Archive for June, 2006

Dear Ryan

Dear Ryan, 

It seemed not too long ago when you started kindergarten.  You were a sweet and sensitive little boy and you would infect us with your laughter.  You were so little then and very curious to know about the world we live in. 

You learned in school but I also enjoyed teaching you and your brothers and bringing you to places where you’ve never been before.  I never thought that you would also teach me things and bring me to places I’ve never been before. 

You were the one who taught me about baseball and basketball.  I was never really interested in sports but I learned a lot on our talks in front of the T.V. in the kitchen.  You ask me a lot of things that you hear on the news and in the shows that we watch.  In turn you also tell me anything I want to know about sports.  I treasure those precious moments. 

I never thought that I would watch a live basketball game or set foot in a baseball field.  But you brought me to these places and they will be unforgettable experiences for me. 

Look at you now.  You stand almost as tall as I am.  Just an inch shorter, right?  And you already got pimples on your forehead.  You are now becoming a young man. 

This year as we prepared for your Confirmation, I noticed that you have grown up to be a polite, respectful and kind-hearted person.  And I am proud of you for that.  I hope that you will continue to be a responsible member not only of our family but also of our community.  I think you are already on that track. 

When we volunteered at the soup kitchen, I saw in you not only eagerness to help but also compassion for those needy people who didn’t have enough to eat.  As you grow up and see more people who are in need, I hope that you would always be willing to help.  I also hope that you would be willing to teach other people how to be compassionate and how to help our less fortunate brothers.  I know in my heart that you will be able to do these things. 

As you graduated from sixth grade today, I saw not only excitement but also apprehension in your eyes.  You have learned a lot but still have many questions that you want to be answered.  You’ve made a lot of friends but I know that you are a bit saddened that you won’t see some of them as they will move to different schools.  Don’t worry.  Memories of your friendships will stay with you forever and you will make new friends and new memories in your new school. 

As much as you are excited to be going to junior high, I know that you must be feeling a little scared.  That’s normal.  But CHANGE is a good thing.  That’s how we move on with life.  You will meet new people, new students like you, new teachers.  You may even meet some of Reggie’s old teachers and they may recognize you from your last name.  They might tell you stories about Reggie but don’t feel intimidated when they try to compare him to you. 

Like when we met his music teacher last week when you tried out for instruments.  He asked you if you wanted to be in the jazz band just like Reg did.  You don’t have to if that’s not what you want.  You can do whatever your heart desires.  They also have a good sports program there.  You can join the basketball team if that’s what you’re interested in.  And if you get interested in girls, that’s fine, too. 

I’m glad that you picked the trombone because you felt more comfortable with it than the flute.  And I’m glad that you picked the trombone over the tuba because you understand that you have more options with the trombone like going in the jazz band if you wish to.  And that’s the only reason we asked you if you want to be in the jazz band.  We want you to broaden your horizon.  We want you to try different things.  But don’t be pressured to go in the jazz band just because that’s what Reggie indulged in.  And most of all, don’t be pressured by what other kids are doing.  Don’t be afraid to say NO.  Don’t be intimidated by the kids who are bigger than you. And know that you can always talk to me, just like you always do.  And I’m always willing to listen if there’s anything that’s bothering you.  

Love always,

Mommy

June 29, 2006 at 10:39 pm 19 comments

Getting dizzy at The Ex

The Red River Exhibition comes to Winnipeg every year around the third week of June, just in time for the start of summer.  According to the fair’s website:  “The EX is the largest annual attraction in Manitoba attracting on average 200,000 visitors to the 10 day annual event.” 

When I was just new here in Winnipeg, I would bring the kids (I only had two then) to The Ex, but I stopped going when it was moved to the Perimeter.  It was just too far from our place. 

Last year, the kids acquired free passes through the Read and Win Program and so we went.  This year Ryan got a free pass but didn’t want to go so he gave it to Ryland.  Ryland was the only one who wanted to go, so his dad and I brought him there.  The free pass entitled him to a free admission and 3 free rides.   

