Sunday, December 16, 2012


I turned 39 years old last Thursday  I was planning to celebrate it with a good steak but instead I had my first ever bought sushi.  Okay, not actually sushi with raw fish but with imitation crab instead.  They call it california rolls.   I still think it's an improvement in my part.  I am so proud of myself because I did not gag on the fishy taste of nori.  I hate fishy taste and smell. However, I admire non-Japanese sushi eaters.  I see them as sophisticated and worldly.  I'll work on the raw fish before I turned 50,  I promised myself.   I would like to vary my diet and train my taste bud.

My goal is to be more active physically and socially.  I am shaken by the mass shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut that happened last Friday.  I, initially,  thought of my niece because my sister and her family live in Connecticut and there are not  many towns in that State.  I called my sister immediately upon hearing the news and she told me it was a town nearby.  My sister is upset.  This tragedy happened too close to her home.  I bet everyone is shaken when very young children were slaughtered in the very place that you think they were safe.  The sad part is it happened too many times in this country.  I cannot sit and watch anymore.  I am planning to get involve with this issue -- Gun Control.  I am considering homeschooling or moving back to the Philippines once Benji starts school if nothing changes... 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Party pooper

I tell people that I am a better visitor than host.  I say that to be funny but it is not a joke. 
I think the reason is that I have so much anxiety of trying to be the perfect host which is an unatainable quest.     It is rooted from my childhood.  My mother is very critical on people.  When we visit relatives or friends, she usually criticizes their housekeeping skills.  So, I thought growing up that people are like that when they visit you.  They notice every imperfections. 

Now that I'm an adult, I know better.  But still, this anxiety of disappointing my visitors remains.  I think this makes them uncomfortable with me, too.

In the Philippines, people are generally hospitable.  Hospitality is good but if it sacrifices your sanity, your family's comfort and bank account, it is detrimental.  I don't think visitors want that, too. 

I seldom have visitors.   Having get together in my house rarely happens.  The main reason is that my house is a disaster.  Benjamin ruined my furnitures, walls and floor.  Also, I have a "no shoe policy" in my home but I am not assertive enough to enforce them at times.  So, I usually end up shampooing the whole house after the party.  It is exhausting just thinking about it...

My New Year's resolution is to learn how to be a graceful host.  I think letting go of  this idea of perfection is the first step....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Turning 3

Someone turned 3 last Friday....  Not an easy age, I heard. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I am not a Catholic but I was until I was 10 years old.  So, I am familiar with All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day stuff.  Until about last year, I was not a big Halloween or remembering-the-dead kind of person.  This year is different.  Death struck my immediate family late last year.  I have this delayed response to grief but it refused to wane.   Working in healthcare probably contributes to my non-waning grief.  I am reminded constantly of the suffering that my father went through.  Learning over the weekend that my former patient was transferred to hospice care was the blow for me.  She's one of my all-time favorite clients.  We enjoyed each other's company. I met her 4 years ago.  A feisty woman in her 80s, she fired her first P.T.   So my boss sent me to take over the job.  I admit I was hesitant and nervous.  I had this presumption that she's hard to please, that I need to tip-toe around her.  Her house is also out of my territory.  When she heard my voice on the phone, she admitted that she thought she was being punished.  She sarcastically thought "Great.  Now they sent me a foreigner!"  But we had a great time together.  I love her and she loved me.  We lost touch though because things happened in my life and she does not answer her phone calls.   I stopped twice in her house but there was  no answer on the door.   I thought of her once in a while and wondered if she's still alive.  I looked for her name in obituaries. 

So, today after work and driving my mother to Walmart, Benji and I went to visit her in the nursing home.  I was nervous and excited to see her again.    When I arrived in her darkened room, the first thing I noticed was that she has not changed.  She's probably thinner but she still looks defiant and alert.  The sad thing is she does not remember me.  I explained to her who I was and my husband.  But  nothing clicked in her brain.  All my excitement drained quickly. She told me that she just wants to sleep.   We left her room in a hurry to give her peace.  I felt  deep sorow as I closed her door.

A tiny tinged of relief also found its way as I trudged the long hallway.  I felt guilt not keeping in touch with her.  Now,  I realized why we drifted apart.   She's been tired for a long time.  She wants to be left alone. 

My father seems to be a daily visitor in my thoughts.  I don't dislike the visit.  It just makes me sad.  Sad that I did not do more to take care of him when he was sick.  Sad that our relationship was not ideal.  Sad that I cannot take back time to correct my wrong.   I constantly think of his sacrifices for us, and  his disappointments toward me. 

