, Graham and I were able to go to movies and adult parties together, which led to more nights we were willing to stay at home while the other got a girls'/boys' night out. Which also led to more times I was able to dress up. Which led to my feeling more confident, sexy and happy. Yay!! Let's face it, how can I ever get to become a Bongga Mom if I don't put on my pearls and lipstick once in a while, and slip into something a little sexier than jeans and tees?

Well, that's my list. What's yours? Hope you have no trouble filling in your list for 2006, and here's to a fun-filled 2007 with lots of happiness, lots of success, and lots of things to blog about! Happy New Year everyone!

Destination Home

Sunday Scribblings: Destination

The Philippines
Sandy beaches
Tropical breezes
My very own Bali Hai

It has been 3 years since I've been home
And 5 years since I've seen a real beach
By next year, it will be 6
Natalie has forgotten
The boys have never even been there
I've almost forgotten
But I remember enough

I can almost taste the salt in the air
Taste the sweetest mangoes in the world
Taste the succulent fish caught straight from the ocean five minutes ago
Feel the sand through my toes
Feel the sun burning my back as I snorkel through crystal clear waters
Feel the breeze rushing through my hair
Hear the coconut leaves rustle
Hear the crickets drowning out the waves at sunset

See my family -- husband, children, parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents -- gathered around in the light of a bonfire, laughing and talking, gathered from all parts of the globe, all here in this beautiful place, happy to be together.

I can feel anticipation coursing through my body
Next year, we'll be there
I can't wait!

Happy Third Birthday Philip and James!

Phew! What a day.... rushing to get balloons, fix the pinata, decorate the party room..... and all with Philip and James being the whiniest they've been all year (must be all the excitement of turning 3) -- but it was all worth it. None of my fears were realized. What a GREAT day it was for all the little girls and boys.

At 3PM we started the party at Menlo Park's Fire Station #6. Firefighter Phil was there to greet us and hand each kid a red firefighter's hat. I had brought some library books on firefighting to read, but didn't get around to it because we started almost right away. First everyone sat on mats and talked about fire safety, dialing 911 and the stop-drop-roll maneuver. It was great to see all the kids participating in the discussion.

Then we split into two groups. One group got to ride around the block in a shiny, old-fashioned fire engine while the second group got to squirt water from the firefighter's hose. Then the groups changed activities. Finally, everyone got a chance to climb into the firefighters modern fire engine and check out all the equipment.

All the kids were so excited! Even the grownups seemed to have a great time. This was way more than I had expected -- I thought they would just tour us around the fire station and get to climb into the engine. We ended a little early because the firefighters were called away to some emergency, but they were all so kind, didn't rush us out or anything (of course we hustled anyway).

After the tour, it was just a short walk around the corner to Round Table Pizza, where mommy, Risa and I had decorated their party room earlier, with balloons, paper chains and hanging firefighter cutouts. The kids watched a firefighter video and had popcorn and cookies while waiting for the pizza to come. After pizza, we blew out the birthday cake (after many failed attempts at cupcakes in ice cream cones, I chickened out and bought a cake from Safeway) and had cake with ice cream. After that, it was time for the firetruck pinata (made from scratch by Risa and me!) and Pin-the-Fire-Helmet-on-The-Clown. The kids loved both games. Goody bags consisted of some fruit snacks, a dalmatian sticker, some wafers, and a fire safety coloring book. Everyone said it was a great party.

I'm happy -- my boys had the time of their lives! Gosh, now how to top that for their 4th.....

Love Thursday: Pets

Bread and butter
Jack and Jill
Kids and animals
Some things just go together.

Love is a little boy and a dog:

We have not had a pet since Natalie was born, but all three of our kids are drawn to animals. A little black cat visits our backyard almost every day and our kids consider her to be their own pet. They also love dogs, and approach every dog they see with open arms. My pet-phobic parents would be horrified, but I think it's wonderful to see the love they have for animals.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.