We went to the same rides we did last year.  Only this time, we went to the Tilt-A-Whirl first, which wasn’t a good idea.  I got so dizzy and nauseous.  Good thing I didn’t throw up like the young man who didn’t make it to the trash can and threw up right there in the middle of where people were walking.  Ryland also got dizzy this time.  I thought he was going to cry.  I kept asking him if he was okay.  The ride last year only took probably a couple of minutes and he didn’t get dizzy then.  This one today took I think close to five minutes and it just gave us pounding headaches.  Note to self:  Don’t go to the Tilt-A-Whirl ride if you go The Ex next time.  It looks like a mild ride but it isn't.

We also went to the Glass House and the Cuckoo Haus, where we went through a series of moving floors and stairs and it just made me dizzier. 

Ryland tried the darts and won three plush toys.  He also fished three ducks and won three more plush toys.  We bought mini-donuts and cotton candy for him and his brothers.  Good thing we brought our own bottled water.  The prices of food were just over-priced. 

We brought Ryland to the fair because of the free pass.  Monetary value is equal to about $21.00.  Did we really save $21.00?  Then how come I spent almost three times that amount today?  Hmmn. I feel that headache coming again. 

Ryland had fun, although he didn’t feel too good about the Tilt-A-Whirl ride.  I had to lie down when we got home.  I’m still dizzy as I type this.  So til next time.

June 25, 2006 at 11:01 pm 17 comments

Cool treats and a cool birthday party

It will be officially summer here in Winnipeg tomorrow, but we’ve already had sweltering temperatures for the last four weeks or so.  I’m talking about temperatures of 24C degrees and even up to 29C degrees. 

Last Friday, we went to Dairy Queen to pick up the sheet cake I ordered for Ryan’s birthday.  While there, we treated ourselves to some “cool treats.”  Ryan ordered the Blizzard of the Month, The Monster Cookie Blizzard Treat.  It is made with oatmeal-peanut butter Monster Cookie pieces with M&M’s candies, chocolate and creamy DQ soft serve.  Ryland had the Blue Raspberry Arctic Rush (slushee or blended ice drink). 

 And since the two treats were over $3.00 each, I opted for a swirl (chocolate and vanilla) soft serve ice cream, dipped in chocolate, which is only $1.99.  Yes, that’s me – cheap.  It was good though.  I was happy with my choice. 

If you haven’t tried a DQ frozen cake yet, I suggest that you try it.  We always have this ice cream cake for every birthdays in the family.  It has fudge and chocolate crunch between layers of chocolate and vanilla soft serve.  Yum.    

And yup, Ryan celebrated his birthday this past weekend. 

“Ryan, I still remember when you were a baby, and now look at you.  You’re 12 years old.” 

“Mommy, don’t do that.” 

He doesn’t like it when I dote on him like that. 

He invited a few of his friends and of course his cousins.  We played a few games in our backyard.  We had a trivia game.  I prepared questions all about him which included: What’s his favourite colour?  What’s his favourite basketball team?  Who’s his favourite basketball player?  What country are his parent’s from?  I don’t know if his friend was just being funny, but he thought we were from China. 

We also played this game where they had to transfer water from a cup to another one using a spoon and traveling about ten feet from one cup to another.  We also played this game where they had to put straws in bottles and then they had to take the straws out on their way back.  They also played musical chairs.  I put a little twist on it.  Instead of arranging the chairs in a circle, I placed them in a straight line, each one alternately facing the other way.  And then of course, the famous piñata.  I found one that looks like a soccer ball. It was fun. 

It was so hot that day that some of the chocolate bars I gave out as treats melted.

Today was also a hot day.  We went to 7-Eleven and bought Slurpees.  Mine is a combination of grape and orange flavour.  Slurpees are good on hot days like this.  Just watch out for that brain-freeze. 

And did you know that Winnipeg, Manitoba is the city that consumes the greatest amount of Slurpee drinks on earth?

