Being Thankful

I'm proud to present our guest poster of the day, The Pea. Her class had an open house (the kids invite their parents into the classroom and show off what they've been working on) recently, and a couple of Pea's works caught my eye . It looks like the class was working on cinquains (five line poems), and she chose her daddy and me as the lucky subjects.

Here are her poems (I've typed them out in case the photos are too small to read):

My mommy
loveable and careing
Walks me to school
As nice as a tender kitten (even)
If only she didn't get sooo angry.

My Daddy
works and care's for us.
In the offie all day
As grate as the best dad ever
If only he let me have moore chocolate.

She's such a sweet girl. It really makes parenting worth it when you know your kids are thankful for the things that you do. As for those last lines, well, I'm just thankful that she didn't write anything worse.

For more ways to be thankful, click here.

I'm going to BlogHer!

I'm Going to BlogHer '09

The results are in... and I didn't win. The full Label Daddy BlogHer '09 sponsorship, that is. That went to two talented bloggers, Miranda and Bridgette. I'll admit I'm kind of bummed about not winning the big prize -- I didn't think my entry totally sucked, did it? -- but their entries were so well-planned, well-executed, well-everything, that I know they totally deserved to win. How could anyone mind losing to someone who actually velcro'd herself to a wall?! Brilliant! So congratulations, you two!

In any case, there's a happy ending for me as well, because I won one of Label Daddy's other BlogHer contests -- their conference pass giveaway over at Momma Findings!! Hot Damn, I think I'm actually going to BlogHer! (okay, I'll stop with all the exclamation points now, my ears are ringing a bit)

Of course, I still have to figure out transportation and lodging. I think I might have to dip into my airline miles stash to minimize the cash outlay. Sure, the only flights that qualify for airline miles seem to be red-eyes or ones with multiple connections, but beggars can't be choosers, right? I'll be spending hours at the airport, but as long as there's wifi around, it can't be too bad (see, I'm brimming with optimism).

As for lodging, I'm hoping to avoid shelling out $200 per night, for 3 nights, at the Sheraton Towers, so I'll need to shout out for some roommates. There's also the option of channeling my inner hobo and staying at the HI Chicago hostel -- hey, you get wifi access, a central location, and just 6 people to a dorm for $33 per night. I'm just wondering whether it's going to be much cheaper than sharing a room at the Sheraton if I have to pay for a cab to get back to the hostel every night....

I'll figure it out one way or another. The important thing is, I get to display that "I'm going to BlogHer" badge and savor the thought of all the great learning, networking and connecting that's coming my way.

Mah-jongg memories

Have you heard? Family Game Night is back! It kind of makes sense, really; when your mortgage is under the water and your job prospects are shaky and a night out at GolfLand or the cinema can set you back $60, $70 or more, staying in and playing games is a fun, inexpensive way for families to bond.

That said, we don't have a Family Game Night tradition. Sure, we play games a lot, but we play "on demand", we don't have a regular weekly hour set aside. Maybe it's because my kids are still young. Family entertainment site Time to Play has a great list of games for game night, but almost all of them are geared for ages 8 and up (and the thought of playing Candyland or Whack-A-Mole for one hour straight makes me queasy). Or maybe because to me the term "Game Night" means one and only one game: mah-jongg.

Like many Filipinos, I love mah-jongg. It's kind of a family passion; everyone in my dad's family plays. One of my aunts likes to tell a story of going into labor during her weekly mah-jongg game. Her cousins / opponents repeatedly urged her to head for the hospital, but she refused because she was just starting to accumulate enough tiles for a high-scoring run. My maternal grandmother went to her regular mah-jongg game every single weekday for decades (now that she's ninety she has cut back to once a week or so). I grew up attending lunches and dinners where the grownups never failed to unfold the mah-jongg tables after dessert. My paternal grandmother taught me, my siblings and my cousins to play when I was 13 or 14. It must be in the blood, because we were hooked. Pretty soon we were unfolding our own tables. In my college years, mah-jongg nights with my cousins often turned into overnights.

