Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Days for the Saints and for the Souls

Today is All Saints Day, which according to Wikipedia is:

The festival of All Saints, also sometimes known as All Saints' Day, All Hallows or Hallowmas ("hallows" meaning "saints," and "mas" meaning "Mass"), is a feast celebrated on November 1 or on the first Sunday after Pentecost in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Halloween is the day preceding it, and is so named because it is "The Eve of All Hallows". All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown.
In the Christian West, All Saints' Day honours those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven, while the next day, All Souls' Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven.
What do we do in Germany to celebrate this day? My in laws, who regularly visit the family tombstone to water and trim the plants, would already have cleaned and added beautiful flower arrangements around the already well maintained space. They would come for a short visit and would go and eat out. Photo shows the kids this summer at the cemetery.

As for my family, since it is a holiday in our city and it is normal working day in the city where Papa works, we would pay him a visit and I would let the kids run around until it's time to go home with Papa in tow. This is the day where I usually ask the kids what they wanted for Christmas, despite their already long wish list. They show me what they wanted, and I take notes.

Very much different from my Philippine family's tradition during November 1 and 2. Where everybody's all agog preparing for All Soul's Day which actually falls on the second day of the month.
Before October comes to an end, the tombstones would be cleaned and newly painted. The food would have been ready for the coming reunion and picnic. Since it is usually a long holiday, most of the people would be travelling back home to the provinces so expect heavy traffic. You would think it would leave Manila traffic free? Of course not, we usually are up at 5 am and moving at 6 am to be able to reach Manila Memorial in Paranaque. The memorial parks are already in full swing at that early hours as some have already spent the nights there.

We would build our tent, spread our picnic blankets and light the candles while offering prayers. And then we start munching, playing ball or visiting the tombstones of some well-known deceased or the tombstones of the relatives of celebrity people. We would stay there until after lunch and would start packing, leaving to make way for the new batch of relatives to take our place.

And then rest time at home before gearing up for another visit, this time at the Pasay Cemetery where my lola (grandma), my father's mother, lies. We would gather up, together with most of the neighboring kids; to ride a bus or a jeep, and most of the times, we would even walk (usually would take around 25 mins) as we are too many to be accommodated during those commutes -- to the cemetery. We would then jump (mostly we push and wiggle) from one tombstone to another, hoping to find our right space. And then we would start competing who would get the biggest ball of candle wax, to the annoyance of some :D

We would then go home together, by foot, as we would be too excited to stay still. And would gather in one of the homes to binge and to chat, someone would usually get a guitar and start strumming...and you'll be hearing our voices-- singing, talking until the wee hours of the morning.

I would want my kids to experience this tradition one of these days. Meanwhile, I am telling them this story for bedtime.
November 1 majority of the Filipino population observe All Saint's Day (Araw ng mga Patay). During the Araw ng mga Patay Filipinos remember their dead, clean the graves, and decorate them with flowers. While the purpose is somber, the effect is a picnic, full of merrymaking and laughter. Everyone goes to the cemetery, and some even stay overnight.

It's Halloween

Did you see what happened to the corn in our Halloween display? The birds got to it in two weeks! The even managed to drag it down, as the last photo shows. Anyway, am glad the poor birds got to feed.

So today is Halloween. My kids didnt realize it until I told them yesterday when I was cuddling with them in bed that tomorrow is Halloween! And what was their reaction? They wanted to stay in bed and sleep because they think the day would go faster when they did. I convinced them to go to kindergarten but they were too excited waiting for nightfall.

My husband was playing with the idea of bringing the kids to the Burg Frankenstein, but I convinced him to wait until next year.
The "Burg Frankenstein" is the original castle ruin that inspired Mary Shelley to her world famous novel "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus" The annual Halloween Festival at Burg Frankenstein takes always place the last two weekends of October and the first weekend of November plus the Halloween day 31 October. It is an outdoor event inside the castle’s walls.
We've already visited the place one summer in 2004, but of course, it looks like a normal castle during that time. Next year might be the best time to attend the Halloween party, I hope that the kids would enjoy and not stay screaming the whole time we are there. Meanwhile, I have some lollies for the witches and ghosts and monsters that would be ringing the doorbell tonight.