June 20, 2006 at 11:44 pm 27 comments

Forgiveness Comes From the Most Unexpected Place

“If you want to see Papa before he passes away, you better come home now.”  That was my sister, Lina, on the other end of the line, on a cloudy winter day of March, 1991.  Papa had a stroke two months earlier and was paralyzed from the neck down.  Years of smoking and drinking finally took a toll on him. 

With my 16-month old son in tow, I went back home to the Philippines for a two-month visit.  Papa’s medical insurance had run out and he needed to get out of the hospital.  But where would he go?  He didn’t have a permanent home.  His life had become aimless since Mama separated from him.  He had been living with one relative to the next.  Lina and I discussed where to place him.   

Should he stay with my husband and my in-laws? My husband was still in the Philippines back then waiting for his sponsorship papers.  But I would be going back to Canada after two months.  I didn’t feel that Papa would be taken care of properly there when I left.   

Should he stay with Lina?  She was a stay-at-home mom and her husband was a nurse.  He would feel more at home and he would be given better care there.

We decided to leave him at Lina’s place.  Although it was the logical decision, I felt like I was turning Papa away.

Ever since I could remember I have always been fond of Papa.  I was Papa’s girl while Lina was a self-proclaimed Mama’s girl.

My parents owned a tailor shop in Noveleta, Cavite.   They were very well known in town.  They garnered a lot of friends.  It was the custom then among men to serve friends a few drinks of beer, whiskey or rum when they visit each other.  Papa developed a drinking problem.  He started beating up Mama when he’d had too much to drink.  I was about eight and Lina was six when Papa came home drunk one night.  He grabbed my majorette baton and struck Mama on the forehead.  Lina and I huddled on the floor behind the couch, terrified.  We couldn’t do anything to help Mama.  We were frightened that he would hit us, too.  He never did, though.  Except for one incident that made me feel terribly guilty. 

Lina and I were fighting one night.  Papa overheard her answering back at me.  He got really mad, led her outside, and made her stand still beside the banana tree.  She stood there and whimpered while ants crawled and bit her legs.

I was in sixth grade when Mama left and didn’t come home.  After a few days, she came to school to pick up Lina and me.  She said, “I’m not going back home.  I’m going to Manila to live with my sister.  Do you, girls, want to come with me?”  Lina threw her arms around Mama’s waist and said, “Yes, Mama!  I want to come with you.”

Mama wanted Lina and me to stay together.  “Either you both go back home to your father or come live with me in Manila,” she continued.  But no matter what, she was leaving Papa.  I was torn.  I missed her terribly and yet I felt that we were betraying Papa if we left him.  I loved Papa dearly despite his faults, but I understood that it was time for my parents to separate.  It was no longer safe for Mama and it was emotionally traumatizing for all of us.

Lina wouldn’t see Papa when he visited us in Manila.  Auntie didn’t let him inside the house.  Mama allowed me to see him outside and we went to a nearby ice cream parlour.  I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions.  I was crying from the moment I saw him until he left that balmy afternoon.  The pain was more than I could endure at my age.  I missed him so much.

Mama and Lina felt a great deal of anger towards him.  I realized that he hurt Mama and that it was not acceptable at all, yet I couldn’t get myself to hate him.  How could I?  He was my father.  He taught me things that I didn’t know.  He stayed up late with me to finish my school homework and projects.  Mama never told us to hate him, and yet I knew that she was hurt knowing that I was still loyal to Papa.

Mama did the best she could to provide for us but making a living was hard.  When Lina and I were teenagers, Mama decided to apply for a job in Canada.  Lina and I went to live with Auntie.  We tried our best to get along with Auntie’s family.  After three trying years and feeling of remorse, I run away from Auntie’s home and went to live with Papa, much to Mama’s chagrin.

Lina and I gave Papa a second chance, hoping that he would change and get his life back on track.  But he could not resist the call of alcohol.   One night, he came home drunk, passed out on the couch, wet his pants, and was so embarrassed when he woke up the next morning.  There was no beating that time and yet I understood what Mama went through during those nights when Lina and I were little girls.