Fast forward to 2009. All my aunts and uncles and cousins are in the Philippines, and I'm here. My sister and her husband are quite nearby, but you need 4 people to play (to make a "quorum", as we say). I've taught Alfie the basics and he seems to enjoy it, but without my family around to coach me, I tend to forget the finer points of scoring. I haven't played mah-jongg in years,and I'm not really looking for other people to play with. So now I guess it wasn't really the game that hooked me, just the enjoyment I got from being with my extended family. I miss my aunts walking behind us, looking at our tiles and giving us pointers. I miss their excited squeals when it looked like one of us was about to score big. I miss the bluffs and threats we'd trade to try to psych each other out. I miss howling with laughter at the silly superstitions (Don't sit beside Lia for the next game, she's lost the last 4 games so she's got "stinky" hands!). And I'd love for my kids to have those kinds of memories -- and maybe, that's what Game Night is really about.

Maybe it's time to start building memories for my own kids. We'll start with Candyland (maybe we can call it Family Five-Minute Game Time instead of Family Night). Over the years my kids' game repertoire will grow, just like mine did -- and hopefully one day I'll find myself shouting Pung and Chow right alongside them.

Morbid thoughts on a rainy day

When you're snuggled up under the covers on a cold, rainy day, and the kids are all downstairs having breakfast with daddy, the last thing you want to do with your 30 minutes of peace is to be thinking about death. But I was watching Bonnie Erbe's To The Contrary on PBS, and the topic was Asian-American women and retirement.

I always knew that women live longer than men in general, and that Asians have relatively long lifespans, but I guess I never really put the two together -- Asian American women's lifespan is about 86 years, 5 years longer than for white females, and almost 10 years longer than for African Americans. Nor have I really thought about out how I'm going to afford all those extra years of life (apparently 28% of retired Asian Americans rely solely on Social Security for income).

The segment was a good wake-up call because at the rate I'm going, my retirement savings will be firmly entrenched in the 5-digits for years to come. Not that Alfie is in a much better position -- both of our 401k accounts have been decimated by the stock market crash, money has been tight and his 401k contribution is only enough to match whatever his company gives as a benefit. But still, every little bit helps. Alfie has his 401k contributions, we put away a little bit each month for the kids' college funds -- but what about me? What's a stay-at-home mom to do? I know about spousal IRA's, but are there any other options? Hey Bonnie, there's a topic for your next show......

Monday Mornings: My very own Iron Man

..... and this is one big fat reason I'm happy I don't work in an office. Not that I ever ironed much on Monday mornings, or any morning, anyway. I still don't iron; that's Alfie's domain, bless his soul. He could get an extra 5 minutes of sleep if I just ironed his shirts for him, but he manfully gets out of bed to do it himself. And that's just one of the reasons I love him.

How is your morning going? If you leave a link to your latest post in the comments section, I'll go visit and leave a comment.

Lunches and laugh lines

When I heard that Cubes and Crayons and Skin Spirit were sponsoring an anti-aging lunch and presentation, how could I not sign up? Alfie has already been pointing out some stubborn lines on my neck that won't go away, so I've gotta be prepared. I also wanted to ask whether laser treatments could help tone down the scars that keratosis pilaris has left on my upper arms. Turns out that laser treatments might actually make things worse (retin-A would be a better choice), but never mind, at least I got the lowdown on all the latest and greatest anti-aging treatments like Botox, Restylane, Thermage, laser technology and my favorite, Latisse (can you imagine, longer thicker eyelashes just from applying some cream? How come they can't figure out something like that for bald guys? Unfortunately the effects last only as long as you continue applying the cream.....)

As for me, I don't think I'll be signing in for anti-aging procedures any time soon. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against cosmetic surgery in any way -- as long as it's done in a subtle, age-consistent manner. It's ridiculous to attempt to achieve the taut skin of a 20-year old when you're 50. I would much rather have the wrinkles and jowls before I let myself look like Sylvester Stallone or Billy Crystal or Joan Rivers. I say get rid of the worst sags and crags, but don't end up with skin pulled so tight you can barely open your eyes.