Halloween is a new thing here in Germany but it is fast becoming a popular tradition. You know what they say here instead of 'trick or treat' they say, 'süsses oder saures' (sweet or sour). I dont know why though.

Monday, October 29, 2007

MC Wants a Tattoo

Although still a bit sleepy this morning, MC's wish for Christmas kicked me to full wakefullness. She wanted a tattoo!

I dont know how to react, what to say.

Good things she explained her wish further. 'Mama, did you know that D (her teacher in kindergarten) have a flower tattoo near her breasts? I like it, but she said she cannot take it out anymore. That is surely painful.'

Arrgh, this drives down the point on how powerful the influence of the people around the kids are. Imagine, she wanted one simply because her teacher, whom she adores, have a tattoo!

Then MC further said, ' I know I still have to wait a little longer to have a tattoo of my own. I would be six this December, by then I could decide.' Ooops, who told her she could have a tattoo when she's six? But, she's not yet finished...

'So now I am telling you, please buy me a toy tattoo machine for Christmas,' she ended with a pleading smile. And I heaved a sigh of relief.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

They Are Eating More Veggies

Remember this nutrition program in kindergarten in which the kids are being introduced to healthy eating habits?

Well, they have only started for three weeks (they are only doing it once a week) and yet I am considering it a big success. MC and IC's been going home after that program with lists of veggies that they wanted me to buy; just because they had them on the buffet table during the program and found them delicious! Soon they would also be going out to shop for healthy food.

Among their favorite veggies now: carrots, lamb's lettuce, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli. I mean, the kids eat raw tomatoes, cucumber, raw red and yellow bell peppers and they both love almost all kind of fruits. But that this program would so successful for a short period of time is really amazing.

What were the activities during the program? The kids are allowed to cut the vegetables, to set the buffet table; they were told to wash their hands before and after helping during the preparation; and were reminded again and again to wash their hands before and after eating. I havent trusted MC at home with the 'right' knives but I was a bit surprised that they were allowed to handle them in that program. I guess now it's time to trust her with the 'right' knife.

And here's MC and IC's notes for Mama: 'Mama, we are not allowed to cough in front of food; or while preparing food. If we must cough, then we must go out and wash out hands again.' Plus, 'mama, we should not touch everything all at once. We need to use serving spoons or forks for every dish.'

Next week, it's my turn to bring my own recipe and the needed ingredients in kindergarten. The recipe should be done in max. 10-15 mins, could be eaten with the hands, suitable for snacks (merienda) or finger food for birthday parties; and most of all, loved by the kids. I dont know what recipe, nor I dont think I would have a recipe that fits those descriptions. Could someone help me, please!

The parents are invited for nights of Food and Drink Oasis in kindergarten next month, in which we would be asked to work together to create a nutritious meal time for the kids. Experiences would be exchanged in how to introduce the kids to love healthy food and how to work on kid's aversion to vegetables or fruits. I cant wait to share and to listen to other stories. I am sure it would be something to look forward to.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Preventive Program on Sexual Assault for Small Children

As a result of what happened last week in one of the school's in our small city, in which a masked man entered a girl's toilet, the feeling of insecurity was matched by the strong feeling of 'we must to do something.'

The kindergarten have been planning to offer a preventive program on sexual assault for young children, but they were still deliberating about this. After what happened, they are now ready to start, but how? By looking for the best program available.

I got hold of one program that they call, 'Ich bin doch kein Heini!?' ('I am nevertheless not Heini!?'). The puppet, Heini, would be the main 'speaker' of the program. The children would show "Heini" behaviors that would hopefully expose their self-assurance and self-confident. They would learn basic skills that build self-worth, self-confidence and good judgment. The moderators of the program would then integrate police know-hows with competent, social educational skills.

The children would be shown how to react opposite strangers, in different situations in which they would be alone; meaning, no presence of their parents.

But a part of the program would also involve the parents. Because the program's concept is to provide the resources for reinforcing the skills the children would need in preventing such things to happen. The key to the success of the program is to encourage the change of behavior and to encourage the children to follow the rules. That would mean more awareness on the part of the parents, of course.

