A good excuse to shop

Hey, Palo Alto (and Bay Area) moms, here's a chance to stock up on some hip kid's fashions, support some mom entrepreneurs and help out your local school at the same time. A fellow Silicon Valley Mom, Pamela, is co-hosting a shopping fundraiser next week. I've always admired Pamela's sense of style so I'm sure the stuff at this boutique will be worth the visit. She's hosted a couple of Tea sample sales that I have been to and I love their stuff. I just wish they made stuff in larger sizes so I could continue buying some Tea for Natalie (who is tall for her age and wears a size 7).

Feeling like a bongga mom

I'm feeling very bongga today. Not frumpy like I feel when I drop Natalie off at school and see some of the chic, put-together moms. Not resigned like I feel when I see messes all around the house. Not tired like I feel at the end of the day after taking care of everyone but myself. No, I'm feeling hopeful and happy today. My spirits are up and there's a bounce in my step. Here's why:

1) The sun is shining and the air is warm. After all the grey skies and cold spells, we've been wondering whether we live in California or England! The sky right now reminds me of warm, lazy afternoons in Manila.

2) All three kids are at school today. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my errand days, when I can go grocery shopping, do the laundry, visit the dentist, deposit bank cheques, visit the hardward store without the kids, volunteer at Natalie's school. The days I can nip in and out of my car. Even better, T/Th are my "exhale" days, when I can get my hair cut, surf the internet, and wander aimlessly around shopping malls.

3) I'm carrying my cute, pink, girly phone around. And I'm wearing nail polish and jewelry. Just having a sparkly bracelet on makes me want to make my wrists go limp so I can admire my manicured hand. Plus, the chunky beads makes my wrist and arms look thinner. I feel flirty and fun and feminine.

4) I went to the library and borrowed a bunch of books today. Goodness knows when I'm going to read them. Tuesday thru Thursday are my TV nights (American Idol, House and Grey's Anatomy have prior claim on those evenings), and many other nights I find myself glued to the computer, surfing, checking email or blogging. But just having the books at home makes me want to find the time. I feel like I'm rediscovering the part of myself that loves to read, and that makes me feel good.

5) And last but not least, my jeans are hanging loose on me. That alone is reason enough to feel like a Bongga Mom!

Why would anyone view our home???

Now that we've committed to the Open House tour, Graham and I have been looking around the house with a more critical eye. What was I thinking? Our coffee table has scratches and chips on it. There are toys everywhere. The laundry room is piled high with laundry --unfolded laundry. The paint is chipped on the walls and baseboard. Our upstairs landing has an ugly makeshift gate to keep the kids away. It's like a giant playpen with 2 computers and piles of paper. Philip has scribbled all over the banisters with a permanent marker. It matches Natalie's permanent marker scribbles on the playroom floor.

We've got a lot of cleaning and fixing and sprucing up to do. Fortunately, we've got a couple of months to go. And it's high time we did a lot of this anyway. There's nothing like the criticism of strangers to get you moving.

View our home for $30

Sometime in mid-April, approximately 500-700 strangers will be paying $30 to wander through our house. A day after our home appeared in the local newspaper, we were contacted by the Palo Alto Area Mills College Club. Our home will be one of five featured in the 16th Annual Charming Cottages of Palo Alto House Tour, a benefit for the Palo Alto Area Mills College Club's scholarship fund and alumnae activities.

We're really flattered, but also freaked out by the prospect of vandals or theives, or worse, potential thieves coming into our house and casing the joint before breaking in and robbing us. Flattery won. Anyway, the organizers have an insurance policy for the event, they said they've never had any trouble of that sort, and there isn't anything worth stealing (except for our kids). Also, it's for a good cause. In the late 90's, a co-worker recruited me to volunteer at Mills' College Expanding Your Horizons program. I enjoyed it so much, I went back two more times. So I'm glad to be helping Mills College out.

So watch out for more info in the coming months. I just hope people don't take it upon themselves to sneak a peek inside our medicine cabinet or closet or anything with a closed door. Because all the mess and junk that we've been hiding will come tumbling out!

Chronicles of a boy and his Tati

Once upon a time there was a little boy who kicked the covers off at night. So his parents covered him up in a pink fleece zip-up sleepsack. Finally, he was warm and safe and snuggly, and he slept.