I'm fine with plastic surgery and anti-aging treatments. I'm just going to save up for the day I really need it. For now, at least, the only Botox I'll be taking in is the sweet, dark confectionery (and wickedly clever) "BoChox" version that I found in their goody bags.

Things that warm my heart

When it's cold outside, I can always go to my Happy Place and think about warm, sandy beaches in the Philippines.

Here are more photos of Old Smokey, Alfie's latest toy. He's totally crazy over it, and whenever he watches it chugging along, he always has a warm, goofy grin on his face.

Old Smokey is a steamroller powered by a real working steam engine -- see that little porthole beside the red steering wheel? It's filled with water, which is heated up to produce steam. The steam powers the pistons that make the wheels go. As you can imagine, the whole thing gets quite warm, so it's strictly a look-don't-touch toy for the kids. Except for the kid named Alfie, of course.

Finally, here's a photo of the cinnamon raisin oatmeal bread that I made earlier this month. Breathe in that warm, oatmeal-y goodness and let the cinnamony smell remind you that Quaker Oats' Start With Substance program is ending on Feb. 25. You have just a few days left to visit Quaker's Facebook page and enter a Quaker products UPC barcode so that Quaker will donate a bowl of oatmeal to a hungry child!

For more warm things, click here.

Pink Pancakes

A photo left over from last Saturday... Alfie's Valentine breakfast. He slept in later than usual because he wasn't feeling well, and I took the opportunity to make him a special Valentine's Day breakfast in bed, complete with pink heart-shaped pancakes and Irish oatmeal that I had to simmer on the stove for 30 minutes. And after all this effort, when I took the tray upstairs, I found him pulling on his jeans to go downstairs. Aggravating man! He did enjoy my Valentine's Day present (he liked the oatmeal so much that for the past couple of days he's been lamenting the fact that we're in too much of a rush on weekday mornings to spend 30 minutes to make oatmeal).
Oh, I enjoyed my Valentine's Day present too -- Alfie did all the breakfast cleanup. Now that's love.

For more images of love, click here.

What would Simon say?

We finally got around to watching Miss America last Friday night. It was getting close to bedtime and fast-forwarded through the boring sections (commercials, shots of the judges, any scene with Mario Lopez) until we got to the talent competition. The dance routines were great (especially Miss Hawaii's Polynesian dance number) -- but the contestants with singing "talent" were so bad, we felt like we were watching American Idol. The Pea summed it all up in a one-liner that even Simon Cowell would admire:

I don't know why they sing. Everyone at home just fast-forwards through their songs -- and all the people in the audience wish they could fast-forward.

Monday Mornings: hot breakfast

There's nothing like a bowl of healthy, hearty, yummy bowl of oatmeal in the mornings. As long as Alfie makes them, not me. Because I can't spare the three minutes it takes to mix and microwave the whole thing. No, really! OK, I'm just lazy.

And speaking of oatmeal, don't forget to go visit the Quaker Oats Facebook page -- for every UPC code you enter there, they'll donate a bowl of oatmeal to the hungry. If you need more incentive, if you do enter a code and leave a comment here, you'll be entered to win a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

How is your morning going? If you leave a link to your Monday Morning post in the comments section, I'll go visit and leave a comment.

Share the Love... please?

Dear blogosphere

Happy Valentines Day! And since today is Valentine's Day I thought I might ask anyone who drops by to share some linky love.... I'd be happy to drop by your blog and leave a comment on any post you want to share! Here are two posts of mine that you're going to love love LOVE so much that you're gonna want to blog about it and tweet it to the rooftops might be of interest:

I'm giving away a CURLS haircare gift pack on Bonggamom Finds. Head on over and join! There aren't too many entries, so your chances of winning are great!