A Scary Evening

As parents, we always watch over our kids and try to keep them safe -- with stair gates, baby-proofed outlets, rules. Some parents (Graham) are more vigilant than others (me), but it is so easy for both of us to be lulled into a sense of security, that the kids have enough of a "safety radar" to be trusted. Then every once in a while something happens that causes us to remember that they are so young and accidents do happen. The last time it happened, the unfortunate victim was Jamie. This time it was Philip.

It was 7PM on Wednesday, and our babysitter had just arrived. She was laden with Christmas and birthday presents, and everyone was excited. Graham had just left for his poker night and I was looking forward to a nighttime holiday stroll at the Stanford Shopping Center. Phyllis went to park her car and I went into the bathroom to help Natalie undress for her bath, leaving the door open. Big mistake. A second later, I heard the door slamming and Philip started to cry. Really, really hard. That unmistakable cry that tells parents that something is really, really wrong.

When I got there, James was near the coffee table and Philip was standing in front of the closed front door with his finger caught just below a hinge. James had slammed the door and Philip's finger happened to be in the gap. He was screaming and trying to pull his pinkie out. Good God!!!!! I rushed to open the door and free it.

Do you know those cartoons where an anvil falls on Wile.E.Coyote or Bugs Bunny or Tom or Jerry and they end up flat as a pancake? That's what the tip of Philip's finger looked like. The middle part was nice and fat, then it abruptly flattened out like a thin piece of paper. Looking at that side of the door, there is no space between the door and the frame. Philip was wiggling his finger and shaking his hand, but I knew there was no way it could not be broken. Phyllis and I dunked his finger into a cup of ice and I called Graham. I left James and Natalie with Phyllis and I bundled Philip (who was now shaking uncontrollably) into the van, picked Graham up and headed straight for the emergency room.

I don't know why they call it an emergency room anyway. The word connotes a sense of urgency, like the scenes in ER or Grey's Anatomy where hurt people get rushed in and treated. We thought that a hurt little boy with a broken bone might be given a higher priority. But the night turned into an endless wait-and-be-seen-then-wait-again, for a total of four and a half hours. Fortunately Philip had stopped shaking and calmed down. He seemed dazed, in shock. But he was a trooper. When they x-rayed his hand and confirmed the break, when they washed off his bloody finger, when they bandaged up the cut (should have had stitches but the nurse managed to seal it with steristrips to spare Philip the injection and stitching), when they splinted the finger, I could tell he was terrified and wanted to be left alone, but he didn't cry and didn't move (he was very proud of that).

Two days later, the kids are still very careful around doors (let's hope that lasts!). They are all being very careful with Philip's injured hand and Philip is learning to work around it. James and Natalie are a bit awed by Philip's bravery. It wasn't Jamie's fault (well, it's just as much Philip's "fault" for putting his finger there as it is Jamie's "fault" for slamming the door) but I can tell that he feels a bit guilty about it. It was an accident, but accidents can be avoided, and that's where parents come in. So I feel guilty too -- if only I hadn't left them, hadn't left the door open. But we're thankful that nothing worse happened. It was the first time we had taken a child to the emergency room, and hopefully (but not likely) the last.

Happy Love Thursday!

Happy Love Thursday everyone! Here's some Christmas love from almost three years ago -- Philip and James being fed by their Nana and Dar. Love is not something you need to divide in order to share -- it multiplies!

Out of the mouths of babes

Our friends' children, X(11), Y(8) and Z(4), were doing some colouring and debating why the Christmas colours were red and green. Y thought red was for Santa's suit; X said "Nah, red is for the blood of God, or Jesus, or some random guy." Without looking up, Z chipped in, "Jesus died" - followed by general acclaim from the whole family at her sophisticated level of knowledge. Encouraged, she continued, still colouring seriously. "Yeah, he got stung by a sting ray."