The program is also based on the 'Feelings Yes, Feelings No' from Canada. It reinforces the children's understanding of yes and no feelings, provides them with a simple, non-threatening definition of sexual assault, and introduces them to skills that will aid them in assessing situations involving strangers. It also hopes to give children the skills necessary to protect themselves from sexual assault--from strangers, from family members, from other trusted persons. Read here.

The program would focus on behavior or reactions when the children faces a stranger's on the door, in a car or in the playground. Thus, it would be easier for the kids to react right when faced with these everyday situations. Role playing would be done during the 45 minute program. This sounds just right.

The thing is, the program states that they recommend that only kids from 6 years old up should join the program as the younger ones would not be able to appreciate and understand the danger in those situations.

Which made me think, are our younger kids really so open to these bad elements in the community? Therefore, as parents, it is really our responsibility to protect our kids; that is until they reach the age of 6 in which they could undergo this preventive project because then they would understand how perilous some situations could be. Of course, I know we should take care of the kids, it's just that even these professionals admit that the smallest are really vulnerable.

Headache is knocking... I need to think.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Call to Unite for RP

And this is a challenge for my fellow Filipinos all over the world to unite to help our country be a better place to live in, a wonderful place to visit. I know we all have different reasons why we left the country. Thus, you might want to read thru this letter by Harvey Keh and simply choose what you could comfortably contribute...

Dear Fellow Filipinos,

Good day to all of you!

Recently, I came across an article which talks about the main reasons why India is slowly but surely growing into a world power with a fast developing economy. One of the major reasons cited by the article is the fact that many Indians who have left to study, work or live abroad have now started to go back and help their country through various means. In an interview that I watched at CNN, many Indian youth have expressed that they want to study or work abroad just like Filipinos but the only difference is they see themselves coming back after
a few years to bring back what they learned to help their country.

As I thought about this, I realized that we can learn much from the Indians. Imagine if every Filipino working or living abroad would just do his or her own small share towards helping our country, then I think in a few years we could also expect that our country would grow and not be left behind by our Asian neighbors like Vietnam, Thailand, China and India. I thought of suggesting some easy ways that Filipinos living abroad can help our country and I hope that you will consider doing some of these suggestions to help our Philippines:

Volunteer your time, talents and skills. Yes, you can volunteer for Philippine based Non Profit Organizations or foundations even if you are abroad. How? By doing things over the internet. For example, many Non-Profits need accountants who can help them fix up their financials or if you are good at designing websites or promotional materials, you can also offer your services to help promote the causes that the Non-Profits are currently working on. Another thing needed by non-profits here is to promote their cause to Filipinos abroad, you can volunteer your time to be their overseas Filipino champion who can help them reach many more Filipinos living abroad. Just think about what you can do and I’m sure there are a lot of foundations who would be happy to receive help from you.

Be an AHON Foundation Coordinator. AHON Foundation helps build public elementary school libraries all over the Philippines. Recently, DHL agreed to support AHON by agreeing to ship books in good condition from the mainland United States to the Philippines for free! However, we would need coordinators who can help us organize a book drive, collect books in their areas and be a pick-up point for DHL. U.S. Libraries and schools usually change their books every 3 years and I’m sure there are so many good books that Filipino students can still use if we can just bring them here in the Philippines. If you are interested to be an AHON Foundation Coordinator in the U.S., please email Donna Odra at or you can visit our site at http://null/xml/deref?

Invest in the Philippines. I recently learned from a friend that a sure sign that the economy is growing is the fact that there is a property boom. Looking at newspapers, you can see condominiums, townhouses and subdivisions being developed left and right. Moreover, my friend tells me that by investing in real estate property, you not only help provide jobs to those who build the condominiums but a multiplier effect happens since you also provide jobs to suppliers of cement, steel and other materials used to develop property. Of course there are investments scams and shams thats why you need to check first before you invest, it might be good to ask your relatives who live here to check so that you don’t rely on just what you see over the internet.

