Archive for March, 2006

You like him more than me

I have been busy these past few months preparing my 2nd grader for his First Communion and my 6th grader for his Confirmation. Just like Ryland’s preparation for his First Reconciliation, I am also the one teaching my boys about the first two sacraments I mentioned. I think our parish has a really good program in that they involve the parents in teaching about their Catholic faith. As the workbooks have repeatedly mentioned, the family is every child’s first community and the parents are their first teachers.

So, I’ve been really busy every night sitting with each one of my two boys, alternately, with their lessons. One child would hang around while I spend time with his brother. I knew that they were wishing that it were their turn that night. You would think that they would be happy that I am spending a one-on-one time with them at least every other night. But alas, there’s never enough time to spend with them.

Ryan, my 6th grader, started to volunteer this morning at a soup kitchen in our neighbourhood as part of his 20-hour Christian service project requirement before he gets confirmed in June. So I took the morning off from work to accompany him. We got up earlier than usual, which was really a sacrifice on Ryan’s part because it is Spring Break after all. He should be sleeping in but instead he had to get up an hour earlier.

We were finishing breakfast when Ryland came downstairs at around 6:45 am, quite early for him to be up as well. He must have heard me and Ryan talking in the kitchen. But we were getting ready to leave and I didn’t have time to serve him breakfast (anyway it was too early for him to be up at that time) so I sent him back to bed.

Knowing that he’s such a sensitive boy, I knew that he didn’t take that really well. He had his blanket over his head when I came up and that meant only one thing. He must be crying. I tried to console him and promised to give him a treat when we came back. I kept my promise.

Tonight, as I tucked him into bed, I asked him what he did after Ryan and I left this morning. Did he go back to sleep until his Kuya Reggie got up and helped him with breakfast? No I cried again, he said. Oh my, here we go again.

“You like Kuya Ryan more than me,” he said.

I was dumbstruck, flabbergasted, astonished.

“Ryland, that’s not true. I like you all the same,” I told him.

Trying to convince him so, I told him, “I hug you lots, but I don’t hug him (because he won’t let me), do you still think that I like him more than you?”

He nodded.

“I kiss you but I don’t kiss him (because he won’t let me), do you still think that I like him more than you?”

He nodded again.

“I like you all the same.”

I wouldn’t stop until I convinced him.

“I still carry you when I bring you downstairs in the morning (even though it hurts my back), but I don’t carry him, do you still think that I like him more than you?”

He nodded again.

“I lie down here in your bed at night until you fall asleep, do you still think that I like him more than you?”

He nodded again.

“I like you all three the same.”

What is a mom to do?

As usual, I embraced him after he said his prayers and stayed with him in bed. Just before he fell asleep, I asked him, “Do you think I love you?”

I saw a nod in the dark.

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March 28, 2006 at 11:09 pm 11 comments

A Case of the Flakes

I saw the tiny white crumb-like stuff on the back of the navy blue sweater as he got up after shutting down the computer. White flakes on a dark shirt used to be a common sight a few years ago, before my husband treated his dandruff. But this guy, who was five feet and two inches tall, was not my husband. This was my fourteen-year old son.

“What is that on your sweater, Reggie!” I blurted out as I flicked with my fingers the white flakes under his neck. I parted his thick black hair in different areas to confirm my suspicion. I saw patches of crusty scales. “Did that hurt?” I asked him when I scratched off some of it and more flakes fell on his sweater.

“No,” he simply replied.

“You have some kind of rash on your scalp.” I avoided using the word “dandruff.” Children don’t get dandruff. Only adults do, I thought.

That night, I applied cortisone cream, which we always kept handy, on the scaly patches on his scalp. Reggie always had a quite sensitive skin – from cradle cap when he was still a baby, to rashes behind ears, elbows and the back of the knees. And now, he had flakes on his scalp.

Every night, for about a week, I diligently applied cream to the scaly patches. He sat on the floor above me while I sat on the side of the bed. It was the most convenient position to apply cream on his scalp, as he has grown taller than me. I meticulously combed my fingers through his straight, coarse hair, held the parted hair with my left hand, while I squeezed with my right hand the tube of cream and dab a small amount on every crust, making sure that I didn’t miss a single spot. The task may have been painstaking, but deep inside me, I felt a sense of comfort. I haven’t been this close to my first-born for a long time.

Over the last few years, I had been very busy attending to his two younger and more demanding brothers that I didn’t realize until then how much I missed holding him. Oh! How much I held him when he was still a baby! And he was my baby for four and a half years. Then his brother Ryan was born. “You’re a big boy now, Reggie,” I coaxed him to do some things on his own. Another four years passed and his brother Ryland came. “You’re old enough to take a bath by yourself.” I taught him to be more independent.