I would like to believe that my father is in a better place.  I hope that he knows that I am thinking about him.  I cannot light up a candle overnight like they do in  the Philippines but I am remembering just the same.  Happy All Soul's Day!

P.S.  I just want to share this video about a doctor who experienced afterlife while in coma...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Immigrant Experience

Few years back, I had an older Italian patient.  This nice lady immigrated in the United States in the 1950s when she was in her early 30s after marrying her Italian-American sweetheart.   Her accent is pretty thick but I can understand her fairly well.  She told me that she cannot stand people who does not understand her English.  She said that these people  don't listen.  She refuses to repeat for them what she just said. She just walks away and moves on..

Sunday, October 28, 2012

4 Things

that made me mad today !

1.  over protective family members...
2.  prejudiced assumption that I live in an apartment...
3.  people who don't have any hearing problem but always seem not to understand my English!
4.  people who do not involve me in their conversation, probably thinking that my English is poor...or I cannot get what their talking about...

I hate to be an immigrant sometimes...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ohhh Summer

It's been a busy summer.  We are busy remodeling a bathroom ourselves because we cannot afford a professional.  We do not have time either but it's easier to find time than money for now.  It is difficult and time consuming especially when you have a demanding work and active toddler.  The fact is it is not our first time doing bathroom remodelling.  We did it several years ago but it was not a good job.  So, more experienced this time, we thought it would be easier.  Wrong!  I promised myself that I would never tackle this kind of endeavour again for as long as I am sane.  However, we are getting good compliments from professionals, none the less, that we did a great tile work.  This made me smile...

Anyhow, despite the busy-ness and insanity,  we're still able to squeeze in some small trips.  We visited my sister in CT and strolled NYC.  I attended my college reunion in NJ.  We met with my husband's friends in Chicago.  We went to the State Fair twice.   Now, we are debating if we would go to Minneapolis or not.  I would like to go but the bathroom is still not done...

Oh well, I just want to share  my favorite photo of the season.

                                        while watching an evening parade in Pella, Iowa. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Our planet

                                               This makes me think of my insignificance!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

12th Year Part 2

Our arguments are becoming more frequent.  At times, I felt like it is the end.  Then, we would come to our senses and realized that it will not be that easy to get the "D" word.  One thing,  we have a son who complicates things for us.  According to survey, money is the main reason couples fight. The sad part is we belong in that statistic.  Add to it  is my PMS which seems to  last 3 weeks. 

We have so many differences.  I am more uptight, he is more relaxed.  I am more ambitious and I feel like he is on the mediocre side (this is probably just my opinion).  I was raised Christian and he is an atheist.  I grew up in a dysfunctional family, his family is painfully bland and functional.  I hunger for more learning and he's just content.  I'm a Filipino and he's an American.

Our initial attraction was strong.   We did that PDA thing for several years.  I miss that.  I felt jealous when I see young couple who are so in love.  I wish  to return to that with him. 

                                                      Us in 1999

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

12th Year Posting Part 1

I am somewhat sick with colds.  I'm too busy at work and  home.  I am emotionally drained by my job and family.  But I just want to write something today...

For today, 2 days early of our 12th year wedding anniversary, we decided to get out and celebrate..  We both agreed that things has changed.  Life is more complicated.  Our view less rosier.   Our ties deeper.  We survived many arguments, infertility,  Fort Dodge, Dallas,  my family, his family, my father's death, my unending insecurities, etc...

So for the occasion, we decided to give ourselves gift.  We bought Fiesta table settings in 4 different colors.  We deserve it.  We're hoping that using Fiesta plates will give our relationship more sophistication, more civility in the coming years...  I am crossing my fingers...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Once in a while when I least expected, inspiration comes and changes my heart forever, in a good way. I happened upon this speech late one night while finshing my computer charting. It's 20 minutes well spent...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Francophile Parenting Books Review

I just recently finished two parenting books --  Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman and French Kids Eat Eveything by Karen Le Billon.  Both books are written by North American women, Druckerman from the US and Le Billon from Canada.  Druckerman lives in Paris with her British husband while Le Billon (who is married to a French) and her family divide time between Vancouver and Brittany.

Bringing Up Bebe by Druckerman discusses the parenting differences between French and American parents while French Kids Eat Everything tackles more on French eating vs. North American eating habits. 

I would admit I am a Francophile myself.  My wildest dream would be to move to France and learn how to speak French.  Of course, this would never happen.  My husband is not a Francophile and he is happy to be here in Iowa.  And, I am too old to learn a new language.  As my mother told me when I was younger and insisting to buy a tape to learn French, I should just focus on my English.  Spanish is more practical to learn in America.