Helping Out, Part 2

Today I took Natalie with me to The Family Giving Tree's warehouse, where we sorted and wrapped presents for two hours. Natalie helped by choosing the presents to wrap (mostly Bratz dolls, Dora dolls, and other girly things that she probably was secretly yearning for), choosing the wrapping paper, and handing me tape. More importantly, she knew where these presents were going and she was happy to know that we were helping to make another child's Christmas a happier one. Afterwards, she asked me if we could do it again before Christmas and again next year. She said she liked the feeling of helping people. That gave me a warm feeling inside -- not only was I volunteering for a good cause, I was helping to instill a sense of empathy and civic awareness in my daughter. We will definitely make this an annual event.

Speaking of a good cause, I've added some links on this blog to The Hunger Site and The Ecology Fund. Click on those links and some money is donated (by ad sponsors who have banner ads on the site) to the specified organization. The sponsors pay, and it costs you nothing, all you have to do is click. How's that for an easy way to make a difference!

Supermom and Superdad

I tell you, sometimes you just want to shout out to the world how GREAT you are (this is usually after you have had a really hard day, then have a moderately good idea and want to pat yourself on the back). Here are two great ideas we came up with this week:

1) Philip and James are going stir crazy. They want to play in the park, in the sandbox, anywhere but inside the house. It is raining buckets, so unfortunately indoors is the only place they can play. Superdad to the rescue.... Graham takes out a baking pan with raised lids, pours out some rice, and puts in all their Bob the Builder trucks. Instant indoor sandbox! The boys played with it for hours. I got into the spirit and divided the rice into two piles, then put in some green and blue food coloring. How cool is that.... rice in their favorite colors! Worth another extra hour of play.

2) Thirty minutes to go before we leave for a baby shower, and I remember that it is a potluck and I still don't have anything to take. Think, think, think...... this is a job for Supermom! I get out our Costco box of graham crackers and break them up into squares. Then I pour some semisweet chocolate chips into a little bowl and microwave for 40 seconds, stir, then microwave for 40 seconds again, then stir until the mixture is smooth. Then I put the chocolate into a little sandwich bag and snip off one of the corners. Then I pipe squiggles, stars and trees onto the graham crackers. Pop in the fridge for 10 minutes and Presto! Some yummy, pretty chocolate grahams. Time to make, including chill time, was about 15 minutes. I'm sure somebody (Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray or Betty Crocker) has done this before, but I'm claiming the idea anyway.

Sunday Scribblings: Anticipation

anticipation. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Retrieved December 16, 2006, from website:
an-tic-i-pa-tion [an-tis-uh-pey-shuh n]

1. the act of anticipating or the state of being anticipated.
2. realization in advance; foretaste.
3. expectation or hope.
4. previous notion; slight previous impression.
5. intuition, foreknowledge, or prescience.
6. Law. a premature withdrawal or assignment of money from a trust estate.
7. Music. a tone introduced in advance of its harmony so that it sounds against the preceding chord.

I can't say much about definitions #6 and #7, but my family is living #'s 1 thru 6 big-time this holiday season. Here are some of the things we are anticipating:

1) I'm anticipating being able to dress up in beautiful holiday clothes, put on some makeup on my face and sparkly clips in my hair, and go dancing at some holiday parties. It's Bongga Mom season, baby, and I intend to make the most of it!

2) Graham is anticipating being able to take a couple of days off work, kick up his feet, and watch English Premier League football all day on December 26, Boxing Day, notably Chelsea vs. Reading, Everton vs. Middlesbrough, Man. United vs. Wigan, and West Ham vs. Portsmouth. Please, please, please Dish Network, please show these matches on the 26th, otherwise his life will not be worth living

3) We're anticipating the safe arrival of my sister and her family for the holidays. They are driving down from Boise, ID -- that's over 650 miles and at least 11.5 hrs of driving time. That's four adults (including the grandparents) and three children in a seven-seater van with a week's worth of luggage -- I hope they make it! And I don't just mean I hope they make it without losing their tempers or minds. I mean, the most direct route passes through Oregon, and I cannot help thinking of James Kim and his family. I hope nothing goes wrong -- no snowstorms, accidents or anything.