We never told anybody about what went on at home in our childhood.  We never even talked about it amongst ourselves.  And I didn’t realize the impact of all of these on Lina until our early adulthood. 

She was deeply involved in the Student Catholic Action and I was taken by surprise when she entered the convent.  After only a few months of her stay there, I noticed the remarkable improvement in her personality.  She couldn’t tolerate being in the presence of Papa before but she allowed him to visit her every month at the convent.  I was amazed at how she had forgiven him after years of resentment and hatred.

After a year, Lina left the convent.  She was young, confused, and thought that she wanted to serve God.  I thought that it was God’s plan to make Lina’s experience in the convent to be her instrument to forgive Papa.

When Papa was out of the hospital and settled at Lina’s place, I went to visit him.  I was humbled at the sight I saw.  There was my sister, feeding my father and cleaning him up.  At one point, she asked me, “Do you want to see his bed sores?”  I shook my head and looked away.  Why did I?  I, who was always at his side?  The roles were reversed.  Lina was now looking after him.

I was not at Papa’s side when he passed away in June 1991, two months after I came back to Canada.  I was told that minutes just before his last breath, he yelled, “God, please forgive me for all my sins.”  I will never forget that.  Just as I won’t forget how my sister forgave my father.

June 17, 2006 at 6:02 pm 32 comments

How I’m doing as a mother

The other morning, my kids and I were frantically searching for Ryland’s library book.  I was already running late for work.  I remembered the night before that it was library day and had planned to put the book in his backpack before I went to bed.  But I got sidetracked on the internet and forgot about it.  It turned out that the book was not in the drawer where he usually keeps it.  It has been misplaced.  I could have turned the house upside down and found it that morning but I didn’t want to miss my bus.  So I told his brothers to help him find it and if they didn’t Ryland would just have to apologize to the librarian and he would return the book the following day when we find it. 

I felt guilty as I rode my bus that morning.  It was not the first time one of my kids missed bringing their books on library day.  I can be forgetful at times and my kids know that.  Sometimes I tell them to remind me things.  I am a very busy mother.  I get pre-occupied and absent-minded.  I’ve switched their school lunches, forgotten to give them money on Popsicle Fridays and sometimes missed deadlines for paying fees.  They’re not too happy when these happen. 

When I arrived at work that same morning, I called home with a calmer voice.  They found the book.  And I was the one who misplaced it.  Oops.  I moved the book from its usual place and it got buried under a pile of paper.  

Recently, I’ve read a blogger’s post about how she doesn’t think that her mother is the best one but this blogger acknowledges that her mother tries her best to make her family happy.  Although I don’t know this blogger personally, I felt kind of sad for her and the mother.  Of course, she was just being honest.  But as a mother, I know how frustrating it can be when I think I’m giving my all to my kids to make them happy and yet there are times when they still get disappointed. 

There was also a time when I didn’t think that my mother was doing the right things – the right decisions in life, not just for herself but also for both my sister and me.  But she had it tough.  She was in a difficult position being a single parent. And I never really thought of it as her not being a good mother.  My mother was a very hardworking person.  She still is.  I have always held her in high regard although we had our misunderstandings and falling-apart especially when I was still a teen-ager. 

Lately, I’ve also been trying to assess myself as a mother.  I’ve been very busy these past couple of years with work and with the kids’ activities that sometimes I feel like I’m slacking in my responsibilities to my children. I’m quite often tired and I get pretty irritable when I’m exhausted. My kids know that though, and I explain myself to them when I catch myself raising my voice.   

I let them join the different activities that they are interested in.  Like for instance, last year, my two younger boys signed up for the Spring Basketball League.  And Reggie is always joining different jazz and band camps and attending and performing in jazz concerts.  I want them to be happy, but at the same time, going to these activities can sometimes make me exhausted especially if they’re happening one after the other.    

