Memorial to Gabriela Silang in Makati City, Philippines. Gabriela Silang was one of the Philippines' first Power Women -- she led an insurgent revolt against the Spanish in the town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, after her husband Diego was killed. She was eventually caught and hanged, but she continues to be a symbol of heroism to the Filipino people.

This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more Memorials, click here.

Celebrity who?

My aunt in New York is an amateur celebrity stalker. Every time I visit her, she regales me with stories of her latest celebrity sightings. She and her husband love taking me on nighttime drives around Manhattan, showing me "celeb locations" like JFK Jr's old apartment, or where Jerry Seinfeld lives or Madonna's new brownstone. She's the type of woman who will stand in the rain across the street from Maddox Jolie-Pitt's preschool in the hopes of seeing Brangelina.

My aunt would be proud of me.

American Idol Season 9 Finale My sister and I wearing our Cafe Press idol shirts!

I've just arrived from my American Idol Season 9 Finale trip, and I've got lots and lots of photos of AI celebrities.

American Idol Season 9 Finale
Here are Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini and Season 7 finalist Brooke White. Brooke is absolutely gorgeous, and rake-thin, even more so than the regular Hollywood celeb.

American Idol Season 9 finale
Here I am with Season 7 finalist Kristy Lee Cook. Note how the photo is strategically cropped to disguise how much bigger my hips are than Kristy's.

Now I have a confession to make. At the time, I had no idea who these people were. I recognized them from past Idol seasons but I couldn't place their names. And in true celebrity-stalker mode, we took photos of starlets we didn't even recognize. I told my sister, "Who cares? We can find out who they are later! Just keep snapping!". The important thing is that we saw them....... right?

American Idol Season 9 Finale
Gorgeous, leggy Fox news reporter -- who is wearing, like, 6 inch heels. Are killer shoes a Hollywood prerequisite? How does anyone walk in those things?

I can't believe that I got to stand right next to one of the few Season 9 contestants that I actually knew... and I didn't recognize him! I was so focused on trying to take a photo of Justin Guarini that I didn't really notice the big guy in front of me. My sister was gasping and pointing... him... him... him! I assumed she meant Justin. I just tought the guy was a bodyguard or something. I got tired of snapping Justin so I walked away. When I turned around, the big guy was beside Justin, and something just clicked. Michael Lynch! Aaaaaargh!

Thirty-eight can be great

You know how it is: the older you get, the less of a deal your birthday becomes. Then you get older, and gradually people start celebrating your birthdays again, and as each birthday becomes more and more of an achievement, the celebrations become ever more of a grand affair.

I think I must have passed that minimum birthday fuss level this year and started climbing back up the slope, because I had a really special 38th birthday celebration. Over the last 4 or 5 years my birthdays have been such non-events that I started declaring month-long celebrations for my birthday (it helps that Mother's Day is also in May) so I could squeeze more attention and good behavior from the kids. But this year I can't complain, because the 22nd was really all about ME:

Bonggamom's 38th
Last Saturday I woke up to my first-ever birthday banner. Usually I stay up all night before the kids' and Alfie's birthdays, blowing up balloons and taping up streamers to decorate the kitchen wall for their special days. This time The Pea actually remembered to make one for me. It's a good thing we never got around to taking the balloons down from The Pea's birthday banner last month.

Bonggamom's 38th
Here are my lovely cards and flowers on display. Okay, I had to buy the roses myself, but I did reach into Alfie's wallet to pay for them :) Joking aside, I'm still beyond ecstatic at the mobile broadband card he gave me for my laptop, which is way better than flowers. I also received lots of nice greetings online. Gotta love Facebook!

Bonggamom's 38th
It seems a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake has become our family's traditional birthday cake, and my birthday was no exception.

Bonggamom's 38th
And since my parents were in town, Alfie and I were also able to celebrate with a fun night out. I decided to make "New' the theme of the night and do things I had never, ever done before. First up was the restaurant: I chose one that serves N'awlins-style food and it turned out to be a great decision. Roux Louisiana restaurant had live jazz music, a hip crowd, and great food. How can you not feel Scarlett O'Hara Special when you're surrounded by red walls, velvet curtains, beads and fancy chandeliers?