4) My daughter doesn't know any of the above, of course. She is just anticipating the arrival of her cousins Nico and Katya and Isabel. Every day when the twins nap, she busies herself with some craft for them -- a card, bracelet, ornament, etc... When they get here, they are going to be inundated with little handmade presents.

5) We're anticipating a full house for Christmas Day -- our family (5), Tin's family (5), Tanya's family (4), my parents (2) and Risa (1) -- a total of seventeen people! Our house is 1700 square feet; the living/dining room and kitchen combined is about 650 square feet, so we're going to be feeling the luuuuuv. It's going to be tight, noisy, hot, and fun (oh dear, that makes it sound like a good shag!).

By the way, this is my first Sunday Scribblings post, so I am anticipating the pleasure of participating in many more!

Kind Blogroll

Bear with me... I'm working on links to other sites (see my new and improved sidebar), like trying to become a Kind Blog. It's been a loong time since I've edited in Html!

Pasko Na.......

Every year during the holidays, I indulge in a little bout of homesickness..... see my post on SVMoms Blog.

Birthday plans

Last night I sent out the Evite for James and Philip's birthday party. After weeks of going over different themes with the boys -- every night they change their minds, one night it's Buzz and the next it's Superman and the next it's trains or motorcycles or probably whatever they were playing with just before going to bed -- they decided (actually I decided) on a firetruck theme.

The plan is to first go to Menlo Park's fire station #6 and go on a little tour that I've arranged with the firemen (hopefully they'll even give the kids plastic fireman hats and badge stickers!). All I had to do was call them up and request it, but it could be called off if they have an emergency that they need to respond to. So I'm also going to take along some firefighter books and read them to the kids while waiting for the rest of the party to show up.

After the tour (or if the tour never occurs, I just can't shake the feeling that it might!), we're going to head out to Round Table Pizza, which is just around the corner. They have a private party room that can be reserved with no extra charge, just order pizza and drinks, and we can even use discount coupons! The room has a TV and VCR so we can play a firefighter video for the kids. I also ordered some Sesame Street firefighter activity books from the USFA Kids website, so the kids can work on those or take them home. Add a firetruck pinata, red balloons and a pin-the-firehat-on-the-clown (using the clown poster we already have) , and it promises to be a fun party!

My biggest party-related dilemma now is what to do about their birthday cake (note the oh-so-pressing dilemmas of housewives like me when people are dying by the thousands in Darfur): Do I get one cake or two? Do I get it at Costco (cheaper and larger but less tasy) or Safeway? Or do I make it myself (I can make individual cakes but they may turn out dry and tasteless)?

Stay tuned for the account of the actual party. Hopefully it will turn out even better than I'm imagining!

Naughty vs. Nice

Check out my latest post on SV Moms' Blog. Feel free to leave a comment! :)

Helping Out

This holiday season, there are lots of Holiday Giving Trees around -- at Natalie's school, at Philip & James' school, at the gym, in church. Some of the things that the kids are asking for cost a LOT of money -- more than I am spending on my own kids. I did give each of the kids a new toy to donate to Toys For Tots. But it is also nice to be able to give some of my time instead of money to a charitable organization. Tonight I did just that --helping cut scarves for Project Warm Hug's Holiday Scarf-a-Thon. I've been reading about this organization for a while on my mothers' club email list, and I just decided it was time to start helping. Took only 2 hours and gave me something to feel good about tonight.

Wonder Twin powers, Activate!

I took the kids to the Palo Alto Family Y's holiday party. A clown was twisting balloons, so of course we lined up. When the boys' turn came, the clown asks them what they want. Answer: "swords!". Which I was not thrilled with, but half the boys in the room had balloon swords, so I let them have the swords, blue for James and green for Philip (as usual). They had the time of their lives playing with their swords, until James' balloon popped. Then they had the tragedy of their lives.