Blog Good Things about the Philippines. With so many free blog sites available, its now very easy to develop and maintain a blog. Imagine if all of us during our free time become the pseudo-Tourism secretary and create and maintain a blog that would showcase nice things, places and people in the Philippines, we would be able to easily market the Philippines as a beautiful place to visit for foreigners. This will also counteract the notion that the Philippines is unsafe and unsanitary. Moreover, lets show that our country is not just a place for foreigners to find mail to order brides or domestic helpers. Through our own blogs lets showcase what it is to be truly Filipino. Once you are finished with developing and updating your blog, email an invitation to view it to all your friends especially to those who don’t know much about the Philippines. Hopefully, the next time someone Googles the Philippines, he would read about how beautiful our country and its people is and would feel that he would miss half of his life if he didn’t find the time to visit our country.

Sponsor a poor Filipino Scholar. I know this sounds like a cliche but by investing in education, the effects are tremendous. By supporting a well-deserving but financially disadvantaged Filipino Scholar, you not only help him finish his education but you also help his present family and future family. In short, by helping a Filipino youth finish college there is a multiplier effect that happens since you now provide him with a better opportunity to find a good job that would in turn help him provide a better life to his or her present family and eventually his future family. By giving the gift of quality education, you help solve poverty not by just one person at a time but by one family at a time. How much does it cost to help a Filipino youth to finish college? Just US $500.00 a year or less than US $ 2.00 a day. If you want to help, just email Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines at or you can visit our site at http://null/xml/deref?

Visit the Philippines. I remember when I was flying back home from Hong Kong last year, my seatmate in the plane was a Filipino who has lived in L.A. for the past 35 years of his life and not one single time did he ever find the chance to visit the Philippines in those 35 years. He was very excited and I told him that many has changed since then, that’s why every chance that I get to meet a Filipino living abroard I strongly encourage them to visit the Philippines since you not only get a renewed sense of nationalism but by visiting you also get to see how many things we can still do to help our country. If you solely rely on what you see on the internet or what you watch through TFC, Pinoy TV or the Mabuhay Channel, this wouldn’t be enough for you to really understand what is happening in our country. In the economic side of this, by visiting you spend money in the Philippines which then helps prop up the economy and provide more employment to Filipinos. And of course, I’m sure your relatives would love to see you again and prepare a small feast of adobo, lechon and sinigang for you… so don’t wait for 30 years! The Philippines would certainly welcome you back with open arms :)

Mentor a Filipino Youth Online. A good friend of mine based in Koronadal City, South Cotabato started a few years back a very innovative online mentoring system by which Filipinos living and working abroad could help impart good advice to Filipino College students and serve as their mentor to guide them in making their decisions and in charting a good path in life. The mentoring happened online through emails and chats, now you can even talk to each other through Skype or even Yahoo Messenger. If you have the time and wisdom to share with our Filipino youth, you may want to consider being an Online Mentor and help ensure that the Filipino youth of today will achieve a better and brighter future. If you would like to be a mentor or learn more about this program, you can email Jing Ureta at or

Teach your children the language and culture of the Philippines. A few months ago, I met a couple who migrated to Australia 15 years ago and started their family there. When I talked to their children who grew up there and were 8 and 10 years old already, I was amazed that they could speak fluent Tagalog and they really knew so many things about the Philippines. They even knew how to sing the Philippine National Anthem despite the fact that it was only their first time to visit the country. I hope that many Filipino families would also teach their children our culture and heritage so that they can grow up with a sense of Filipino identity wherever they may go. Its very hard to teach someone to love the Philippines and contribute to nation-building if he wasn’t raised up to believe that he is a Filipino in the first place.

Send this email to your friends who work or live abroad. In my encounters and talks with Filipinos living or working abroad, they have always told me that they really want to help and be part of nation-building but they just don’t know how. Now, through this email we can help by presenting some concrete ways by which Filipinos can keep in touch with our country and be part of our efforts to make this nation great again. I’ve always believed that by doing one good small thing at a time, great things can eventually happen!