I recently joined the Label Daddy BlogHer sponsorship contest and if you want to watch me make a fool of myself on camera, click here. I'm not fishing for votes or anything (the winner is not decided public vote anyway) but if you leave a comment and tell me what you think of it, it'll make my day -- and if the Label Daddy folks see that nice people have left comments, maybe they'll give my entry a second look :)



Ahoy, Matey!

Arrrrr.... this week's Photo Hunter's theme is nautical.... so check out our remote control Pirates of the Caribbean sailboat! Isn't she a beauty? She works just like a sailboat does -- the remote control allows you to position both sails to catch the wind and make the boat move. Alfie got her for Father's Day a couple of years ago, but sadly, the only place this vessel has ever sailed in is our bathtub. She really ought to be making her maiden voyage soon -- after all, a fireplace mantel is no place for the fearsome Black Pearl, terror of the seas.
Happy Valentines Day to all you mateys, we hopes ye all find yer true heart's treasure this weekend!
For more things nautical, click here.

What a Sweet Heart

3Po and Jammy attended a Valentine's Day cookie party this morning. Surprise, surprise, all the little girls showed up in pink and red, and spent most of the time decorating cookie after cookie after cookie. Not that the boys were too far behind in that department. They piled on the icing and candy hearts until each cookie was loaded with sugary treats. Oh, well. Valentine's Day comes only once a year, right? (and so does St. Patrick's Day. And Easter. And every other annual celebration that simply must be accompanied by a cookie decorating extravaganza.) At least it makes for a cute photograph!

Monday Mornings: I'm fabulous!

Last Monday I received this nice award from My Bella Figlia -- isn't that a great way to start the week off? Thanks, Shangrila -- it's nice to be told I'm fabulous on a day when I have to rush out of the house with breakfast half-eaten and my hair sticking up in every direction. And before I give 5 other bloggers that same Monday Morning lift by passing the award on, I'd like to begin my acceptance speech....

Okay, it's not the Oscars, so I'll nix the speech, but do I get to list things that I am "into" right now:

1) Oatmeal. Eating it. Cooking with it. And most importantly, donating it to hungry people via the Quaker Oats' Start With Substance program.

2) Getting to the BlogHer '09 conference in Chicago. The cost is daunting, but I've applied for a BlogHer scholarship and joined sponsorship contests here and there. You never know...

3) Soup. I've been having a bowl of soup for lunch almost every day, and I love the warm feeling in my tummy on a cold day.

4) Webkinz. The Pea wants to have a Webkinz birthday party when she turns 8, so I'm obsessing over party ideas that don't involve purchasing $16.00 stuffed animals for each and every party guest.

5) The octuplets' mother. I'm into her in a negative way, as in "I hope no one helps her exploit her children for financial gain and attention because it's wrong, wrong, wrong".

And now I get to pass this award on. To Poppy Fields, Tech Savvy Mama, MJ, Rachel, and mom2ag, I say -- Your Blog is Fabulous! To everyone else, do take a minute to stop by their blogs, leave a comment and make their Monday Morning a good one!

How is your morning going? If you leave a link to your latest post in the comments section, I'll go visit and leave a comment.

Making plans for BlogHer

I really need to find a way to get to BlogHer '09. Because seriously, people, BlogHer is a great conference. Whatever your reasons for blogging, at BlogHer you'll find things to inspire you to take your blog in whatever direction you choose. Here are some of the things I know BlogHer can help you (and me!) with :

* Get information and advice on every aspect of blogging -- photography, topics, ethics, monetizing, time management, you name it -- from people who've been there, done that
* Meet your favorite bloggers face-to-face for the first time.
* Meet companies that can help you with your blog -- from technology to ideas to product -- or ways to streamline your life so you can get on with your blog.
* Get yourself noticed!

So I'm researching my transportation options, and I think the most cost-effective one is to hitchhike to Chicago. So I have to work on my sales and marketing pitch. What do you think of my hitchhiking face?