Bonggamom's 38th
I wore the brand-new top that I'll be wearing to the American Idol finals. It's ruffly and flirty and fun! (and thanks to all the readers who gave their suggestions on what to wear on BlogHer and on Bonggamom Finds!) You can't see it very well since I'm skulking in the ladies' room to take this photo and the light was low, so you'll have to wait until I post my American Idol trip photos to see it better. Stay tuned!

Bonggamom's 38th
I ate alligator for the first time. These alligator strips were delicious, not stringy or tough at all (they use the meat in the alligator's tail)! And no, they don't taste like chicken; actually they taste more like calamari, and if I ever get the chance again I'd definitely order these again.

Bonggamom's 38th
I had some Sex on the Bayou (the drink, not the act).

Bonggamom's 38th
In fact, the only thing about the night that wasn't "new" were the two grownups who were celebrating. I had fun from the moment I stepped into that restaurant till the moment we collapsed into bed and had some more Sex on the Bayou (not the drink...) I can't think of a better way to Celebrate Thirty-Eight!

(But I'm still keeping my month-long birthday celebration).

I'm an Ad!

Those aren't my kids, and that's not my Flip camera.... but that is my name on the ad! I stopped by my blog this morning and was greeted with this nice surprise -- a BlogHer ad network spot featuring yours truly and the $200 giveaway courtesy of Flip Video that I'm currently running as a BlogHer Reviewer. I know it's silly and self-centered, but I can't help feeling tickled that this ad is running on millions (okay, maybe thousands.... or maybe hundreds.... or tens?) of blogs and people get to see my lil' ol' blog.

Which reminds me.... I'd better go and make sure that there aren't any typos or funky graphic glitches for people to point at when they land on that post!


The monthly task we all dread.... paying bills! Thank God for automatic payments and electronic transfers. Even if I had to write out the checks manually, since today is my birthday, this is ONE task I am NOT going to suffer through today :)

This photo was inspired by the latest Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more Monthlies, click here.

Girls have a xxx and Boys have a yyy

When genitals of either gender happen to come up in our conversation, Alfie and I rarely use the proper terms. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they sound so clinical. Maybe it's because neither of our parents used the proper terms when we were growing up. Maybe it's because there are so many other interesting, colorful terms available that not to use them would be a shame. Alfie could rattle off ten names each without even pausing to take a breath, and, I'm guessing, so could you. I'm not going to print the obvious ones or the nasty-sounding ones, because if I do my site might start appearing on all the wrong Google searches, and I'd turn off my family-oriented readers and advertisers. Besides, those terms are the boring ones. I much prefer the creative names, like

Family jewels
Wee Willie Winkie
Meat and Two Veg
The Old Pork Sausage
Loving Cup

(it's up to you to guess which ones are male and which ones are female)

I'm sure no-one but Alfie and I cares about which terms we use when we talk among ourselves -- but I've heard it said time and time again that parents should use the correct anatomical terms with their kids. And I have to admit, we don't do that. Whenever we talk to our kids about their private parts, we say Winkie and Pee-Pee, not Penis and Vagina. They do know those words are nicknames, and they do know the correct terms. They hear me use the proper terms when I take them to the pediatrician. And we do consider ourselves to be pretty open when it comes to our bodies (we're not self-conscious about appearing naked in front of the kids). But somehow it feels weird and overly formal to call a "Pee-Pee" a vagina -- kind of like saying "phalanges" instead of "toes", "rectum" instead of "bum" or "butt", "excrement" or "waste" instead of "poop". Am I teaching my kids to be embarrassed about their private parts? Do you have nicknames for your private parts (or is that already a nickname)? Or do you find nicknames annoying?

This post was inspired by the Silicon Valley Moms Book Club's May selection, the Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You. It's a down-to-earth guide to feminine health written by an ob-gyn who specializes in adolescent gynecology. I received a free copy of the book to review, and I do think it's a great book, one that I will probably give to The Pea when she's old enough. Click here to see what the other SV Moms have to say about this book!