The pink sleepsack became his best friend, and he called it Tati. Tati was the first thing he reached for in the morning, and the last thing he cuddled at night. He dragged it over sidewalks and grass, carpet and wood, until his mama had to take it from him and wash it till it was squeaky-clean and fluffy-soft.

On his first day of preschool, Tati was with him. He entered the classroom, full of strange teachers and children, with his lower lip quivering and tears in his eyes. But he held Tati close, waved to his mama and went inside. When he broke his finger, Tati went with him to the emergency room, and comforted him even when they put him on a cold, hard bed and poked him and hurt him. When his big sister teased, "Pink is for girls!", he stoutly refused to listen and hugged Tati harder.

The boy had many adventures, and his faithful Tati always went with him. Even though he sometimes had to leave Tati behind, he knew Tati would always be waiting for him.

This isn't very long, as Chronicles go; the boy is, after all, only 3. But I'd like to think I can predict how the rest of it may go:

The boy will have many more adventures, and his faithful Tati will always go with him. Giving him courage, reassurance, love and strength.

Someday, the boy will enter kindergarten, and on his first day, Tati will be with him. As he enters the door to his classroom, he will see his mama behind him, with her lower lip quivering and tears in her eyes. He will run back to her, give her a hug and hand her the Tati, saying, "Here mama, you need Tati more than I do."

His mama will hold Tati close, breathing in the little-boy smell. She will wash Tati until it is squeaky-clean and fluffy-soft. She will fold it carefully and put it away. The Tati will stay hidden for many years, until the little boy becomes a big boy, and perhaps has a little boy or girl of his own. And then the Chronicles will begin all over again.

For more Sunday Scribblings, click here.

Happy Feet!

It's Love Thursday again, and today I've posted a photo of feet. We were having a foot-fighting session when this photo was taken and I snapped it on a whim. I actually don't love my feet at all; I think they're too big and flipper-like. But I loooove my kids' feet; they are soft and chubby and small and sweet. I look at this photo and hope that their feet don't turn out like mine when they grow up. Actually, let me rephrase that; I hope they grow up loving their feet and every part of themselves.

Six Weird Things about Manila

Sognatrice ("sohn-ya-tree-chay", isn't that a lovely name?) of Bleeding Espresso recently blogged on Six Weird Things About Your City. It was a great post, so I thought I'd play along. I've lived in Palo Alto, California for the past 12 years, but it's so reassuringly suburban, I couldn't think of many weird things about it. I thought I'd use Manila, the Philippines, instead, since after all, that's still where I've lived for most of my life. And besides, Filipinos love to poke fun at themselves.

Six weird things about Manila:

1) There are no bus stops. You can get off literally anywhere. Just shout "Para" ("Stop!"), and no matter which lane the bus is in, the bus driver will swerve (causing the bus and its passengers to sway and lean to one side), cut across any obstacles in his path, and manage to stop the bus and deposit you at the exact location you requested. No additional walking required! Just like a taxi service (or a rollercoaster).

2) The jeepney is a uniquely Filipino form of public transportation -- a garishly-decorated jeep-like vehicle that holds 10 or 15 paying passengers (or more, depending on whether people are willing to hang out of the back or on the roof). I've always found it amazing how the jeepney driver manages to negotiate the crazy Manila traffic while managing passenger fares at the same time. He doesn't wait for people to turn in their fare before starting off; passengers hand it in at some arbitrary point in their journey. Somehow, while driving, the jeepney driver always manages to figure out whether you have paid or not, where you got on, how far you've travelled, and how much you needed to pay. And when you're at the back, your money is handed from passenger to passenger until it reaches the driver. But somehow, you always manage to get your exact change back.

3) Basketball is the #1 sport. This is weird because the average Filipino male is probably 5'6" or 5'7" tall (I know because I'm 5'8", and at college I was one of the tallest females and taller than most males). You'd think Filipinos would enjoy sports like soccer or golf or bowling, where height is not a factor, but no, we're American babies through and through. Filipinos follow the PBA like Americans follow the NBA, and in around the residential areas of Manila, it is not uncommon to find a coconut tree with a basketball hoop nailed to it.

