This week's Photo Hunters Theme is Sweet

Proud parent that I am, I'm still smiling at the memory of my boys tippy-toeing across the floor at yesterday's ballet class (their first ever), so instead of a photo, I'm posting a video. I love how they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the steps, even though they were the only boys in the class (having a twin companion was definitely an advantage). I think all the little girls look so sweet in their girly tutus and ballet slippers, but I think my boys are giving them a run for their money.

The B-Boyz are Here

B for Ballet... B for my cute little boys... B for their little round bellies sticking out.... B for beautiful!

So I Think I Used to Dance

Now that House and Grey's Anatomy are deep into reruns and the 6th (or is it 7th?) American Idol is many months away, I'm thanking the TV gods for So You Think You Can Dance! I got hooked on the show when the first season aired two summers ago, and this year promises to be better than ever. I know Dancing With The Stars is all the rage with most people, but in my opinion who wants to watch B-list celebrities do C-rate versions of ballroom dances anyway? The competitors on SYTYCD are trained dancers (along with some untrained ones with phenomenal natural talent), so no performance is truly pathetic or painful to watch.

One of the reasons I like the show so much is that it reminds me of one of my previous lives (actually, that was quite a number of years ago, so make that previous previous previous lives), when I was dancing several hours a day, nearly every day, doing the things I see them doing on TV (but definitely not as well as they do -- I'm not a self-deluded egomaniac like those American Idol freaks). I haven't danced in years, but when I watch the contestants I can feel my toes pointing and my torso straightening as my body yearns to move like theirs does. I haven't danced in years, but when I watch the show it reminds me that the dancer in me is still there, biding her time, waiting for the right opportunity to come out again.

Funny stuff from Jammy

Why is it that all the funny sayings seem to come from Jammy?

Jammy: (hic)... (hic)... (hic)....
Me: Oh Jammy, you're hiccuping!
Jammy: Yes, Mama, (hic) I'm (hic) hip-hopping!


3Po: My name starts with P...Puh...Puh...Puh....Ph****!
Me: Yes, that's right, your name does start with P, but P and H make a special sound like "F", so it's actually Fuh...Fuh...Fuh...Ph*****.
3Po: Yes, P and H together say Fuh!
Jammy: Yes, just like P and J together say Puh-Juh --- like Puh-Jamas!

Pain-free Labor and Other Secrets of Motherhood

Some secrets are meant to be shared, and none more so than parenting tips. I don't think any parent could have survived the infant and toddler years without picking up some secret survival tips from more experienced parents, right? So in the interest of passing this vital knowledge on, I am more than happy to share some of mine, such as:
  • How we taught our boys to bike without training wheels at age 3 (they do have a great sense of balance but the Kettler Balancing Bike will help any kid learn)
  • Where I got those cute matching clothes for my kids (Disney store and Gymboree make great coordinated outfits for brothers and sisters)
  • How I've amassed so many good toys for my kids (I buy gently used stuff from Craigslist and the local moms' club email group)

Not that I'm the perfect mom or a know-it-all. On the contrary, I still feel like a rookie at this parenting thing. In fact, I would really appreciate it if someone could let me in on some of their own parenting secrets, like:
  • How you survived your labor without an epidural
  • How to stop my kids from whining when I say, "No, you can't watch any more TV"
  • How to iron clothes, especially puffy-sleeved dresses
  • Where to find more of my daughter's favorite solid-blue, long-sleeved Lands' End dress (they only make'em in prints now)
  • How to get back into the workforce after years of being a stay-at-home mom.
  • How I do it (people ask me this all the time like having 3 kids makes me a multitasking expert, but heck if I know the answer)

But there are some secrets that I will never reveal. You can tickle me, you can force me to do the laundry every single day, and you can even (gulp) pull the plug on my internet connection, but you will never get me to tell you:
  • Which aspects of parenting I disagree with my husband over (if any)
  • Which grandparent my children like the most
  • Which child is my favorite
  • Where I keep the Christmas presents
  • Where I keep my emergency stash of chocolate

Sorry, but some things are just for me to know! It would be a far less interesting world if we couldn't keep a secret or two :)

For more secrets, click here.