Anyway,  the one thing that I took away from these books is the importance of food education for kids (and adults too).  The contrast between North American and French in regards to food habit is very much highlighted.  Even the French school system and daycares (creche)  are very much involve in this aspect.  These are just the things I remember most.

1. There is no "kid food" in France.  The kids eat what adults eat.
2.  The focus of eating in France is pleasure versus North American focus on nutrition.  However, balance diet is very much emphasized in France. 
3.  Lunch is the most important meal of the day.  They eat most of their protein at lunch, carbohydrate or vegetables  at supper.   French kids get most of their calories at school lunch.  Ms. LeBillon has a blog and she posts menus of different French school district.  Many, if not all, agrees that the French menu is a lot better and healthier than American cafeteria menu.
4.  They only eat their food in the dining table.  No eating while standing or walking.  No eating in the car, etc.
5.  They eat 3 square meals a day plus a snack at 4PM (gouter).  Present day North American kids are heavy on snacking -- grazing as they call it.  They start training their kids to eat on this schedule from birth.  Most French women don't breastfeed for more than 3 months.

Aside from giving importance on Food Education, these are some French parenting facts that stood out for me from Bringing Up Bebe. 
1.  French parents are more relaxed than Americans.  Aside from generous government subsidies for childcare, free healthcare  and high quality creches, French babies tend to sleep through the night  by the age 2 to 4 mos.  Most mothers accept that the perfect mother does not exist.   They let their children "discover"things for themselves, instead of pushing them to acquire skills. 
2.  Pregnancy is not a free ticket to get fat or eat everything you want.  Okay, in my personal experience, I followed a strict diet during my pregnancy due to my gestational diabetes.  However, I know a lot of people who used their pregnancy as an excuse to eat what they want.
3.  The French encourages autonomy (as much as they can handle, Mr. Druckerman points out) .  They don't believe on attached parenting.   A week long field trip for 5 year olds is a reality in France. 
4.  French parents  also don't lose themselves into parenting.  It is important for them to keep their identities and lives of their own separate from their children.

Overall, I realized that French parenting is not at all that unique.  I remember some of these when I was growing up in the Philippines.  We just had 3 meals a day.  Occasional snack or merienda in the afternoon.  Also, my parents are not really too attached to us.  My father worked overseas and my mother is a working mother.  We had a series of maids and relatives who helped with childcare.  Most Filipino parents are authoritative.  Negotiating is discouraged.  Talking back is a sin. 

So, when I moved here in the US, I was impressed  on how Americans are so expressive with their children.   Children are put on a pedestal, the center of attention.   I was impressed on how confident children are on talking with adults and expressing themselves.  I was not nearly that confident in my 20s even.  I am also impressed that many young Americans are assertive.  Many Americans of different ages and backgrounds could talk to anyone.  They could talk and socialize with their boss confidently.  They could question doctors, politicians, teachers,  pretty much any authority figures.  And I, surely,  love that. 

I don't believe that French parenting is superior than Americans. They are different for sure.   One article stated that such difference is because their goals and values are different.  The French values tradition and solidarity while Americans values innovation and free-thinking (not sure of the exact wordings here).  One thing for sure, though, the French has an edge on their Eating Habits.  So that, I will surely try to emulate.   Ms Le Billon of  French Kids Eat Everything has listed French Food Rules and practical tips for North American parents. 

After reading these books,  I am more aware on  how uncivilized my family during meals.  When  things get messy,  I now say, "that's so un-French!"   My husband does not look amused.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rare Weekend Off

This is rare for us.  A full weekend with both my husband and I  off from work!

Our house is a mess.  Our yard is a mess.  I have an online class I need to finish before April 10.  He has things to do for his class.  We have loads of laundry.  We have a bathroom that needs to be remodeled.  I would like to change the vanity in our powder room.  I would like to bake.  I would like us to cook and consume all the frozen vegetables from last year's harvest.  I have books I want to read.  I would like to make up for lost sleep.    To top it all, we have a toddler who needs constant attention!

Maybe working on the weekends is not a bad thing  after all!

28th Month

Today he turned 28th month.  I realized we haven't been  updating his baby book for quite a while.  I neglected to record his height and weight since he turned 9 month.  I don't even remember when his first molar appeared.  Oh well, at least, I kept his hair from his first haircut.

What can I say about Benji? 