Christians, muslims, and other mythical creatures

My mother is a very religious person, and she likes to go to mass every day. We have a church within walking distance of our home (it's actually the church that Alfie and I got married in), so when she visits us she likes to walk to and from the church for daily mass. Yesterday was a rainy day, so I offered to drive her and my dad after we picked up 3Po and Jammy from school. After we dropped them off, 3Po and I had an interesting theological discussion:

3Po: Lola (that's what he calls my mother, it's the Filipino word for "grandmother") is a Christian, right? Do Christians believe in God?

Me: Yes.

3Po: What about Muslims?

Me: Muslims also believe in God, but they have a different name for God -- they call him Allah.

3Po: So what do you call a person who believes in mermaids?

Why I volunteer at school

Since I'm a stay-at-home parent, I'm lucky enough to have enough free time on my hands (or to be more precise, the ability to juggle my schedule around) to spend time volunteering at the kids' school. I don't have quite the organizational skills or the energy or the drive to take on any major leadership roles in our school's PTA; I prefer to be active in a supporting role, lending a hand at PTA functions or managing tshirt sales or organizing smaller events like ice skating parties.

But the volunteering I enjoy most involves getting down and dirty in the classroom with my kids and their classmates. I like signing up to help with art class, math labs, recess and library. I'm a room parent who helps organize class parties and collect money for teachers' gifts and recruit other volunteers. And when time permits, I'm a driver and chaperone on field trips.

It's a win-win situation for everyone involved: the teachers get the extra hands they so desperately need, which frees them up to give more one-on-one attention to their students. But the biggest winner is probably yours truly. Here are just some of the ways I benefit from the volunteering that I do at school:

* It gains me lots of points with my kids. They love the attention I give them in class, and they just about burst with pride whenever they see me there. I don't know how long it will be before they they start pretending they don't know me, but for now I'm enjoying them enjoying me.

* I get a glimpse of my kids' lives in a universe that doesn't revolve around me. I get to see my kids interact with their teacher and their classmates, and I get to check on them and make sure they're thriving and learning (the control freak in me really likes that).

* I get to know my kids' teachers a little bit better. After all, they are my kids' mom-away-from-home. Their teachers are molding my kids' little minds as much as I am, so I want to establish a good relationship with them.

* I get to know my kids' friends. I get to know their names, so when 3Po comes home with stories of playing with Evan and sitting at Anna's table, I know who they're talking about. And I get to know their personalities -- who are the quiet kids, who are the live wires, and who are the ones that 3Po really, really likes playing with.

* My kids' friends get to know me. After spending so much time breaking up fights, opening their yogurt tubes, admiring their artwork, checking out their library books, they become comfortable, even affectionate with me. There's nothing nicer than having one of their friends run to me and say, "I know you! You're Jammy's mom!".

Volunteering in class is not all sweetness and light. Some days I find myself on a blogging roll, and I hate to break the momentum and head to school for volunteer duty. Some days I just don't feel like doing it, and I feel like a naughty kid who wants to play hooky. Being in charge of five loud, hyper-excited kids (four of whom aren't related to me) on a field trip is guaranteed to raise anyone's stress levels, and when I'm on playground duty I find myself checking the time every five minutes, hoping the teacher rings the bell so I don't have to ask yet another kid to walk, not run. But, as Martha Stewart would say, it's such a Good Thing that you can bet you're going to find my name on that volunteer sign up sheet year after year.

This post was inspired by the Yahoo Motherboard's topic of the month, Volunteerism. Click here to read more posts by the other amazing Yahoo Moms.

My AI Wardrobe Dilemma

I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that I'm headed to LA next week to watch the American Idol finals. Last week I received my ticket confirmation email for both the final performance and results shows. It's going to be held at the Nokia Theatre, and everyone has to be in their seats by 4:30PM since the telecast begins at 5:00PM (8:00PM EST). I forgot about that East Coast delay -- it's going to be weird knowing who the winner is before Alfie and everyone else in Northern California watch it!