4) Everyone wears jeans. Because of the heat, you'd expect everyone to go about their business in shorts, skirts, or loose cotton slacks. But we are slaves to Western fashion. So the ubiquitous outfit of choice is a t-shirt and jeans. Thick, hot denim from waist to ankle in 90-degree weather. It makes me sweat just thinking of it -- but hey, at least we all look good.

5) You can buy 1 tsp. of cooking oil. Many Filipinos live literally day-to-day. They are often are paid daily and have no savings. So in all the outdoor markets, it's possible to buy exactly what you need to survive for that day. Vendors will sell you 1 egg or 1 tumpok (an arbitrarily-smallish pile) of tomatoes or a thimbleful of cooking oil. Companies like Unilever and Procter & Gamble even manufacture shampoo and laundry detergent in single-serve packets. Not travel-size bottles like we have here; I mean sample-size foil packets that literally contain barely enough shampoo for 1 use.

6) "Bababa ba?" This means "Are you going down, or what?". This is a classic example of how funny the Filipino language can be. It sounds like something a baby would say, yet college-educated businessmen say this all the time. I love how a single syllable can have so much meaning in it!

We're in the news!

Hey, we are now Z-list celebrities! Or rather, our house is the celebrity; it was featured in our local newspaper, the Palo Alto Weekly. And we almost missed it. At kindergarten drop-off today, one of the moms there congratulated us on the article about us in the paper. My first reaction was, "huh?". My second reaction was, "Was it for Silicon Valley Moms Blog? Or my own humble blog?". She had to fill me in: "It was about your remodel". Oh, yeah, thaaaaat article! We had to tear all over town looking for copies of the paper but fortunately found some at the gym and the doctors' office.

The piece is called A Bungalow Refined, and gives an overview of our remodel. For those who don't know, our house looked like this until June 2004:

Then, 9 months later, it looked like this (for nicer photos, see the article):

We met Carol Blitzer, one of the paper's editors, at a party last summer, and she asked if they could feature our house. Naturally, we were quite flattered and said yes. They sent a photographer and a writer over, but we didn't hear back from them. After a month or so of scanning the paper, I figured the article had been rejected and stopped looking out for it. It was quite a nice surprise to see it come out after all!

Rub-a-dub-dub, We're all in the tub

(This was originally posted at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.)

Our upstairs bathroom directly faces our next-door-neighbors' back yard. They are a childless, middle-aged couple who often give parties in their back yard. I've often wondered what they and their guests must think when bits of our bathtime conversation float out of the shower window and drift towards them:

Mama, take your panties off!

Mama, I want to be nudie with you!

Philip, I see your winkie. It's bigger than mine.

Yes, it's big like Daddy's.

James, help me soap my butt.

Daddy, where is mama's winkie?

No, we're not depraved, immoral pedophiles. We just happen to be a little casual about nudity and communal bathing. As long as it's only the five of us in the house, every door is unlocked and the children think nothing about wandering in and out of the bathroom when we're there.

I think it started when they were infants and went into instant Cry Mode whenever I was out of their sight. I would take them into the bathroom with me when I showered, placing them in their bouncy seats so we could look at each other. They were safe and happy in that steamy, warm bathroom, and I guess the open-door policy just continued. About two years ago, I discovered they were much more cooperative at bathtime when I would get into the shower with them. I get soaked anyway when I have to drag three whining, uncooperative kids into the bathroom and clean them, so I might as well get clean myself and three happy kids at the same time.

It's really not such a big deal, is it? Going topless is considered normal, not risque, in beaches round the world. In many societies such as Japan and Finland, whole societies bathe together and nudity in public baths doesn't raise an eyebrow. I rememer going to summer camp in England when I was eleven and being shocked that European girls my age wore only bikini bottoms to swim instead of bathing suits.

I realize that every family is different and I make no judgments. I personally never saw my mother naked until I was in my late teens (and then only because she forgot to lock her dressing room door). I always people glancing in the summer when I strip my twins naked by the poolside in order to put on their trunks. A friend of ours never bathes his two girls and confesses that he feels uncomfortable even being in the same room as them when they are undressed (his girls are 3 and 4). Modesty is not the only reason; in this day and age, it is not unheard of a chance remark by a child to lead to accusations (sometimes mistaken, sometimes correct) of sexual improprieties by the parent. It is no wonder that many fathers are cautious about overstepping boundaries.