Reggie used to be so bubbly, talkative, and inquisitive, like my 6-year old son, Ryland. As he grew older, he has become quieter and reserved. He used to talk about the things that happened in school. Now, when I ask him anything, he just answers “Yes” or “No.” The first and only time he uttered the words “I don’t want to talk about it,” I choked back my emotions.

With little improvement on his scalp after a week, we went to see Dr. Deonarine, our pediatrician.

“Is it dandruff?” I eagerly asked her after a brief physical exam.

“It’s seborrhea,” she said looking at me.

“How did he get it?” I anxiously asked her.

“Did he recently change the shampoo that he is using?” She threw a question back at me.

I shook my head.

“It could just be his changing body. He’s a teen-ager now. His skin gets oily and that causes seborrhea,” she explained.

She then turned to Reggie and asked him, “Do you use products on your hair?”

I saw the puzzled look on his face.

“Mousse? Hair gel?” she continued.

His face lit up and replied embarrassedly, “Oh, yeah.”

She told me to buy Nizoral shampoo and instructed Reggie how to wash his hair properly. He was to use Nizoral twice a week for a month and after that at least once a week to prevent reoccurrence. He was to lather the shampoo and dig his fingers deep down his thick hair to wash away the hair products from his scalp. She also prescribed Elocom lotion, which I could apply to Reggie’s scalp at night, as long as needed, instead of the messy cream.

The next day, I went to the store, headed to a frequented aisle, and grabbed the familiar white and blue box with the small pink circle in the centre. I perused the label as if I was reading it for the first time: “Nizoral 2% Ketoconazole Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. Kills the Fungus That Can Cause Dandruff and Seborrhea.” Holding the box of shampoo in that aisle snapped me out of my state of denial. My son was no longer a child, and he had dandruff. I guess I already knew that when his voice suddenly cracked and began to sound deep on the week of his 13th birthday. Yes, my dear boy was slowly turning into a young man.

Reggie started using Nizoral and we switched to Elocom lotion. I looked forward to applying the lotion on his scalp every night and striking up short conversations with him. Him – my teen-ager who barely talked to me anymore. He had become so independent and yet there he was relying on me to apply cream on his dry scalp. It may be an unglamorous way of bonding with him, but I’d take it. After a few weeks of treatment, the seborrhea was gone.

Once in a while, I would run my fingers through his hair and check if the seborrhea had come back. It hasn’t ever since. I talk to my boys regularly. I always have. And although I get more responses from his brothers, Reggie has begun to open up more than he did before.

This post was originally written in July 2004.

March 22, 2006 at 8:14 pm 11 comments

Working vs. Staying at Home


This entry is supposed to be a comment on Hsin’s musings on her decision to stay at home after the arrival of her first baby. She relates about how her career-oriented friends made her feel bad about having made that decision. But she has no regrets. She’s expecting another baby soon. I have a lot to say so I decided to post my comment here.

In this modern age when most of the women are entering the work force, there arises the battle between the working mom and the stay-at-home mom. You must have heard the arguments of both sides. There are career-oriented mothers who can’t imagine spending the whole day at home and there are those who just really need the income. Then there are those mothers who want to be with their children all day long so as not to miss out on their child’s development and first experiences.

I think I am sort of in between the working mom and the stay-at-home mom. I work at home, you see. (I’ve talked about working at home before. See links to related entries below.) I can’t imagine myself not working. I love taking care of my kids and the home but I’m not a domestic diva. My domesticity is very basic and really has been brought upon by necessity. I don’t bake from scratch and I cook not because I love doing it but because I need to feed my family. I can’t really spend the whole day everyday being just domestic. I have to do something else, like work. I’d love to volunteer or travel, or perhaps do crafts, but I need to work to help support my family.

Friends often ask me if I don’t have any intentions of going back to the office. You see, I am stuck in my position (which is far from managerial) as long as I am working at home. If I want to be trained for a higher position, I need to go back to the office. My friends at work have been promoted to higher positions since I left about five years ago. I’ve been left behind. And it doesn’t really bother me. I enjoy what I am doing. I have no ambitions of going up the corporate ladder. Some may find it odd, but that’s me. I am content with providing just enough for my family to get by. Don’t get me wrong. I’d take a higher income. Who doesn’t?