The ticket confirmation also had some wardrobe restrictions printed on it: No logos, t-shirts, hats, or shorts. Oh well, I guess I'm going to have to save my "Simon is my American Idol" shirt for the daytime. But I'm still undecided on what to wear. I'm hoping people will give me suggestions, so here are a couple of bribes for you:

* Leave a comment with your suggested outfit here and you could win an American Idol tshirt from CafePress.

* Leave a comment with your vote for the best outfit here and you could win $100 from BlogHer.

What are you waiting for? Help me out!

The Moment that Got Away

Have you ever shot a video of your kid and felt like a great parent for capturing those precious memories, only to find out that the video was less than perfect? We do it all the time. Sometimes it's because we screwed up and ended up with unwatchable videos. We have videos that are too blurred, or too dark. We have videos that are so jumpy that watching them gives you motion sickness.

Check out this video done in "portrait mode". I took this one with our regular point-and-shoot camera, and turned the camera on its side, forgetting that I was shooting a video, not a photo. So we've got a cute video of Jammy, learning how to jump, but not quite understanding how to keep both feet in the air at the same time -- but you need to turn your head ninety degrees to watch it.

Check out this video of a great indoor soccer game when The Pea was five. Alfie We must have pressed the "Record" button without knowing it. Then, when things started happening and we zoomed in to capture The Moment, we pressed the "Record" button thinking we were turning it on.... not turning it off. Hence this lovely video of a basketball parquet floor.

But the most frustrating videos are the ones we never get to capture. Do you have a video moment that you missed? Share it with us, and you could win $200! Click here to go to my Flip Video post and enter to win a $200 gift card.


This week's Photo Hunt theme -- Half -- lends itself to so many different interpretations. My first instinct was to dig up either a photo of 3Po and Jammy, or of Alfie and me, and decide which one was the Better Half. I also have some great photos of meat pies or cookies or pop-tarts and other food that have been broken in half, but in the end I went with something a little bit darker.

This is an x-ray of Jammy's arm, with both bones completely snapped in half. Just looking at it gives me the chills. Notice the way his skin also curves in that S-shape and imagine how it looked, all curvy and floppy. Had he been a grown-up, that arm would have required surgery and pins to hold it in position, but because he's so young, "all" they had to do was reset it and put it in a cast (when you read this, please sprinkle that "all" with lots and lots of sarcasm). That was three months ago, and now his arm is as good as new. One of these days I'm going to post the whole progression of x-rays so you can see the amazing regenerative powers of kids' bones.

This photo was inspired by the latest Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more halves, click here.

Watch Out, Simon Cowell, Here I Come

I'm sad that I won't get to see Paula's drunken antics, but seeing Simon will more than make up for it.

I love Simon Cowell. He's blunt to the point of rudeness, and he doesn't care a fig for what other people think about him. He also happens to be very good at what he does, and no matter how many people boo his opinions on American Idol, he most often turns out to be right. He's my American (ok, British) idol, and in two weeks I get to see him in the flesh!

Okay, that was only half a lie. Simon Cowell will not be appearing before me in his birthday suit, nor am I going to be near enough to him to even see much of his flesh, but I will be in the same theater as Simon and Randy and Kara and Ellen and Shakira and the American Idol contestants, because I'm going to the American Idol finals.

Yes, you heard me right, I'm going to the American Idol finals!

Cue wild screaming and American Idol theme song.

Last week was a great week for me; I won some really nice random prizes, received a kickass Mother's Day present (check out this post to see my loot), and best of all, got enough of my readers to help me win a blogger contest sponsored by Cafe Press. The prize was a trip for two to LA, hotel accommodations and tickets to the final performance and results show on May 25 and 26. I don't even know how one gets tickets to these shows, and even if I did I probably wouldn't be able to afford them -- and now I have two! I'm taking my sister (Alfie decided he didn't want to waste spare two vacation days watching American Idol, and I have to admit I'm kind of grateful to him for that, since I get to have a fun trip with my sister before she packs up and leaves California).

If only I were actually following American Idol this season.