Photo Hunters: Shiny

This week's Photo Hunters Theme is Shiny.

Here is my favorite photo from yesterday's berry-picking expedition. When I told my dad and sons to "Smile and say cheese!" yesterday, I had no idea a bright, shiny little butterfly had decided to pose with them. What a nice little stroke of luck! I love how it seems suspended in mid-air, with no blurring whatsoever, and I love the way the sun shines on the butterfly's body, making it stand out from everything else. It almost looks like I used Photoshop to cut out a butterfly-shaped piece right in front of Jammy's face!

For more shiny things, click here.

Things money can't buy

Enough sunscreen for an entire morning of berry-picking: $5
Entrance fee for one adult, one senior and three children: $6
Four lbs. of berries (plus unknown quantities eaten straight off the bush): $10
Bottles of cold water from farmstand (because mommy forgot to bring some): $6
Band-aids and ointment to treat scratches from rasberry and blackberry thorns: $2

Seeing Jammy dump a bucketful of berries into his mouth,
Photographing 3Po's berry-stained face,
and presenting daddy with a pie made from berries we picked ourselves: PRICELESS

Fridays Feast

Name a funny habit you have.
I like to indulge in a strange thing called blogging

If you could instantly know how to play a musical instrument, which one would you pick?
I'll take any instrument, but since I have to choose one, I'd say the piano. I haven't managed to retain anything from years of piano lessons as a child. I think it was mostly my negative attitude, and I do regret that.

How long is your hair?
Right now, my hair is about shoulder-length. I usually like to keep it at least this long, usually longer. When I was young, my mother always cut our hair short and whenever I got the chance to make a wish (i.e. tossing a coin into a fountain), I would always wish for long hair.

Main Course
When was the last time you forgave someone, and who was it?
I forgave the #$&^ driver in front of me for cutting into my lane, even though she waited till the last minute to change lanes and blithely expected me to let her in even though I changed lanes at the proper time and I felt like honking my horn and #$#*^!!!!....... breathe deeply...... I swear, I've forgiven her!!

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
I'm a simple gal -- I love my kitchen knife. We have blenders and food processors and stuff they sell on TV for chopping onions and sh*t, but nothing beats a knife. Plus, it's sooo easy to clean!

Hungry for more? Click here.

Gas prices are GAS-tly!!

We filled up our gas tank this weekend. Cost for approximately 18 gallons of regular-grade gas: $63.75. OUCH! Well, at $3.41 per gallon, what can you do? I still remember when gas cost $1.19. Those were the days.....

Alfie's relatives in England say we shouldn't complain, since gasoline ( or petrol, as they say) costs over $5 per gallon. To that, I say yes, that's true, but you folks across the Atlantic are lucky enough to have cars with mileages of 30-40 miles per gallon. In the US, only hybrids approach that kind of fuel efficiency. Our Toyota Sienna is supposed to get 18mpg in city driving and 27mpg on the highway. But looking at the trip computer, the average mileage on our van so far is 14.9 mpg. So we are actually spending more on petrol with our gas-guzzling car than a family in England would, driving the same amount of miles with a more fuel-efficient car.

In Venezuela, gas costs 12 cents per gallon. That's probably the only place in the world we could afford to drive a Hummer!

Two Cowgirls

All right, folks, guess which photo was taken yesterday and which one was taken two years ago?

Memories of The Crazy Ones

Gosh, The Pea is six now. She's old enough to have memories. She constantly amazes us with her recollection of things that happend two or three years ago. But more significantly, her experiences now are going to be memories that she will retain throughout adulthood. I myself have lots of memories from when I was six. Good memories (like going to Disneyland for the very first time) and not-so-good memories (like getting locked in a bathroom). And memories which I used to think were good, but now I guess were not so good.