I realize that we will probably want to change our habits when the kids get older. The last thing I want is for my daughter to be embarrassed when her brothers start telling everyone what kind of underwear her parents use. Or have my sons host a sleepover and see me walking around in Victoria's Secret negligees in front of their friends. As they grow older, we want to respect their right to privacy and their ability to control access to their bodies. But even when we start locking our bathroom doors to keep each other out, we can still manage to promote a healthy, open and casual attitude towards our bodies.

Weight Update: 1 lb. down

This week was tougher; I lost just 1 lb. But given my dramatic weight loss last week, that's to be expected. More importantly, I've broken the 150-lb. mark, something I haven't done in almost 5 years! So I'm quite excited and motivated to keep up the good work. I'm still working on portion sizes and water, but I think I'm doing really well on eating more fruit. Next up: I'm going to try doing more stretches, at night when Graham does his PT for his shoulder. It'll help tone up my muscles and we'll get more "couple time" together.

I've discovered something that could very well become a good friend: Kashi GoLEAN Crunch. I've heard many good things about this cereal before, so I finally decided to try it. I was surprised at how yummy it tasted! Sort of a honey-granola-ey-crunchy taste. And it fills me up. Oh, and it's got all the good stuff -- whole grains, oats, protein, fiber.

When fantasy = reality

Me: What do you like to imagine?

P (age 3): Ghosts.

James (age 3): Nufink!

Natalie (age 5): I like to imagine that my Littlest Pet Shop toys come alive at night when I'm asleep and have little parties. They sneak into my Barbie box and Polly Pocket box and take out things that pets like, like tuna fish cans and towels and balls. I also like to imagine that I have a ballerina fairy friend named Kelly.

My children, like most children, love to fantasize, and their imagination knows no bounds. Whether it involves making a knight fly or having a conversation with a train or making their motorcycles drive cars, Philip and James visit Fantasyland every time they play. Natalie, being 5, can articulate her fantasies in more detail. She is old enough to weave pretty intricate stories, draw pictures about what she is imagining, write down what is going on in her pictures, and expand her favorite fantasies from one day to the next.

Of course, not all their fantasies are nice. James will not go downstairs or into an empty room or bathroom on his own, because he says there are monsters. At one point when Natalie was three, she would not go to sleep on her own because she was convinced that the wolf (from the Three Little Pigs) would get her. Graham and I could never figure out the best way to reassure them: whether to tell them it wasn't real, or play along (i.e. "we have burglar alarms that will keep the wolf away", "daddy will stay up and make sure the monster doesn't come", etc..).

Natalie recently participated in a study on imagination done by Stanford's The Learning Lab (all the kids have participated in their studies from time to time; that's Philip's photo on their home page!). Five-year-olds were presented with three identical empty boxes and asked to pretend that something scary was in box A (Natalie chose to imagine a spider), something they liked was in box B (she chose a doll), and something they didn't really care (an apple) about was in box C. They were asked time and time again if there was really something in the box, and the children said there was nothing. Then the children were asked to point, just point, to any box. This little game was repeated several times.

The researcher told me that almost all the children in the study (Natalie included) would point to box B first and box A the last, even when the boxes were switched around. Even though they knew that nothing was in the box, they preferred the "nice" box and avoided the "scary" one (I wonder if they ever did this test with a group of adults to see if they got the same results). The researcher said that this is one of a bunch of studies being done to show that children really do have trouble separating fantasy from reality.

So with regards to my kids' monster fantasies, it sounds like telling them the monsters aren't real won't help. It sounds like it would be better to acknowledge their fears within the context of those fears and provide them with tools that will empower them ("Monsters are allergic to kids!" or "Just say the magic word, SNAZZLE, and the monsters will disappear" or "Here is a wolf horn that you can keep beside your bed and blow to scare away any wolves").

Children the world over have fantasies. As parents, we need to encourage these fantasies, not belittle them by insisting they aren't real. Besides, some of their fantasies can actually become reality. Just think where we would be if a few special children in the past did not have dreams of men flying in machines through the air!