But I have been given with this wonderful opportunity to work at home, and I immediately grabbed it. Originally, I decided to work at home to save on daycare fees. I even doubted if I could work at home while at the same time looking after my youngest son who was still three years old then. But I began liking being at home. I’ve experienced dragging my kids out of bed as early as 6:00 a.m. Dealing with temper tantrums and rushing to make it on time at work can be very stressful. Now, I don’t have to rush the kids in the morning. We all have a relaxed breakfast together. I do my work when they are gone to school. I am home when they get home. Even when they get noisy and start to bicker, I can still continue to do my work. I have become immune to the distractions. It’s comforting to me that they are in my presence. They know that I am there if they need somebody to talk to especially if they’d have a rough day at school.

My kids need less attending to now. They were 3, 7, and 11 when I started working at home. I’ve experience leaving them at daycare and babysitters. But I don’t feel that I missed out on their development. I still experienced the firsts: the first smile, the first time they rolled over, the first step, all the other firsts. I also felt the guilt of leaving them at the care of someone else, especially that first day back to work. But I don’t regret it. I never did.

Some stay-at-home moms may claim that their kids are more well-rounded or more well-behaved than the ones who go to a babysitter or daycare. But I beg to disagree. I think working moms can also raise well-rounded children if they guide them in the right direction and spend enough time with them when they are not working.

I think there is no right or wrong choice with regards to mothers working or staying at home. Each mother has individual needs and she should decide depending on what she wants and what she thinks works best for her and her family.

Read more about my sentiments, challenges and experiences in working at home through the following links:

Confessions of a work-at-home mom
Downsides of working at home
My sentiments
The bliss of working at home
Long-term goals
Working, appointments and dismal weather

March 17, 2006 at 8:44 pm 24 comments

Just trying to matter


Roberto Benigni jumped on his chair when he heard his name announced as the winner for best director (Life is Beautiful). Halle Berry didn’t care to show her ugly cry when she became the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Actress (Monster’s Ball). The following year, Adrien Brody kissed Halle Berry on the mouth when he accepted his best actor (The Pianist) award.

The most recent unforgettable Oscar moment for me is the grace and elegance Reese Witherspoon showed when she won Best Actress (Walk the Line). I have been rooting for her even though I haven’t seen the movie when the awards show aired. I love her work and I was so excited for her.

I still can’t get over her acceptance speech. She kept her composure. She started by saying that Johnny Cash and June Carter had a wonderful tradition of honoring other artists and musicians and singers. And so she thanked the people involved in the film including co-star Joaquin Phoenix.

I’ve seen the movie a few days ago and I think that Joaquin did a superb performance as well. It now made sense to me what Reese said about “just trying to matter.” Cash and Carter was brought together because of the same circumstances in their childhood. Johnny’s father left a painful impression on him that he was the bad son. And even later in his life when he became successful, his father still thought that he was nothing compared to his brother. June on the other hand, thought that her sister was the better singer that’s why she tried to be the funny one to compensate for not being “that good.” Johnny was the first one to tell her that she was really a good singer. He was the first one to believe in her. And she was grateful for that.

Reese said, “I am so blessed to have my family here tonight. My mother and my father are here. And I just want to say thank you so much for everything, for being so proud of me. It didn’t matter if I was making my bed or making a movie. They never hesitated to say how proud they were of me. And that means so very much to a child.”

I agree with Reese. In my own little way, I also try to show my children how proud I am of them. Whether they’re making their bed, dressing up by themselves, brushing their teeth by themselves, reading by themselves, winning a game of basketball, or playing the flute in front of an audience. I see the gratitude in their eyes when they have been patted on the back.

I also want to point out that it’s not good to compare your children with one another. It irritates me when people compare my three boys, especially when they hear it. There have been quite a few times when people would come up and say that one of my child is more handsome than the other. What did they think my children felt about that? Kids, or people in general, shouldn’t be compared, to their faces for that matter. Every individual is special in his/her own special way. When I was a child, I’ve heard people say that my sister was prettier, lighter(mas maputi), and bubblier (mas bibo)than I was. These comments made me recoil inside my own little shell. I was already shy and comments like these just lowered my self esteem more.

When my child comes to me and say that he’s not as good as his brother in basketball, or he’s not as good in math as his friend, I remind him about all the other things that he’s good at. “But you’re a good speller,” or “But you’re a good reader,” or “You’re good at printing and drawing.” When Ryland gets intimidated by his older brother, Reggie, who already knows that he wants to be a musician and he doesn’t know yet what he wants to be when he grows up, I assure him that he will know when he gets older. And you bet that I will support my children whatever career or calling they want to pursue.