I have started my drive to help by posting this letter. Try to do more by linking the words 'Philippines' and 'country' to And of course, the words 'Filipinos' to the or other websites that create a positive image of the Filipinos. Now I promise to blog once a week about how beautiful our country is. Meanwhile, my kids are continuing their journey into the Tagalog language and is learning about our culture and language almost daily through my stories and their books. And we plan to make the Philippines our home in the future. Of course, we visit the Philippines regularly... I cant wait to go home this February!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

There's a Masked Man in the Girl's Toilet

And we think these things happen only in movies, or we watch them in the news or read them in the newspaper; but late Thursday morning, it happened here in our small city.

A six year old girl excused herself from class to go to the toilet. And within a few minutes, her life could have changed. Upon entering the girl's toilet, she encountered a masked man inside the toilet.

I was in the kindergarten when I heard the first version of the story: that the masked intruder had already lowered his pants; and has frightened the girl to do the same. But before anything could happen, another girl came, that made the masked man run away.

That story shocked me to pieces because I know the little girl involved in the story. She is our neighbor and a very close friend of MC. I was crying when I left the kindergarten; the thing is, I had to pass the very same school where the incident happened. This is the same school that MC would be attending next year!

I hurriedly called my husband and told him the story. He wanted me to talk to the mom of the little girl but I simply cant talk. I needed time to calm myself. In the end, I blogged about it here, with all my anger. (I blogged in Tagalog for I wanted a quick release that time) I wanted to express myself or I would explode.

My husband talked to the parents of the girl later that day. And his story calmed me: the little girl met the masked man inside the toilet; but before anything could happen, the man suddenly disappeared. It seemed he heard someone approaching. He didnt touch the girl nor spoke to her. Nothing happened. Except, we dont know what's in that little girl's mind now. The police scoured the place but found nothing suspicious. During an interview with the girl, she obviously cant remember details.

The school decided to implement some changes when it comes to toilet visits during class hours: a buddy system plus a whistle.

Now how do we tell this story to MC and IC? They should know, so they would know what to do, just in case. But we still havent told them anything, as of now. Nor do we plan to tell them the real story, nope. We only want to let them be aware that such things could happen.

Meanwhile, the girl involved in the incident was with us the whole Saturday to play with the girls. I am glad that the parents are letting her move around as usual, but my husband and I have the same line of thought. Like when the little girl asked permission to go home alone to get a toy; both of us said she should bring MC with her.

I am thinking about introducing judo classes to the girls, again. Yes, again. The first time, MC was not so enthusiastic about joining because she said the boys are too wild. Maybe if they would be together, it would be better... Let's see.

For now, I need to talk to the girls and explain to them about such incidents. And what could be done to prevent such things, such as attending judo lessons.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And What About You?

Who's spoiling the kids?

Yesterday, upon reaching the parking area of the first grocery stop:

Kids: 'Mama, we want to go inside, too. Do we get a surprise today?'

Papa: (Jokingly glancing my way.) 'Hmm, I noticed that Mama have spoiled you with surprises this past week. The bills I got stated you get more surprises than what Mama bought for the house.'

Mama: (Smiling) 'Hmp, dont say anthing now.'

A scene inside the supermarket: As I was busy ticking my list of things to buy, IC happily waved something in front of me, a Pippi Longstockings CD. And MC's got a big bag of gummi bears on her hand.

Mama: (Grinning wickedly) 'Hmm, Papa, what were you telling me just a few minutes ago? That I am spoiling the kids with too much surprises?'

Papa: (A bit shamefaced) 'Sei ruhig.' (Keep quiet)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shopping for Healthy Food

My husband has been complaining that the transformation from DM into Euro jacked up the prices of almost all commodities. This might be true, but I also had to remind him that it was also during the change from DM to Euro that both kids arrived one after another into our family.

I pointed out to him that ‘the kids are growing fast and the grocery list is getting longer.’ True, having kids is expensive. I am not only speaking here of money matters; but that is also true of mental health. And we shouldn’t really be surprised to know that having kids in the house is also the fastest way to endanger our health, most especially our heart.