Take my memory of The Bu-Angs. Each summer between the ages of about six through twelve, we spent a couple of weeks in my father's hometown, Roxas City. Now Roxas City (or Capiz, as it used to known) is a place known throughout the Philippines as a haven for aswangs (vampires). My sister and my cousins and I certainly did our best to find these aswangs there, but unfortunately didn't meet any. Our consolation prize every year was our encounters with two colorful characters, known as Maria Bu-ang and Norma Bu-ang (Crazy Maria and Crazy Norma).

Maria Bu-ang was a crazy old beggarwoman who would go from house to house, begging and babbling. Whenever she came to my aunt's house, we would always talk to her because her answers, so bizarre and so unrelated to our questions, were always guaranteed to get us giggling.

Norma Bu-ang was even more interesting. She lived in a little hut not far from my cousins, and we would hide and spy on her as she went about. She spent her time holding a baby doll, singing to it loudly as she danced around and around. Rumor was that she had lost her own baby many years back, my cousins whispered, and that had broken her heart and mind. Every time we spied on her, we would point and whisper and giggle nervously at her antics. We were always scared that she would spot us and attack us -- which of course made it all the more thrilling.

I know we were just kids, and we never actually tormented them, but those fun memories and now tainted by guilt about how we we made fun of them. Obviously they needed help, and they probably couldn't afford medical treatment. Like Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, they were people too, and deserved compassion and kindness more than fear and ridicule. Gosh, I wish I had been more like Scout Finch!

For more eccentric characters, click here.

Photo Hunters: Hair

This week's Photo Hunter's Theme is Hair

For Crazy Hair Day at Pea's school last week, I wove a dozen ribbons throughout her hair, making it look like multicolored dreadlocks. She was very proud of the fact that no-one at school had the same hairstyle as she did!

Fridays Feast

Fill in the blank: The best thing about where I live is _________________…
The diversity. People of all cultures and races and backgrounds make their home in Silicon Valley and the result is a great place for my children to grow up in.

Create a new name for a deodorant (like “Flower Fresh” or “Shower Scent”).
My imagination came up short, so I turned to my 6-year old daughter for help. She came up with "Lily".

What was the last piece of software you installed onto your computer?
Some anti-spyware software. Our internet connection was down for three whole days because of a virus. Never again!!

Main Course
If you were to receive a superlative award today beginning with the words ”Most likely to…”, what would the rest of the phrase say?
Most Likely to Whip Up Something for Dinner with the Least Amount of Effort Possible. Actually I should be getting that award for every day this week!

What two colors do you like to wear together?
I love pink and brown. Together, they are just the right mix of feminine and fashionable.

Hungry for more? Click here.

Six weird things about me

I've been tagged by Sassy Mom for a meme, 6 Weird Things About Me. Here goes:

1) I've already mentioned my freakishly big feet. But I also have a freakishly big head. Finding a nice, dainty ladies' hat for tea parties would be next to impossible for me; the only hat I have that fits me well comes from Next in the UK (and it's from the mens' department).

2) When I was a kid, one of the milk teeth I lost somehow ended up wedged in my inner ear canal. I just woke up one day with a missing tooth and an earache. The doctor said it was next to impossible for me to have wedged it so far into the canal, whether asleep or awake. Hey, the mouth, ears, nose and throat are all connected, right -- maybe I swallowed it and it ended up in the wrong tube? Or maybe the tooth fairy put it there?

3) Speaking of teeth, I frequently dream about my teeth falling out. It's always a very stressful dream, almost a nightmare. My husband says it means I have too much on my plate and I'm losing control. My cousion says it means someone in the family is going to die -- and to counteract it, I have to go out into the garden and bite the bark of a tree. Not that I hate my relatives, but I prefer the weird explanation.

4) Speaking of dreams, I talk in my sleep (according to Alfie) and I have been known to walk in my sleep at least once (according to my sister, who was visiting me once, and saw me get up from bed in the middle of the night, walk out of my studio apartment door, walk right back in, and get right back into bed).