In her speech, Reese also said that her grandmother, “taught me how to be a real woman to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away.” I’ve watched Reese in a few interviews and she really conducts herself as a real woman. She’s very polite and discreet. I don’t know if it has to do with her Southern upbringing. But I like her a lot.

She said in an interview with Oprah that she almost backed out of her role in Walk the Line when she learned that she would have to sing and use her singing voice in the movie. She told the director that she couldn’t sing. The director told her that he really wanted her to sing in the movie. So she took voice lessons and learned to sing and she and Joaquin even made an album. Reese learned 8 songs and Joaquin, 26 songs, and he even learned to play the guitar. I think they both did a great job.

Recommendations:

If you want to see some of Reese’s work, go check out Legally Blonde, which also earned her a Golden Globe nomination. I also like Election where she starred as the obnoxious overachiever Tracy Flick who is running for student body president. And The Man in the Moon, where she starred as the 14-year-old Dani Trant who falls in love for the first time.

I’ve recently seen Just Like Heaven, where Reese starred as the spirit of a beautiful woman. It’s a feel good movie. Another fun movie to watch is Pleasantville. Reese starred as one of two teenagers from the 90’s transported to a black and white 50’s sitcom.

March 13, 2006 at 11:13 pm 14 comments

The Music and Passion of Barry Manilow


Her name was Lola,
She was a showgirl

With yellow feathers in her hair
And a dress cut down to there
.”

Barry Manilow sang Copacabana when he made a guest appearance at Dancing with the Stars during the Samba and Salsa week of Season 2. My kids also watched the show with me and my two younger boys were making fun of Barry. They said that he looked like a bird with his hair ruffled like that. I know that Barry is not the macho kind of guy. Actually, he looked kind of geeky. But hey, I have been a fan of Barry’s music since the 1980’s and I was hurt when my kids laughed at him.

There, I said it. I am a fan of Barry Manilow. But I don’t know if I can call myself a Fanilow. I didn’t even know that this word existed until I saw that episode of Will & Grace a few years ago.

According to Wikipedia,

“A Fanilow is a name for someone who is a big fan of the singer Barry Manilow. The name originated in the 1970s when Barry Manilow was in the height of his popularity. It takes the “F” from Fan and the “anilow” from Manilow and makes a catchy nickname.”

Unlike Cheryl and the other characters in that Will & Grace episode, I don’t spend the night waiting in line for tickets to a special Barry Manilow concert. I haven’t even been to any of his concerts. And the only memorabilia I have of him is an old, almost worn-out cassette tape of Manilow Magic – The Best of Barry Manilow.

At a recent inteview, Barry said that it took him only 15 minutes to write Copacabana. Barry won a Grammy for this song for Best Pop Vocal Performance for 1978. Another reason my kids were making fun of the song is because of the name Lola, which is what they also call their grandma. (Lola is grandmother in the Filipino language.) They’re probably trying to visualize their grandma with yellow feathers in her hair dancing the merengue and the chacha.

Before Barry became famous, he was a commercial jingle writer and singer. Then he worked as a pianist, producer, and arranger accompanying Bette Midler. And did you know that, although he was known as a songwriter, he didn’t write most of his songs? Ironically, one of them being I Write the Songs.

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs

But it doesn’t matter to me. I still love his voice and the songs he sings.

My all-time favourite Barry Manilow song is Mandy. At first, I couldn’t understand why Barry was singing about Mandy until I realized that unlike in the Philippines, Mandy is actually a girl’s name here in North America.

I never realized
you made me so happy, oh Mandy
Well you came and you gave without taking
but I sent you away, oh Mandy
well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
I need you today, oh Mandy

Another favourite is Weekend in New England. It talks about a very recent break-up and a yearning that’s still fresh.

And, tell me when will our eyes meet
When can I touch you
When will this strong yearning end
And when will I hold you again
I feel the change comin’
–I feel the wind blow
I feel brave and daring!
I feel my blood flow
With you I can bring out
All the love, that I have
–With you there’s a heaven
So earth ain’t so bad

I also like Looks Like We Made It. Barry sings about old lovers who are now in other relationships. The sight of her stirred old feelings in him.

There you are
Lookin’ just the same as you did,
Last time I touched you
And, here I am
Close to gettin’ tangled up
Inside the thought of you
Do you love him as much as I love her
And will that love be strong
When old feelings start to stir
Looks like we made it
Left each other on the way,
To another love
Looks like we made it
Or I thought so, till today
Until you were there everywhere
And all I could taste was love
the way we made it

Trying to Get The Feeling Again is not that popular, but I like the lyrics.