We have never had any war toys in the house, but James constantly picks up sticks and twigs, and waves them around making whooshing, explosive noises. Is this hardwired into boys? Maybe. I remember attending a PAMP talk about raising boys, and the speaker said that this behavior is frequently observed -- boys will make a weapon out of anything even before they know what a weapon is. They have an innate need to assert themselves and gain some control over things, perhaps because as children they often feel so helpless and powerless. Pointing the stick and making the whoooshing sound is a way for James to assert his power. Come to think of it, recently both boys have been obsessed with "the power" that their Lolo (grandfather) and daddy have over them; power to reward them for good behavior and reprimand them for bad behavior. Notice that mama is not mentioned, only Lolo and daddy have "The Power". Hmmmm....

Happy Love Thursday!

This is my first Love Thursday post and I'm so excited to be joining this popular blogosphere tradition! For those unfamiliar with Love Thursday, I first stumbled on it from Karen's (Chookaloonks) website -- every Thursday she shares examples of the love and/or kindness that she sees all around her, and invites others to do the same.
Although Love Thursday need not be about romantic love, I wanted my first Love Thursday post to be about Graham, my husband/lover/friend/confidante/sparring partner. This photo was taken in the office where we worked together, 8 years ago. At the time, we had been carrying on a fake office romance, just for laughs. Somehow it turned into the real thing. We carried on pretending to have a pretend romance, and started dating after work. When some of our colleagues heard we had gotten married, they didn't believe it, they thought we were still kidding! And here we are, 8 years and 3 kids later. Honey, did I tell you yet today? I love you. See my smile? That's love.

Say Cheese, Dammit!

Check out my latest post on SV Moms Blog...

And speaking of posing for the cameras, we just watched (on DVR) the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2006. Amazing bodies, faces and outfits! I particularly loved the plaid, Scottish-themed undies. Graham didn't care what they were wearing -- these women could wear panties from Target and make them look hot. We were surprised to see that Adriana Lima has crooked teeth! Maybe we don't see her teeth in any of the VS ads because she's always pouting and puckering up. Well, as Graham says, if that's the only flaw she has, he supposes he can live with it......

Search for the Perfect Christmas Photo, part II

Hooray, beloved wysiwyg editor, you are back! Now, the non-techies like me can get on with our blogging....

Back to my quest for a great photo of my kids for our 2006 Christmas card. First, I needed a backup, in case nothing from the actual session turned out decent. So I dressed all the kids up in their Christmas pajamas one night, piled them on Natalie's bed and told them to smile. OK, I bribed them a little; three beads each for their bead jars if they smile, look at the camera and sit still. I managed to come up with these photos, just in case the actual photo session produced no good photos. I removed the un-Christmassy bedroom background and photoshoppe'd in a Christmas bow.

Then I took another "just-in-case" photo, and added another background:

A couple of days later, it was time for the real thing. I took them to Stanford Shopping Center, which is all decked up for the holidays. I shamelessly told them that we were going to see Santa Claus, so they needed to dress up in holiday clothes. The chance to see Santa, plus another 3-bead bribe, were enough to get them cooperative, so I parked them in front of some decorations and started snapping away. Despite their best intentions, of course they could not help messing around for some of the shots:

Sometimes I was able to get good poses for two kids, while the third was throwing a hissy fit out of camera range:

Of course, there were always some pesky people messing up my background:

Sometimes the kids posed perfectly, but for some reason my camera refused to focus:

But eventually, miraculously, I managed to take a shot of all three of them smiling, with a nice Christmas background, with no Photoshop edits necessary -- all it took was a little cropping to frame my angels' faces. I'm not posting the photo here. Sorry, you'll have to wait till you receive our Christmas card - or until Chrismas Day!

The Search for the Perfect Photo

Sorry there haven't been any posts recently. I haven't been able to get Blogger's wysiwyg editor to work properly, so I can't upload any photos. Despite my engineering degree, software work experience and techie hubbie, I can only do basic HTML, so until I figure out how to get the proper software back, it'll be just text posts.

I was supposed to be detailing my Herculean efforts to get the perfect Christmas picture of the kids for the perfect 2006 Christmas card. I think we've got a winner, finally, but it took a lot of aggravation and bribery. You'll have to wait to receive your Christmas card to see which one it is, though!