In a recent US government study, adults with children at home are eating almost 5 more grams of fat a day; plus the 1.7 grams of artery clogging saturated fat. That’s almost like adding two slices of bacon to your breakfast daily. Now, don’t go blaming your kids for these; after all, the final decision when it comes to grocery shopping is ours.

There is no need to totally prevent the kids from enjoying their favorites. You may not have to get rid of temptations such as cookies, gummi bears, or chocolate bars. Buy them in pieces and not in boxes or big bags; you might want to simply put such items in a separate cupboard. And display them on the table, once in a while, as a rare treat or as a reward.

healthy grocery shopping

Slowly removing the worst offenders and offering the kids’ other alternatives might just do the job. Avoid white flour and hydrogenated oils and limit the kids’ sugar consumption. Try to skip prepared food and beverages. We usually drink softdrinks when we are in a restaurant but you won’t find them in our house. The kids drink water and mixed-juice-water drinkers (juices diluted by adding water).

What would be a smart guide on how to shop for healthy food? Start by buying fresh natural unprocessed food; or as we regularly do, we go to the countryside and visit the farm stalls. Here is a collection of what I found out in different websites:

Vegetables and Fruits: Fresh is the best and the frozen is a close second. Canned foods have either salt or sugar added so rinse them before serving to remove excess sugar or salt. Plus, it is preferable to choose those canned in water than in heavy syrup. Our kids love fresh fruits and selected veggies, and they are slowly being introduced to raw veggies such as paprika, cucumber, carrots, celery, etc. in kindergarten.

Grain: If possible, opt for the whole grain versions of pasta, rice, cereal, tortillas, bagels and pitas. Brown rice is a hit these days, too.

Eggs: It is one of the best source of protein, but if you eat eggs on a daily basis, limit your intake to one yolk. Boiled eggs are good.

Meat: Focus on poultry and fish; buy leaner beef cuts. Check out the fish with healthy fat such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. And don’t forget to trim the visible fats. We usually buy from the meat shop where they systematically remove the visible fats.

Beans: Beans are low in fat but are high in protein and fiber content. Note though that the sauce in canned beans are what causes gas; so just rinse them before cooking.

Peanuts: Peanut butter is said to have no cholesterol and it has healthier fat because it comes from plant. And nuts are the best choices when it comes to snack foods. If you don’t like them fresh, make sure you get the unprocessed, unsalted variety. It is always something the kids are looking forward to, the nut picking season. We have already mapped up the trees along the woods where the best nut bearing fruits are.

Oil and Fats: Virgin Olive Oil is the number one choice now. But light margarine or spray margarine are also popular.

Snacks: Popcorn is healthy but make sure you choose the light version. Grab the baked versions of chips. Or stay with raw veggies and fruits like paprika, celery sticks, cucumber, tomatoes, etc. with some light yogurt dip.

Milk: Go light. And take it easy on the cream (i.e., cream cheeses, whipping cream, coffee creamer and ice cream). Soy milk is a healthier alternative; so are light yogurts.

Other Drinks: Freshly squeezed fruit juices are okay, but those prepared juice packages should be taken in moderation. Drinking them during breakfast is advisable though. Water is clearly the winner when it comes to beverages. And a glass of red wine per day, perhaps.

Healthier eating need not be a drastic move. Introduce healthier foods into the family’s diet gradually and eliminate the deadly threats one by one by finding alternatives. Also, try to learn what those nutrition labels really mean; reading is not enough.

A post in PMN: Food and Cooking last July 2007.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Papa is the Best

Of course, we always tell that to my husband. Papa is the best. But coming from the kids' doctor, it became another proud moment to share.

You see, IC was sick last week. On a Thursday night, she was running a fever and was throwing up. Papa was so worried (I am the 'cool' one in the family); he wanted to bring her to the hospital. I told him to let her rest first and we could bring her early the next morning to the doctor.

The next morning, Papa grabbed the phone before 8 am to call for an appointment. We could bring IC at 9 am to the doctor; good thing we found an early appointment. But since we've arranged for MC to be picked up for kindergarten at around the same time, someone should stay at home.