I love my kids and I want to devote as much time to them as possible.  But there are times when I also want to have “me time.”  I usually get this at night when they are all tucked in bed.  This is when I read my books, watch my taped shows, or go on the internet.  But sometimes even that time is not enough and I do my “me time” when they are doing their own thing and don’t need my attention.  I also sometimes feel guilty when I spend time a lot of time on the computer instead of playing with them, or when I pretend I’m listening to Ryland when I’m reading something interesting on the net.

The other night, I was checking one of my sons’ school agenda when I came upon his homework and read what he wrote. 

My mother in her spare time does chores, uses the computer, reads a book or takes a nap.  My mom is already perfect to me.  I don’t have to do anything to make her perfect.  If I could change one thing about my mom it would be that she could remember better so I don’t have to forget it.” 

I think he gave me an above average rating as a mom, don’t you think?  Not bad, huh?  And this came from the child who complains the most, demands a lot, and challenges me the most as a mother.   

I don’t strive to be a perfect mom or be the best mother but I try my best to love, look after, protect, support, educate and nurture my children. 

I share my experiences as a mother here in this site and also to friends when I talk to them.  Some say that I am a good mother.  Thank you very much if you think so.  But I think that my children are the best judges of how good or bad a mother I am.  Some people may think otherwise.  But as for me, it’s what my kids think and feel about me that matters the most.

June 13, 2006 at 10:39 pm 15 comments

The Office

My first week back at the office went well.  The training room was set up in a classroom setting and I and nine other employees were all giddy in learning all these new things.  But after one week, we were all sent back to our cubicles in our Department.  The other work-at-home person, who’s also a Filipino mom, and I were assigned to two empty cubicles where we will be staying for the rest of the training period. 

I have been doing the same job for the last ten years but I have been away from the office for five years and it took a while to remember how they do things there.  It felt like being a new recruit.  I have been with the company longer than the people I am working now and it felt weird when they had to tell me that this is the way we do this and this is the way we do that.  I wondered if they thought I was stupid or something. 

Well, anyway, I made a list of the things I like being at the office. 

1.       The connection to the network is a lot faster.  I and the other work-at-home staff are set up with a dial-up connection at home and there are times when the system becomes slow and it’s common that we get disconnected more than once a day.

2.       I can talk to my supervisor and his assistant in person, face to face, instead of just on the phone or by email.  I can easily pop up in their cubicles if I have a question.  I hope I’m not annoying them.

3.       I get a bit of exercise everyday – walking, running (after the bus) and climbing up and down the stairs (instead of using the escalator).

4.       It was Staff Appreciation week.  How lucky was I!  On Tuesday, we were treated to a TCBY frozen yoghurt (yum); on Wednesday, Kernels Popcorn; and on Thursday, M&M cookies.  If I were home, I don’t think they would have sent the yoghurt by courier.

5.       I’m actually experiencing hunger pangs.  But it’s all good.  Because at home, I am munching all the time while working.  And I wonder why I gained weight after I worked at home.  No exercise and all that munching.

6.       Friday is Jeans Day.  Five years ago, we only had casual Fridays every other week and no jeans.  The only time we could wear jeans was on United Way Denim Day and we had to pay a dollar to wear our denims.

7.       Exchanging “Good Morning,” “Have a nice day,” and “Good Night, See you tomorrow” with bus drivers and co-workers.

8.       I’m done working at 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m.(overtime).  At home I work until 7:00 p.m. (Too many distractions: chores, TV, internet, kids) 

The list of the things I don’t like is a bit longer.   

Just to give you a backdrop, before I worked at home, our Department was in a different building.  But since then, our population has grown and they had to move to another one.  This will explain some of the things in my dislikes list.  

1.       I have to get up at 5:30 a.m.  When I work at home, I usually get up at 7:00 a.m. except for a few times a week when my oldest son had to be at school early and then I get up at 6:00 a.m.