5) I used to LOVE Michael Jackson. Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller were my all-time favorite songs of 1983. In my defense, I was just a kid. And the MJ of yesteryears bears no resemblance to the present-day freak we see in the news.

6) 3Po and Jammy, being twins, were obviously born on the same day. But did you know that their patron saints, St. 3Po and St. Jammy, also share the same feastday, May 3? I had no idea of this when we chose their names, it was just one really weird -- but nice -- coincidence. (OK, this one's not really about me but I thought I'd share it anyway)

Was that weird enough for you?

I'm tagging no-one and everyone. If you want to tell the world what's weird about you, post it up on your blog and leave a link so I can visit (or post it up here, in the comments section, if you don't have a blog).

How to spot a true Filipino

So yesterday, June 12, was the Philippines' Independence Day, the 109th anniversary of Filipino revolutionary army's proclaiming independence from Spain. But did we do anything to celebrate? Uh, does treating my kids to Krispy Kreme donuts count?

I've lived in the US for 13 years now and I'm married to an Englishman, and sometimes it feels like we've always lived this American middle-class suburban life. My kids know as many Spanish words as they do Filipino words. They eat milk and cereal for breakfast. We don't have rice every day. The way we live, you'd hardly know where I come from. But some habits die hard. Here are some things serve as a reminder that wherever I go and whatever I do, I'll always be a Filipino:

1) I always mix up "bring" and "take", i.e. "Bring you hat with you to the car, please" or "We're bringing my parents to the airport". If you're Filipino I'd be willing to bet that you don't even realize you're making a grammatical error. My husband has told me hundreds of times that "bring" is used with "come" and "take" is used in the same context as "go", but I still can't get it. In fact, the harder I try, the more mixed-up I get.

2) I pronounce each and every syllable of every word. Chocolate is not pronounced "CHOCK-lit", it is pronounced "CHALK-aw-late". Similarly, comfortable is not "COMF-tuh-ble", it's "COM-for-ta-ble", or in some cases, "com-FOR-ta-ble". If you ask me, if everyone took phonetics as literally as Filipinos do, there would be far less spelling and prounciation mistakes in this world. I mean, really, how do you expect anyone who's never heard the word Worcestershire before to be able to say it properly?

3) I use the word "traffic" is an adjective as well as a noun, i.e. "It's so traffic!" instead of "There's so much traffic!". It's probably a direct translation of "Ma-trapiiik!"

4) I never dry my kids properly. In Manila it's so warm that having some drops of water left on your skin feels lovely and cool, and in any case it's going to dry off soon anyway. Unfortunately my casual attitude towards towel-drying persists even in the cooler (i.e. freezing) temperatures of Northern California, Massachusetts and Great Britain.

5) I don't care whether I eat my dinner hot, lukewarm or cold. Again, it's a climate thing. In cold countries food needs to be piping hot, otherwise it gets all greasy. In a place where steaks are not the only things sizzling, lukewarm is usually good enough.

6) But I can't take drinks without ice. Lots of it (have you noticed how many of my quirks are related to hot climates?). Just the sound of the ice cracking in your glass as you pour your drink into it helps you feel cooler. Water or Coke at room temperature? That's just as ludicrous to a Filipino as it would be to serve an Englishman a bowl of soup that isn't piping hot.

7) I never leave a party/restaurant/Costco without taking leftovers or freebies with me. I know, I sound cheap (and I probalby am), but I think it's just a cultural phenomenon. We Filipinos like to get our money's worth, and if your restaurant says all-you-can-eat, we're going to hold you to it. Walk into any fast-food restaurant in Manila and look for the napkin dispenser. You won't find it; you have to ask for napkins from the servers at the counter, otherwise they would be all gone in a flash. Ditto for ketchup packs or soda machines (free refills? Not unless you accept that one order of soda is going to quench the thirst of an entire family).