To read more Sunday Scribblings, click here.

Keeping up

I've been listening to my daughter compare the number of Littlest Pet Shop toys that she and her friend have. Natalie (who only has 4 of these little things, compared with about 20 for the other girl, not including all hamster wheels, houses, carriages, etc..) talks about the disparity matter-of-factly, with no trace of envy in her voice. She's a good kid, and has never outright complained about having less toys than her classmates. But whenever we talk about it, inside me a little competitive beast squirms. Her classmates have way more toys than she does!!! The larger shopping beast inside me is only too happy to add to the ruckus. Need to buy more toys!!!! I remind her (and myself) that she has lots of other kinds of toys, and if she really wants more, she could try asking her aunt or grandparents for them as a birthday present. But the next day, when I was at Target, I bought her a Littlest Pet Shop Chihuahua. I told myself that it was just a $2.99 trinket, a reward for her doing so well at her swimming classes. But that little beast inside of me knows better.

This, my friends, is the ugly side of a type-A personality. Another time I was at the gym doing some bench presses, and saw a frail-looking, sixty-ish lady on the other bench, also doing bench presses. I guess she wasn't so frail because she was pressing 95 lbs. (45 lb. for the bar and 25-lb. weights on each side). A-MA-zing! The most I've done is 75 lbs., and these days, I'm struggling with just 55. I immediately added 10 more lbs. to my bar and gritted my teeth. If Arnold Schwarzenegger's ma here can do it, so can I. My pecs were still sore a week later. I remember Graham shaking his head and muttering something about how pathetic I was to compete with an old lady.

I was at the gym today, on the treadmill, doing my uninspired 30-minute shuffle. A lady and her teenage daughter took the two machines beside me and proceeded to crank it up to 6mph. I'm sure this nice lady wasn't even interested in what I was doing, but I saw it and thought, she's faster than me (ungrammatical but true). That was when I started thinking, I really ought to challenge myself more. Stupid. Since I've been hovering around 5mph at best for the past year -- during the few instances that I actually did run, not walk -- it was a wonder I sustained 6mph for even 5 minutes. I slowed down and thought, Whaaaat are you doing? Your heart is bursting, and for what?! There is a good reason you were not going at 6mph, and that's because you CAN'T.

Competition is gonna kill me -- physically and financially -- one of these days.

My kid said something funny today...

(We've been invited to a relative's house for dinner, and I'm about to introduce the kids to my cousin, who happens to have the same first name as I do).

Me: Come over here, I want you to meet your Tita (aunt); Oh, and guess what? She has the same name as I do!

Child (excitedly): You mean, her name is Mama?!

Love Thursday

Happy Love Thursday! This week I am shamelessly borrowing a photo from Erica's website because on December 26 of this year, she will become my sister-in-law. That's my brother Cesar beside her. He lives in London and she lives in Manila, so they're extra-happy in the photo; first, they go to spend some time (the holiday season) together after months apart, and second, they are engaged. Not the clearest photo, I suppose, but I love this photo because I can see how happy my brother is. It warms my heart to know that he's so happy and in love. So I guess this posting reflects two kinds of love: the love of a newly engaged couple, and the love I have for my brother.

Missing Mommy and Daddy

How quiet everything is.....

We are alone as a family for the first time since November 21. My mother and father left today, went back to their everyday lives, so I guess our holiday season is officially over. For over a week now, the decorations have been packed and put away and the kids have been back to school, but it still felt like we were celebrating something, because we had visitors. Now the guest room is empty and it's time to strip the bedsheets and wash the towels. So it's back to life as usual.

It's nice to have the house to ourselves, of course. It's nice to be able to wander in and out of bathrooms with doors unlocked. Nice not to have to make sure the bathroom is clean. Nice to be able to go places they don't want to go without feeling guilty about leaving them at home. I'll bet they're also glad to be home. No matter how much they love seeing us and their grandchildren, they must have gotten a little tired of living out of a suitcase. It must be nice to go back to life in Manila, with maids and drivers catering to their every need. Nice to go back to the warm weather and not have to put on five layers of clothing.