Doctor, my woman is comin’ back home late today
Could ya’ maybe give me something?
’cause the feelin’ is gone and I must get it back right away
Before she sees that I’ve been
Up, down, tryin’ to get the feeling again
All around…. tryin’ to get the feeling again
The one that made me shiver, made my knees start to quiver
Every time she walked in

Barry recently released a new CD titled, Barry Manilow The Greatest Songs of the Fifties. In that episode of Dancing With The Stars, he sang one of the tracks in his latest CD, Unchained Melody, which is another favourite of mine. My two younger boys started to giggle when Barry was singing. I told them to keep quiet and when they wouldn’t, I sent them out of the room. I’m sorry, no one messes with my Barry.

Oh my, am I a Fanilow, or what?

March 10, 2006 at 10:44 pm 12 comments

Reeve tragedy hits home


I was saddened and a bit emotional this morning when I heard that Dana Reeve passed away last night. Dana, the widow of Christopher Reeve, announced last August that she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She never smoked. She used to work as a singer in clubs where she was exposed to a lot of second-hand smoke.

Ate Bing, a family friend of ours, also died of lung cancer. She never smoked either. Her nephew, whom she sponsored to come here in Canada and lived with her, was a heavy smoker and smoked in the house.

We are now seeing many incidences of lung cancer brought upon not only by first-hand smoke but by second-hand smoke as well.

I am glad that our government has taken actions by banning smoking in enclosed public places.

I’m also glad that schools have taken action as well in teaching even as young as 5th graders the effects of smoking in your body. My children know that their lungs will turn black if they take on the habit of smoking. There are now public advertisements on TV that show us that smoking can cause not only lung cancer but also heart disease, stomach cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer.

Smoking and lung cancer hits home to me. My father was a heavy smoker. I remember him sending me to the corner store when I was a little girl to buy him a pack of cigarettes. Newport cigarettes, he would tell me. Sometimes he would add, the one with the blue seal.

A few years ago, I was going through my mother’s old photo albums to look for pictures to post in our family website. I noticed that my father was holding a cigarette in his hand in some of his pictures.

My parents separated when I was only 12. I wasn’t really able to spend a lot of time with my father after that. Years of drinking and smoking took a toll on his body. He had a stroke in 1991 and was paralyzed from the neck down. He was also diagnosed with lung cancer. After four months, he died. He was 53.

Dana Reeve was only 44 and was survived by his son, Will – an orphan at 13 years old. My heart breaks for him.

In his 1998 book, “Still Me,” Christopher Reeve recalled that after the accident, when he was contemplating giving up, his wife told him: “I want you to know that I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You’re still you. And I love you.”

I had admired Dana for the unwavering love and support she gave her husband after he was paralyzed. She stood there by his side, even giving up her career. And after he died and then she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she still continued to show courage and determination. What a remarkable woman.

March 7, 2006 at 10:42 pm 3 comments

What they should give up


The days are getting longer and the temperatures are getting warmer. But it is still winter here in Winnipeg and there are still big piles of snow everywhere. We may be used to it, but five months of cold weather can be a real drag.

My two younger ones are starting to get bored and have been constantly bickering these past few days. I have been working longer hours and have been in low spirits since the year started. My body is aching and my patience is getting shorter.

“Get out of my bed! Go in your own bed!”

“Get off me.”

“Stop looking at me.”

“Don’t hit back.”

“Mommy, Kuya Ryan called me a name.”

Get the idea?

So, I wasn’t really in a very good mood when I had this conversation with Ryan two days ago.

“Mommy, when does Lent begin?”

“On Ash Wednesday.”

“I wonder what I’m gonna give up. Mmn. I think I’m gonna give up chocolates. Nah. I’m giving up doing chores.”

“Ryan, you give up good things, not chores.”

“Mmn. What should I give up?”

“What about giving up fighting with your brother. Giving up making him feel bad. What about that?”

When Ryan came home from catechism today, he told me that they did a fun activity. They popped up balloons and they each got a strip of paper inside the balloons. This is what’s written on Ryan’s.

Give up one TV show today and spend that time helping a family member.

“Mommy, can I pick another day to do this? I have to watch Pokemon today.”

From the car window on the way home from church, I’ve seen the snow piles on the streets have become higher since we’ve had two 10 cm snowfalls the past few days.

“Move, I can’t reach my seatbelt.”

“You move.”

Yeah, the bickerings continue.

My head hurts. Somebody please give me Tylenol. I think I’m going to bed early tonight.

March 4, 2006 at 9:56 pm 7 comments