8) I never pack a suitcase when I travel. Instead, I cram my belongings (and various presents for my relatives) into a 20x20x20 cardboard box, known to Filipinos as the Balikbayan Box. It's the configuration that makes maximum usage of the allowable linear footage for check-in luggage (so I guess this is another manifestation of trait #7). Observe the check-in line on any flight to Manila and you will see dozens of these boxes, trussed tightly with string or packing tape, with name and address information printed on all six sides.

9) I'm a good driver. I have to be; I learned the art of defensive driving in the traffic nightmare that is Metro Manila. I've had to learn to avoid smoke-belching public buses and jeepneys that swerve unexpectedly and stop anywhere along the road. Drivers in California, while not the best, are at least orderly. They at least follow stop signs and trafiic lights and lane markings. I could almost drive with my eyes closed here (but I don't, I swear).

There's a Filipino Independence Day festival this weekend in San Francisco. I think I'll dust off my national pride and go join them. Happy Independence Day!

Pea's ballet recital

Our little Pea had the time of her life last Wednesday at her spring ballet recital, held at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, no less. She danced to the tune of the Jungle Book's "I Wanna Be Like You", by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. The whole family, including two of her little friends from school, were cheering her on in the audience. Her two friends had even brought some flowers to congratulate our budding ballerina.

I know I'm just an annoying stage mom talking, but I think her rhythm is impeccable, and she kept the beat right till the end. Here's the video of her performance (she's the third dancer from the right):

Photo Hunters: Shoes

This week's Photo Hunters theme is Shoes.

Every time she is invited to a party, The Pea asks me if she can wear these shoes. They were a hand-me-down from a young cousin of mine; I wouldn't have chosen them for her if I had seen them in a store -- they're just too costly and impractical. Call me old-fashioned, but I just think letting a six-year-old totter around in 1.5 inch heels is inappropriate and dangerous. But The Pea adores them - and what girl wouldn't? And I have to admit, they are cute. I'm sure Minnie Mouse would agree with me too.

Fridays Feast

What do you consider to be the ultimate snack food?
Hot buttered popcorn -- Yum!

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 as highest), about how popular is your last name?
I would give my last name a 2. When I Google it, I get 915,000 results, versus 297 million when you Google "Smith".

Who is your all-time favorite sitcom character, and why?
I love Joey on Friends because he's sweet, funny, and oh-so-adorable. Second runner-up would be Niles from Frasier because of the same reasons (but substitute "neurotic" for "adorable").

Main Course
Do you shop online? If so, name some sites you like to browse for goodies.
Other than Amazon, most of the online stores I go to are virtual versions of the bricks-and-mortar stores: groceries on Safeway, toys at the Disney Store, underwear at Victorias Secret, clothes at J Crew, kids clothes at Gymboree, etc..

Fill in the blank: I think ___________ should be ___________.
I think Paris Hilton should be jailed again. It's an outrage!

Hungry for more? Click here.

My name is BonggaMom and I'm an addict

Guess where I am right now? Like Harry Potter, I'm in our cupboard under the stairs, huddled over a laptop (which is balanced on a shoerack), surrounded by coats and shoes, while my children wreak havoc outside, occasionally knocking on the closet door and asking for food (juuuust five more minutes, honey, I promise!). Why, do you ask? Because it's the only way I can get connected to the internet.

We've been without an internet connection for two days now. Actually, let me rephrase that - there's some problem with our router and the whole home network is not working right now. After two days of rebooting, replugging, and retyping phrases like "ipconfig release" and "ipconfig renew", I've found out that the only way to get online is to connect Alfie's laptop directly to our DSL modem, which happens to be in the cupboard. Hence my playing Harry Potter; I can't take the isolation anymore.

It's amazing how dependent I am on the internet. I'll admit I'm somewhat of an addict -- I simply must check email every twenty minutes, read my favorite newssites and blogs before I go to bed. I do a fair amount of online "window shopping" (finding what I want online then running into a store to buy the actual item) and online purchasing. But that's just gravy. When forced to go cold turkey, it becomes apparent to me how much I rely on the internet to help me run my family's day-to-day affairs.