But it's so quiet! I hate that quiet that settles around the house now that our visitors are gone. It was so nice to have them around, have someone to help with the kids, someone else to ooh and ahh over Natalie's and Philip's and James' latest accomplishment. It was great to have an excuse to go out to restaurants and celebrate. It was great to have my mom as a shopping partner and my dad as a LifeTime TV Movie-watching partner. It was great talking to them -- about religion and politics and kids, about the latest family gossip and future plans.

Now that they're gone, I miss them! And I can't wait for the next time they visit.

Weight update: I've lost 5 lbs.!

Wow, that was easy! Then again, the first 5 lbs. always is. Especially since it's probably just water weight that I lost. And since my bloaty-time of the month has just ended. And since I had that 12-hour fast before last week's nuclear thyroid scan. I'll probably gain 2 or 3 lbs. back in the next couple of days.

Still, it's best to focus on the positive. I've made some changes in my habits already. I'm done with the holiday sweets. I'm making an effort to eat fruit between meals, and drink more water. I'm giving myself leeway to have some goodies once a week, so I don't feel deprived. And next week I'm going back to the gym after 3 weeks away. Next on my agenda: curbing portion sizes. Stay tuned for my progess!

Sunday Scribblings: What is an idea?

This week's Sunday Scribblings' theme is "Ideas".

An idea is like a seed. It starts out small, but it has lots of promise. If properly nurtured and cared for, it can grow into something really big and beautiful.

An idea is like a tapeworm. It wriggles and squirms inside us, trying to get out.

An idea is like soap. It's slidy, so if you don't hold onto it, it will slip away.

An idea is like a gopher. Out of the blue it pops up, here and there, looks around, and if no-one pays any attention to it, it disappears back into its hole.

An idea is like a wildfire. You can throw cold water on it and it will fizzle out, but if the fire is hot enough, nothing can stop it. It can spread instantly, igniting the world around you.

An idea is like a lightbulb. It lights up our lives and makes people see things more clearly.

Have you had any good ideas lately?

Love Thursday: Grandparents

Love is the smile on a grandfather's face as he plays with his grandchildren in the park.
Here are Philip and his Lolo giving each other hi-fives on the playground. My dad certainly dotes on all 6 of his grandchildren and is not above bribery when it comes to getting his grandkids to give him a kiss and a hug. It has become his ritual to walk them to and from school when he visits, and he also enjoys accompanying them on the playground (when it's not too cold!).

This photo is of Lolo and Isabel (my niece) clowning around.

As you can see, he enjoys it as much as his grandchildren!

Happy Love Thursday everyone!

No Thank You, Diapers!

3Po and Jammy are out of diapers! Just a few days after they turned three, we started them on regular underpants. Now they are enjoying their brand new underwear and basking in the praise we shower on them. We found some really cute ones that look just like Alfie's-- I'll post a photo of them in their new undies (the twins, not Alfie). It's like a huge load has been lifted from me. I can't believe how much of my stress was connected to toilet training!

You can read more about the twins' toilet training adventures at




Hopefully this will be my last diaper-related post ever!

Destination Vegas

My husband has just agreed to send me to Las Vegas with my two sisters this Mother's Day -- IF I manage to lose 15 lbs. Vegas? Three days in Sin City for an all-girls' weekend? Yeah, baby, get me on that scale and sign me up!!

Hang on, what am I getting myself into? I'm not too good with diets -- I have a big appetite and I love eating too much. I'm the first to admit that I tend to eat for the sake of it way too often. Even though I know that when I binge, it will takes a looot of effort on my part to make up for it. But even without this Vegas incentive, even if I don't drop the whole 15 lbs., I really do want to try and lose some weight this year. Here are some reasons why:

1) Health, of course; I read in SELF magazine that you should ideally be within 11 lbs. of the weight you were at age 18 (assuming, of course that you were at a healthy weight when you were 18). The pounds have gradually crept on, so that today I fluctuate between 15 and 20 lbs. heavier than my 18-year-old self.

2) I want to model healthy eating habits for my children. They have inherited my appetite, and I can see that they will not be like Graham was as a child, i.e. a string bean that can eat massive quantities of food and stay skinny. If they see mama reaching for fruit between meals, they might be less likely to ask for treats.

3) I want to look good, girl! How will I ever be a Bongga Mom if I don't feel good about myself? I want to wear a swimsuit without feeling self-conscious, shop for clothes I want my husband to look at me and see a hot babe, not just the mother of his children.