Hmmm. Maybe not. I wouldn't get noticed in a sea of BlogHer hitchhikers. I need something to get me noticed. Not my body, heavens no.

How about that old standby, a cute kid? Families will be more likely to stop for us and it'll send a signal to potential rides that I'm not planning to murder them with an axe in front of my own kid. Nah. Still too cheerful. We don't look desperate enough. Why not just ditch the grownup and go for the whole "help an orphan out" ploy?

Yes, that's better. I'll just have to hide behind a bush on the roadside and jump into the car with 3Po when the nice family takes pity on him and gives him a ride to BlogHer. Now all I have to do is teach him to pronounce BlogHer correctly.
Good -- transportation down, lodging and conference to go. Fortunately, the good people over at Label Daddy and MomDot are giving bloggers like me the chance to win a conference pass to BlogHer '09. Winning a conference pass would mean the world to me, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. And teaching 3Po to say, "Please help my mama get to Bloggah..."

How to turn a conversation around

3Po's teacher told me a funny story about him the other day. She had asked him a question and was trying to listen to his answer. He was facing away from her, so she asked him to turn around so she could her him better. Whereupon 3Po stood up and began to twirl round and round while repeating his answer.

Building Bridges

When I first began buying wooden train tracks (back when The Pea was a toddler), I complained about how expensive they were (and still are). But when you look at how much play the kids have gotten out of it, it's actually a great investment. Who would have thought a simple wooden bridge could provide so many hundreds of hours of fun? Even though they're older, my kids still love Thomas the Tank. In fact, we're planning to watch Thomas and Friends perform live on stage in Cupertino this March. Which means these wooden tracks and bridges are going to remain a favorite for quite a while.
For more bridges, click here.

The food of love

This combination of graham crackers and cool whip sandwiches is one of our current snacktime favorites. As Jammy puts it, "It just fills my whole brain with love".

For more expressions of love, click here.

My blog is fabulous!

I received this nice award from My Bella Figlia -- thanks so much! I'll hang on to this for a while and pass it on next Monday....

Send mama to BlogHer!

I'm not above exploiting the adorable-ness of my kids to plead my case for winning the MomDot/LabelDaddy BlogHer '09 scholarship. They were happy to help, because they like seeing their videos up on YouTube. And they're smart kids. They know that if I get to go to BlogHer '09, there's gonna be a couple of perks for them as well:

* More networking opportunities for mama with companies who reach out to bloggers means more product review opportunities for her blog -- and what would a toy review be without a kid to help review it?

* Lots of cool tchotchkes from the conference sponsors and exhibitors. After all, what five year old doesn't want a flashing jelly necklace/keychain or mousepad?

* Going to BlogHer '09 will make mama happy. And as Barack Obama acknowledges, "When momma's happy, everybody's happy".

So here's what 3Po and Jammy have to say:

Monday Mornings: In my pj's

This was obviously not taken on a Monday morning. I love staying in my pj's as late as possible on the weekends. My neighbors are used to seeing me take out the trash in my lovely Strawberry Shortcake ensemble, but I don't think the principal or teachers or other parents would be as nonchalant. Maybe I just need to find a floor-length trenchcoat.

How is your morning going? If you leave a link to your Monday Morning post in the comments section, I'll go visit and leave a comment.

Learning to Read

Today 3Po scribbled on a piece of paper:


He asked me to read it out loud to him, so I gamely attempted to translate.

Me: Hut secret say?
3Po: No, mama! "The secret key"!
Me: Oh, sorry. You're right, the secret key. By the way, key begins with K, not C. And the second line is, "Es hedu"?
3Po: No, mama! That says, "Is hidden"!
Me: Ohhhhh.... The secret key is hidden! Sorry about that, I thought that N was a U. Good work!
3Po: Mama, I thought you knew how to read.

I'm so proud of my beginning reader. I think he'll be fine in kindergarten. As for me, I guess I need some reading remedial classes.