My son drew an awesome motorcycle yesterday and I'm itching to post the photo on my blog. My daughter had a ballet recital and I'm dying to email the video to my parents. I had to visit an actual ATM to transfer funds from one bank account to another. I had no idea what I was supposed to do today or which playdates and meetings I missed yesterday, because all my appointments are on Yahoo! Calendar. I couldn't email anyone to ask because I didn't have access to email. I suppose I could have called someone. Except I couldn't, because all my friends' phone numbers are on my Yahoo! Address Book. I couldn't even get the Tech Support number for DSLExtreme by dialing the phone operator for 1-800 listings; I had to call my husband at the office and ask him to get it for me from their website.

Sure, lots of people are perfectly happy with firing up their computers and checking their email two or three times a week. They'd probably read this post and wonder what the fuss is about. Thank God there are wired folks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who love their Twitters and Crackberries and appreciate that keeping your laptop powered up 24/7 is not merely a waste of electricity but a necessity. Oh, and God Bless Al Gore for inventing the internet. My name is BonggaMom and I'm an internet addict. And sorry, I refuse to come out of the closet just yet.

More Mommy Brain

A commenter on my previous post about mommy brain correctly pointed out that daddies' brains get turned to mush as well. That got me thinking about all the times the stresses of parenthood and life have afflicted Alfie and myself with Parent Brain. I'm not talking about the obvious ones, the ones that happen so often that they almost don't count, like
  • Leaving my purse (and drivers license) at home, then getting into the car and driving around all day.
  • Going anywhere without extra diapers or wipes or water or snacks.
  • Getting into the car, driving in "autopilot" mode and forgetting where you're going.
  • Putting oatmeal into the microwave in the morning and forgetting it until it's time to reheat dinner in the microwave.

No, I'm talking about the goof-ups that occur on particularly stressful days, the more spectacular examples of how spaced out parents can be. Like my perpetually late friend, who proudly showed up, on time for once, at another friends' house for a kids' birthday party -- on the wrong day. Here are some of our memorable ones:

  • Forgetting to pick The Pea up from school.
  • Taking The Pea to ballet lessons on the wrong day.
  • Putting 3Po in a corner for a time-out and forgetting he was there (to his credit, 3Po meekly stayed in the corner the whole time)
  • Putting the twins to sleep in the wrong cribs (despite their howling protests, this mistake was not recognized until The Pea wandered in and asked, "Why have you put them in the wrong beds?")
  • Letting Jammy go out of the house in sandals and bright pink nailpolish on his toenails.

Does anyone else have any funny stories of parent brain? Like misery, mommy brains love company, and it would be great for my morale to know I'm not the only one out there. Leave a comment here or write about it on your blog and leave me a link so I can drop by!

Pea's First Lemonade Stand

Today we participated in a city-wide garage sale and made $55. Not too bad, but not too thrilling either, considering we made over $200 when we participated 2 years ago. I'm putting it down to less buyer traffic (it was cloudy and cold for most of the morning), less variety (last time I had about 7 or 8 boxes of stuff, this time I had about 3) and inferior quality (I've sold almost all the big-ticket baby gear and nice baby clothes so I only have the dregs left).

The Pea also decided to get into the spirit by selling lemonade and cookies. She did great: she greeted all passers-by with "Would you like some lemonade?" and a smile, said thank-you to all her customers, didn't spill a drop, and didn't drink/eat away the inventory. She was sold out of all her cookies and almost all of the lemonade, and she made an impressive $9.60. Almost all sales in the first hour came from her stand. You know you are overpricing your stuff when your six-year-old is making more money from her 10-cent lemonade stand than you are.

Photo Hunters: Art

This week's Photo Hunter's Theme is Art.

I noticed that the majority of Photo Hunters sites focused on visual arts such as drawing, photography, sculpture, folk art, etc... So just for something different, I'm featuring the performing arts:

.... such as music....

...... and dance.

And for something totally different, how about the art of listening?