4) My brother is getting married at the end of the year, on December 26. As sister of the groom, I have a moral responsibility to look good in the happy couple's wedding photos. My sisters and I have a pact anyway; we're going to lose weight and keep each other motivated via email and Instant Messenger.

5) If I am diagnosed with an overactive thyroid, I should make an even greater effort to eating right and exercising well, because once I start medication for this condition, my metabolism will probably slow down and I'll have an even harder time maintaining a healthy weight.

Okay, 15 lbs. in 6 months..... a doable, but lofty goal. Now that it's on the internet, I guess it's official. I'd better get cracking. Stay tuned for my weight updates and please cross your fingers!

Dear Miss Manners:

Dear Miss Manners:

Bless me, Judith Martin, for I have sinned. You know those tacky brides who ask for stuff for their weddings? I happen to know some of them myself. A cousin of mine, for instance, wrote on her wedding invitation, "No presents please - we prefer cash". And a couple of years ago, two co-workers of mine invited us to a baby shower they were throwing for their own baby, then proceded to ask us to sign up to bring a dish, as it was a potluck. I shudder at their rudeness, but I cringe to confess, Miss Martin, that I have become one of those people -- I have asked my guests to give me presents.

Like all sinners, I have my excuses. My twins just celebrated their birthday, five days after Christmas. We invited about 10 children to their birthday party. The thought of the potential mountain of toys to be added to our already-full playroom sent me into a panic. We have recently been to a couple of parties where the mothers had specific gift requests (only books, no guns or superheroes). I thought their requests were quite tastefully worded, and I was not offended at all (in fact I sympathized). So I thought, why not? So in my sons' party invitations, I copied the first mother's wording and wrote "Books/puzzles only for presents, please!"
It worked; the boys received some lovely books and puzzles that they love, and the playroom inventory has not increased. But now I am consumed by guilt. Should I have done this? Do my kids' friends' parents now see me as a greedy mom? Perhaps I should have worded it better? For instance,

"Kindly limit presents to a small book or puzzle"
"For those who choose to bring presents, P&J would appreciate limiting presents to books or puzzles"

I don't know. As I have read in your column, there is no way to ask people for presents without sounding greedy and impolite. I am not noble enough to ask people not to bring presents at all, or ask them to make a donation in lieu of buying a present. Perhaps I should have offered my book/puzzle suggestion only when asked. Please tell me, Miss Manners, if I should apologize to these mothers.


(I know I should be grateful for whatever people give my kids. But I also know that people like to see their presents appreciated, and I mean truly appreciated. My kids' toys get played with, discarded for the next new toy, broken and forgotten. On the other hand, there aren't many books my kids don't like, and any book given to them will be loved for a long, long time. At least that's what I'm telling myself to ease the guilt. I know Miss Manners would not approve, but what about other moms out there? Could you (or have you) done anything similar -- wish lists on Amazon, Target, etc..? Smart mom tip or tacky no-no? Saint or sinner? You decide.)

This post was originally published on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

The Best Kisses I've Had

(Because your kiss) your kiss is on my list
(Because your kiss) your kiss is on my list
Because your kiss is on my list of the best things in life
(Because your kiss) your kiss is on my list
(Because your kiss) your kiss I can't resist
*from Hall and Oates, Kiss on My List

Here are three very special kisses I've had that certainly do count among the best things in my life:

1) My first kiss.
I was 19, a late bloomer with my very first boyfriend. He and I had just gotten together and had been exchanging chaste, closed-mouth pecks for about 2 or 3 days. He was 25, an older, mature man with experience, but I knew he loved me too much to rush me. I had made up my mind that I was going to let him french kiss me eventually, after a month or so. You know, take it slow. We were canoodling in a moviehouse when his tongue began dancing around my lips and flirting with my teeth. I was so excited, I felt like I was at the top of a giant rollercoaster. My lips slowly parted. The kiss deepened, and then the rollercoaster began plummeting down. I couldn't believe the feelings that exploded inside me! To this day, I remember thinking, So this is what kissing is -- forget taking it slow! I remember wondering how and why I waited so long to experience it. That was the kiss that said, Wow! I never knew I could feel like this!