Um, yeah, that's one tiny detail that I have to mention. I've been an American Idol fan since Season 1, but I've added so many shows to my evening tv program that I had to start dropping some of them, and American Idol was one of the victims. So I've been keeping tabs on the contestants but haven't gotten emotionally invested in them like I did before (the memory of Daughtry being cut still hurts like a knife, but since he came out on top I'm not holding any grudges against Taylor Hicks or the Soul Patrol). That's not going to keep me from enjoying myself to the max, though. I'm still excited as hell at the prospect of hearing the contestants sing live (I'm sure it's going to be a different experience from seeing it on tv), watching Shakira perform, and going celebrity watching.

And of course, there's Simon Cowell. At this point I have no idea where I'll be sitting, but I hope he'll be close enough to read the glitter-glue, strobe-light I LOVE YOU SIMON sign I'll be waving. Even if he doesn't, maybe the cameras will focus on it and everyone watching at home will be able to shout and scream, "That's Bonggamom!"

I can't wait!

When Typos go Bad: Find the Connection

Alfie was in Home Depot a couple of weekends ago, searching for a drainpipe for our new dishwasher. He ran into some guy who gave him his business card. Now, Alfie is normally a very outspoken fellow, but for once I really wish Alfie had not bitten his tongue and asked the guy to explain what was written on his business card. I've scratched out all the personal and business information so I don't embarrass the owner publicly, but I have so many questions:

1) Is the guy a multilingual piano teacher as well as a builder?
2) Is he such a gifted piano teacher that he can actually speak the piano's language?
3) Could he have possibly meant Portuguese instead of Piano?
4) Is it just a typo that he didn't bother to correct?

I puzzled and puzzled over it, and I just can't make sense of it. So I've come to the conclusion that he must be some sort of genius. My IQ must be too low to make the connection between the first 3 words and the 4th one.

Things My Mother Taught Me

Happy Mother's Day everyone. I hope you're all celebrating with a special mother in your life, whether it's your own mother, a friend who is a mother, your wife -- or, if you're a mother yourself, I hope you're celebrating too, preferably by being covered up to your chin with bubbles or some other indulgent spa treatment! My sister wanted to take my mom indoor skydiving today, but being pushed upwards by great blasts of air is not my mom's idea of a good time (I'm sure she'd be afraid the strong winds might give her wrinkles), so we're just going to eat out somewhere later today.

My mom might not be a sky diver, but she's still a Bongga Mom who has helped shape me into the wonderful human being I am today :) To prove it I'm listing down some great things she's taught me over the years:

She taught me to be practical...
My mother has always been very frugal with money. We hardly ever ate out at restaurants when we were growing up, and we bought new cars only when our old ones collapsed on the road. All those trinkets that kids whine for their parents to get them? Like candy at the grocery checkout line? Souvenirs at the souvenir shop? Not with my mom! And now that I'm an adult, I'm really grateful to her for training me to live within my means, think carefully about my purchases and resist the temptation to spend, spend, spend. She would always tell us to be thankful for what we had, and that you can never tell how much money a person actually has based on his material possessions because he could be up to his ears in debt, or a millionaire who's careful with his spending. It's a lesson that has stood me in good stead, and one that I'm trying hard to pass on to my own kids, especially now that we live in Silicon Valley surrounded by dot-com millionaires.

...but she also taught me that some things are worth spending for.
Even though she's careful with money, my mother doesn't hesitate to spend money on something that matters to her. When she finds a dress or a pair of shoes that flatter her and fit her well, she'll buy one in every color. She encouraged us to aim for the best schools, no matter what the cost, because a good education is always a solid investment. When I got married, she and my dad gave me a strand of Mikimoto pearls because she said they are the best and they will last a lifetime. She happily helps us out with the cost of airfare for our visits to the Philippines, because family is important to her and having her kids and grandkids all together brings her more happiness than a week at a spa.

She taught me to be independent.
My mother was always a working woman, even when her peers were stay-at-home moms who attended luncheons and scheduled weekly hair salon visits. When my friends were being driven around in chauffeured cars, she taught us how to navigate the wild, crazy world of Metro Manila's public transportation system. When my friends were being given weekly allowances, she gave us a monthly allowance so we'd learn how to budget. She always stressed the importance of a good education and good grades so we could get good jobs and stand on our own two feet.