2.       I sometimes still get confused what floor I have to get to.

3.       When I get off the elevator, I think twice whether to go left or right.

4.       There are too many doors and we need our security cards to open them.

5.       I have to be careful not to open a door too quickly because there could be somebody at the other side, lest we scare each other. It already happened once when I opened the door of the women’s washroom and I scared the hell out of this other lady.

6.       The spaces are too cramped, even the washrooms.  The booths are too close for comfort.

7.       I had to relearn how to use the printer and the copier.  People must think I’m dumb.

8.       The tab, the R and other keys in the keyboard I am using are stiff and I have to hit them really hard.

9.       At the end of the day, I stare at the mailing slots for five minutes before I can figure out where to put my stuff that needs to get out.

10.   Some of my friends won’t join me for lunch.  They eat in their cubicles.  They’re no fun.  I like them better when we get together for birthdays, parties, showers and other special occasions. 

I can’t wait to work back at home.  One more week!  I have more fun working here while watching my talk shows and laughing out loud at Ellen.

June 10, 2006 at 10:56 pm 11 comments

He’s confirmed

“Mommy, what is Confirmation?” my 8-year old son, Ryland, asked me on Sunday morning. 

“It means being a responsible member of the Church,” I replied. 

“Oh,” he said. 

As if he understood what I really meant. 

Several months of preparation culminated last Sunday when Ryan and the rest of the Level 6 catechism students were confirmed. It has been quite a journey not only for the children but for their parents as well.  The parents were involved every step of the way. 

–          It started with the parents’ meetings (three of them) to help them prepare the children for this Sacrament.

–          There was a Welcoming Rite where the candidates for Confirmation were presented before the community during Mass sometime in February.  Photos of the confirmands were also put on display at church.

–          The candidates did a Christian Service Project by volunteering in an organization of their own choosing.  Ryan chose to help at the soup kitchen.

–          The candidates visited the house of the Archbishop who gladly welcomed them in his reception room, asked them questions and invited them to reflect where they would be 33 years from now.  In turn, the children asked their own questions: “Did you know you would one day be bishop?”  “Will women one day be priests?”  “Where did you learn Spanish?”  He also let them hold his Crozier (staff) and try on his Mitre (two-sided hat).

–          The candidates participated in THINKfast to raise social self-awarenes in issues of justice and the right of people to basic food and water.  The 11- and 12-year olds went without solid food for 25 hours.  They only drank water and fruit juices.  The fast ended with a potluck supper when their families joined them the following day.

–          Twilight Retreat.  We, parents, were secretly asked to write a letter to our children, to pour out our feelings about them and their special gift to us, to speak how God is present in their life and about our hopes and dreams for them.  At the end of the retreat, the children sang You Raise Me Up to show their appreciation for the catechists, parents and other leaders of the parish in helping them in this journey. 

The celebration of Confirmation in our Parish has been full of symbolism.   

It was held on Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. 

The altar was decorated with the lanterns that the students made out of painted glass jars.  The lanterns were lit with candles – symbol of the fire that came down on the apostles.  

The church was decorated with red banners, which the students decorated during their Retreat.  Their names were also on the banners. 

The laying of hands – is a gesture that Jesus used to ask for God’s protection.  The apostles did likewise when they called upon the Holy Spirit to be present.  The archbishop and Br. J. extended their hands over the group of those to be confirmed.  When the sponsors walked with the children, they also had their hands on their shoulders. 

The baptismal font was placed at the front and center to help us make the connection between Baptism and Confirmation.  One by one, the candidates approached the font where the Archbishop poured a bit of chrism (oil perfumed with balsam) on their forehead and traced the sign of the cross, and then he said, “Ryan, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  To which Ryan responded, “Amen.”  The archbishop then said, “Peace be with you.”  Ryan said, “And also with you.”  And then Ryan was confirmed. 

Halleluiah!  No more catechism for him.

Afterwards, we headed to Marigold Restaurant and feasted on delicious Chinese food. 

June 6, 2006 at 10:28 pm 21 comments

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