He spits.  He curses.  He hits.  At least now, he stopped biting.  Yes, he is the epitome of bad behavior. Many times he embarrasses me in public. He could throw a tantrum wherever. He had broken items in the store (good thing they don't have us pay for those except  in oriental store where he broke a bottle of soy sauce).  At times, he is just too quick and strong for us.  He likes the attention of other people but gets shy once he gets it. His favorite pick-up  or attention-getting line is Iowa Public Television Foundation (you could tell, we've been watching a lot of PBS lately.)  He only eats hamburger (with or without spaghetti sauce), cheese pizza, granola bar, cookies, Kix, snap pea crisp, candies (of course) and a blended concoction of mango, pears and spinach.  I threw all Dr. Sear's suggestions on nutrition because he is just too picky.  He needs to be coaxed to drink milk, even. 

Most kids (that I know) bring their blankets or soft toys in bed.  Benji would bring his hot wheel cars, tooth brushes, mouth swab,  ball of socks,   etc.  He can get so obsessive.  He inhales Altoids tin can  and dryer sheets  like a person addicted to cocaine or glue.  It is strange to see a toddler like that.  But I have to pick my battles.  It does not hurt him. Yet.

He could make our house looks like it's been ran sacked.   It takes him just few minutes to trash the house that took us hours to clean up.  To no avail, I teach him to bring his toys back to the bin and  his books back to the shelves.  We just give up cleaning.  He would also trash the library if given an opportunity.  He'd thrown books and CD's on the floor when he's bored.

Not all about him is bad.  He has developed by leaps and bounds since he was born.    He  loves to sing and hum nursery rhymes,  especially  Baa Baa Black Sheep.  A  month ago, he added ABC to his song list,  then 2 weeks ago The Farmer in the Dell.  I'm pretty sure he knows more songs than what I mentioned  here.   He also loves listening to  the Wiggles' Hot Potato and Fruit Salad.  He knows his capital letters (he's still learning small letters) and numbers 1 to 9 (he insists small L as 1).  He could count a little bit.  He knows his primary colors.  But he does not know  how to say Bye's and Thank yous.  He refuses to do it!

My husband's fear is that he will never get potty trained.  My fear is that he will not learn how to read.  Maybe, we should worry about his manners , huh?

Friday, February 17, 2012

More on Story Corps

T.V. and radio are my companions during my long nights of finishing  work....  I mostly tune in to PBS or NPR.  I am not a music person.  I am more of a talk radio kind-of-gal.   So, one time I heard this story about an old man telling a story about killing a German soldier during World War 2, and how it haunted him for the rest of his life.  Then, I saw the animated short in TV.  I dont know why it became my favorite...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I love Story Corps.  Since this is Valentine's Day, I would like to share this post.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mild Winter Day

It is a record warm winter.  It got to almost 60 degrees here.  To the library we went...

 Benji participating more in library activity this winter where he meets new friends. 
 But he prefers to be outside today...
 Pure joy at the park, in February?
Warm enough to share milk shake!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Missing him...

It's been almost 2 mos.  since my father passed away.  I still miss him.  I still feel the guilt because I was not able to take care of him as much.  I was too busy with my life.  I thought I still have time.   I never thought his passing will be swift.  I thought we had more time than that.    I just applied for my FMLA leave the day before he passed.  I was hoping that he would somehow make it to Christmas 2011.  I think he believed he would make it to Christmas too.  I am haunted by the look in his eyes the last time he was conscious.  His pupils were dilated from anxiety.  He was  fish out of water.   The hospice nurse (and I) believed that he had pulmonary embolism which caused labored breathing and rapid decline. 

I feel tears swelling up my lower lids everytime I pass their apartment and places that remind me of him.  My heart stops whenever my baby mentions the word "tatay," which he does everytime we visit the apartment that my father shared with my  mother who still lives there. 

My grief is still fresh and raw.

Our relationship was far from perfect.  It was dysfunctional at best, hostile at it's worst.  It is a long story.  However, since he passed, I just remember the good times, the good Tatay (Filipino for father).  I think of his sacrifices, his hardwork so we could have good education and life.  The thing that I would never forget  is how his hands looked.  I remember how his fingers had gotten crooked as he aged from arthritis and decades of menial jobs.    I remember he told me to cut my home-made soap smaller as he had difficulty holding it.  When he died that's the only part of his body that did not really changed.  He lost a lot of weight.  His muscles atrophied.  His skin discolored and pale.   He lost his hair.   But his hands remained the same, immortalizing in my memory his life of hardwork and sacrifices for his family.

It is difficult to lose a parent, no matter how imperfect the relationship was.  I prefer him alive.  I know my life was better when he's just 11 miles away.  I love you, Tatay..  Thanks for everything.

P.S.  Despite the breathing difficulty at the end, my father passed away peacefully in Hospice.  He was given meds to slow down his breathing and relieved his pain and anxiety.