She taught me to be comfortable in my skin.
I was the world's biggest slob and the bane of my mother's existence when it came to good grooming. I was self-conscious about my height, so she was always telling me to straighten up, and she was probably the only parent of a teenager who begged her daughter to put on more makeup instead of less! I still don't use makeup, but I've finally taken her underlying message to heart: being comfortable with who I am and taking pride in my appearance. And my mother does get the last laugh: I now struggle daily to get The Pea to comb out the tangles in her hair and straighten her back. If my mom weren't so ladylike, she'd smirk and say, I told you so.

For all that you've taught me, mommy, you have my thanks and my love! Happy Mother's Day!

It's going to be a great weekend (especially if you're a Mom!)

Mother's Day isn't till Sunday, but I've already received some presents from the kids (with strict instructions not to open them until Sunday), and I came home today to find these beauties waiting for me:
They were sent to me by the Yahoo! Motherboard, who obviously know a thing or two about moms and how to make them feel special on this all-important occasion! And since this week's Photo Hunters theme is "Mom", I'm posting some mom-themed photos to decorate my blog for the weekend:

The day I first became a mother:

3 generations of mothers: My mother, my grandmother and I.

Finally, a cute Mother's Day poster from the upcoming movie Despicable Me:

This photo was inspired by the latest Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more addictions, click here.

Books Make a Difference! Join BlogHer and to donate books to needy kids

Books can make a difference in a child's life. They certainly made a difference in mine! And this month, you can make a difference in a child's life too. Join BlogHer and to make a difference by leaving a comment on this post about the book(s) that have made an impact on your life.

For every comment left between May 3 and May 28 answering the question:

What book has had the greatest impact on your life?

BookRenter will donate a book to a child in need -- up to 1,000 books. Hurry and leave a comment now!

Can we start the day over again?

Today was supposed to be a fabulous day. The sunlight woke me up at 6:30am, so I was able to snooze, gain consciousness gradually, and shake that just-5-more-minutes feeling for 45 minutes. I pulled on a new pair of jeans that had been sent to me for a product review (actually they're pajamas but they look like jeans and they're decent enough to wear in public -- don't worry, I'll explain more in a future Bonggamom Finds review!) and I blessed my luck at all the little perks I receive while doing something I love (blog). The kids have been really good about dressing up and eating breakfast on time, so I was feeling really together as we walked to school.

Until I dropped Jammy off and saw all the car seats lined up in front of the classroom.

Oh crapola! They have a field trip today! I shoved Jammy into his room and ran off to chase after Jammy's classmate's mother, whom I had been talking to just outside the school grounds. I yelled at her to say she had to go home and get a car seat for her son, pronto. She thanked me profusely and ran off, leaving me feeling all pleased as punch (thinking I had done a good deed).

I hurried into Jammy's classroom to ask what time the kids were leaving. She looked at me strangely and told me the field trip is on Friday.

Huh?? So what's with all the carseats? Oh, she said, that's for Room 1, their field trip is today.

Ooooops. I guess I should have known that, seeing as I've actually volunteered to be a driver for the field trip. Double crapola.

All this time, 3Po had been patiently waiting for me to drop him off at his classroom, so I took a deep breath, took 3Po to class, then went into the school office to find the phone number of the woman I sent running back home in a panic. I called her and told her I had sent her on a wild-goose chase. She laughed and said she did wonder why the kids would have two field trips scheduled in a week (she's driving on Friday as well). Fortunately she hadn't left with her son's carseat yet.

There are some days when you really wish there were a RESET button.

When Typos go Bad: AAA Brief Grammar Lesson

This is one of my grammatical pet peeves, and I'm shocked that it actually made its (not it's) way onto a piece of marketing material! The reverse side also has it, so whoever (not whomever) proofread this thing must have thought it was correct.

Your -- a possessive pronoun for the second person, i.e. your postcard, your invitation, your mistake.

You're -- abbreviated version of You are, i.e. You're Invited, You're Mistaken, You're Embarrassed.