Guess who stayed? I stayed, of course. There was no question about that. When it is about the kids' health, it is my husband who takes the full responsibility. He would take a leave of absence or do undertime; to bring/drive the kids and his wife to the doctor. No matter if he's got an important appointment or is real busy at work. He would cancel or would do overtime. His family takes precedence first. Always.

And so it goes...he brought IC to the doctor. What did the doctor told him? 'I find it amazingly beautiful that you took the time to bring your daughter to the doctor. It is not often that I encounter things like that in my practice.'

Well, according to my husband, the doctor only said 'gut' but I want you to know how proud I am of my husband thus I have the license to exaggerate. Plus, I am so thankful to the doctor for speaking those words.

I have always taken it for granted that my husband would always be there for us. I didnt realize that he was doing something extraordinary. Thus, I am now telling him that I am really proud of him. I am sure the kids would also be telling him, that they are really proud of their papa.

You are one of a kind! And of course, though you always hear this; we want you to read it, too: We love you very much!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mama, Look!

We've got a house guest, a peacock butterfly, who stayed for two days. At first, the kids were scared seeing this fluttering thing inside the house; but they cant resist the excitement when they saw the colorful wings. I told them to simply look and enjoy this beautiful creature.

We tried to bring it outside during the first day but it wont fly into the direction of the open windows. The kids wanted to shoo it away, but I told them, to let the butterfly relax, too. Well, they did. Both kids were for the first time, quiet for the longest hour, they wanted to just look. They admired the butterfly in silent wonder.

On the second day, MC asked her Papa to help it fly out of the window. She knows that for the butterfly to survive, we must bring it outdoors. I dont dare touching it, I am afraid that it would crumble between my fingers. It looks so gentle and so fragile.

It took a few minutes before my husband could successfully bring it out. It simply clung to him for a bit there. The kids were sad that the butterfly is gone; but they are hopeful that they would see it alive, real soon.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Kid-Friendly Church

The kindergarten kids were again, present during a thanksgiving celebration in the church two Sundays ago. This is actually a regular activity in kindergarten; joining the church in special celebrations. The kids were proud to show off their well practiced song and dance number, each time.

But what was really the highlight of that celebration was how kid-friendly the church was. The lady priest, noting that there were more kids and youngsters during that time, have prepared for an exciting hour.

She have selected a short story, and a small game, that would involve the rest of the congregation. Everybody participated with glee. And that was a real hit! And then for the really small ones, the church have spread a blanket full of toys, right in the front corner of the pulpit (see photo No. 2).

The celebration was held without a restless soul in sight. The kids were happy, the youngsters got to enjoy and the parents and grandparents went through the one hour mass relaxed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

PMN Corner: On Halloween, Sunscreens and Dining

Here is what we did to the kids' collection of squash and nuts (see photo). Check out PMN: Home and Garden's The Clever Housewife's Tip on Halloween Decors Mostly for Free.

At PMN: Fashion and Personal Style, my post is about sun protections; emphasizing that we need them not only for the summer season.
Fresh air is good but we must not forget that children should be protected from direct sunlight. We dont want our kids to have problems later in life because of excessive exposure to the sun, right? Read here.
And I talked about enjoying dining out with kids at PMN: Parenting, read here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Our Garden

As a child, our backyard garden in Manila was surrounded with fruit bearing trees, vegetables and herbs. I can still remember the time spent climbing the kaimito (star apple), santol, guava, Indian mango, coconut and banana trees. Or the weekend routine of searching with hands and feet for potatoes and sweet potatoes. Plus collecting kangkong and malunggay leaves for another round of Nanay’s (mom’s) fast lunch.

And who can forget play ‘cooking’ with the use of aloe vera leaves? Those were the best times. It saddened me when the big plot of land had to give way to apartment compounds. Thus, instead of rich soil and fresh air; we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of cemented blocks and narrow spaces.

That is why, I am really happy to discover that my kids enjoy the ‘best of times’ of my childhood; though in another continent and with the variety of my childhood dreams. In our garden, there is something blooming, every season.