2) When I first kissed my husband.
We had been flirting around the office for months. I knew he was attracted, and so was I, but I had a boyfriend, so I kept my distance. We were the last ones in the office, and we stared at each other. He said, I'd really like to kiss you right now. My insides melted, and I said, so would I. Then the tension broke, and we went back to joking. We went outside, to our separate cars. Across the parking lot, he stopped fiddling with his keys. He turned around and walked back to me. I just stared at him, knowing what was coming. Not a word was said; he just leaned over and kissed me hard. A fire ignited in me. I admitted I wanted him, and I let go. I kissed him back with all my might. That first kiss was hot, desperate, long overdue. That was the kiss that said, Let's face it, there's something going on between us. The rest is history.

3) When I first kissed my daughter.
I was exhausted from 27 hours of labor. Just moments before, I was screaming incoherently, desperate to stop the pain that was tearing me apart (it turns out I did tear and need an episiotomy). After that last push, I felt my stomach collapse as something slimy gurgled, thlurp! thlurp!, out of me. And there she was, all pink and white, on my chest will the umbilical cord still attached, still connected to me. I remember planting a soft, gentle kiss on her damp forehead and saying, Hello, little baby. That was my first kiss as a mother, the kiss that said, I will love you all my life.

What were the best kisses of your life? Happy Sunday Scribblings!

Love Thursday photo

Happy Love Thursday everyone! Here are my twins snuggled together in bed even though James has a perfectly good bed of his own. I marvel at the bond between them that probably goes beyond any definition of love we have.

An Inconvenient Truth

Graham and I have just finished watching An Inconvenient Truth, the Al Gore movie about global warming. It had some eye-opening images (the one that really got to me was how the Snows of Kilimanjaro has receded so dramatically) and graphs (showing temperatures rising, glaciers disappearing and populations soaring). The link between carbon emissions, global warming and impending major global disasters is obvious and scary. And almost seems inevitable.

At the end of the movie, viewers were prompted to visit www.climatecrisis.net. I did, and figured out my carbon footprint, namely 5.7 tons per year, rated "Much Smaller than Average", the average in the U.S. being 7.5 tons per year. Even 5.7 tons sound indecently high. After watching the movie and visiting the website, I feel partly responsible for those ice shelves breaking off and those polar bears drowning because they can't find any icebergs to rest on.

And that's not entirely a joke -- did you know that the US generates 30% of the world's carbon emissions? As a consumer, I am contributing to the problem. Despite my best intentions, I bought lots of Christmas presents for my kids and families, most of them packaged in way more non-recycled cardboard than necessary, wrapped in bright, glossy, tree-killing paper. We had 17 people over for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I used disposable plates, cups and utensils. I drive an AWD automatic van which normally gets 15mpg in suburban Palo Alto. I pack my kids' sandwiches in plastic bags so I don't have to wash any containers. In fact, I'm surprised they calculated my carbon footprint to be a measly 5.7.

The aforementioned website lists many ways ordinary people can reduce their impact on the environment, most of them "painless". Here is a list of 10 simple things you can do:
  1. Change a light -- Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  2. Drive less -- Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive!
  3. Recycle more -- You can save 2400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.
  4. Check your tires -- Keeping your tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!
  5. Use less hot water -- It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pound of CO2 saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year).
  6. Avoid products with a lot of packaging -- You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%
  7. Adjust your thermostat -- Moving your thermostat just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer. You could save about 2,000 pound of carbon dioxide a year with this simple adjustment.
  8. Plant a tree -- A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
  9. Turn off electronic devices -- Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save you thousands of pound of carbon dioxide a year.
  10. Spread the word!
We already do #'s 2, 3, 4 and 6. If we are diligent about it, we should be able to do #'s 1, 5, 7, and 9. I'm not so sure I can do #8, my gardening skills are so bad I'll probably just waste water and release pesticides into the atmosphere to keep the tree alive for just a couple of months.

But I can do #10 -- that's why I'm posting this! I wish I could make sure they showed this movie to every kid in school. But I can't do that, so I have to settle for blogging, and hoping people read this. Just think, if everyone just picked one new item from this list, we could all do a lot toward reducing our carbon footprints.