Our backyard garden alone produces strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber, melon, onions, carrots, garlic, different green salads, paprika and herbs such as parsley and chives. When these things are in season, we avoid going to the grocery’s produce section. We just stroll back for what we need. We just keep on adding (cocktail tomatoes for our little girl) or subtracting (no more chilli peppers), depending on the emerging favorites. My husband’s green thumb is the garden’s boon. My only contribution is to water them, and I sometimes manage to forget it.

My in-laws garden on the mountain, meanwhile, thrives with trees that bear apple, cherry, peach, almonds and other fruits that I cannot give a name in English for. The vines crawl with green and blue and red grapes or with red and blue raspberries. The shrubs teems with black and red currants, gooseberries and blackberries. The strawberries have their home here, too. Veggies include beans, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, leek, carrots, zucchini and lots more. I haven’t bothered to know the whole list because there is no specific harvest time. We go as we please, or depending on what we need.

My 86 year old father-in-law takes care of this garden. He drives his motorbike, almost everyday when weather permits, during summer. He mows, cuts the grass, waters the plants, crawl on his hands and knees to remove undesirables from creating damage to his precious plants. And the rest of the season, he just checks occasionally or before winter, he makes sure that the garden is ready for winter. Sometimes, my husband brings the whole family for a picnic there while he takes over the task from his dad. When we say picnic we mean, no picnic baskets — we just go around the garden and pluck what we need. Idyllic, really!

Who would have thought I’d find my secret ‘dream of a garden’ by getting married?

First posted at PMN:Home and Garden.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Heaven

Our friendly neighbor, who used to spoil the kids with gifts, died last night.

The kids know he is sick, but how to tell them that he is already dead? I dont really know how to start. I learned about this sad news around noon. It seemed he died around 8 pm last night, during the time when we were busy getting the kids ready for bedtime.

I wanted to call my husband to tell him the news but I dont want the kids to hear about it. I wanted to be prepare for an answer, in case they begin asking 'sensitive' questions. So I didnt tell them anything.

But tonight, as our ritual, IC and I began exchanging our preliminary bedtime routine, the 'question and answer portion'. She was asking me why I was talking to the neighbors for a long time at noon time, so I had to tell her why. I always wanted to be honest with the kids and so it goes,

Mama: 'Do you remember our neighbor who used to give you candies and gummi bears?'
IC: 'Hmm, I dont know.'
Mama: 'I'm sure you'll remember them. We used to visit them in that house.' (me pointing which house)
IC: 'Oh, yes. He is sick.'
Mama: 'Well, he is very sick. He died last night.'
IC: 'Oh, I know. He is now in heaven.'

That was that. Oh so casually said. I need not have worried! Kids are really clever, arent they?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Tooth Fairy Comes Only Once?

MC's recently lost her two front teeth, only one day apart. Those moments where the highlights for this week, of course. She's been playing with those loose teeth for a few weeks now; and when they finally gave in to all her tugs and tongue playing, she's real happy and very proud.

She had to inform almost everybody she's met that she's got the 'growing up gum holes'; with a sweet smile. Not to mention the telephone calls to the relatives and friends, even burning lines on international calls, with a smile, too; as if they would really see her lost front teeth.

Now the real dilemma is about the tooth fairy. Would she always get gifts from the tooth fairy everytime she lost a tooth? The second time she lost a tooth and found nothing on her pillow from the tooth fairy; she was really heartbroken. She cried bitterly. She stopped only when I told her to try searching again (by that time I have already sneaked in a gift).

I was in the toy shop yesterday when I met with an acquaintance. I already got the tooth fairy gift for MC when we got to chat. She told me that she wanted to stop this thing about the tooth fairy with her daughter, but then through stories from friends and in kindergarten, she had to give in. But she explained the tooth fairy leaves a gift for the first tooth only.

Now, that's a great idea. But these are now the 5th and 6th felled teeth from MC, what shall I do? I tried a simple explanation: by telling her that the 6th tooth would be the last visit from the tooth fairy because other children should also be taken cared of. MC accepted that.

And today, she came to me with this question: but why is that that A got only one gift from the tooth fairy? That was the daughter of the woman who I chatted up with yesterday, haha! Well, I told her, then consider yourself lucky! I got a smile for an answer.

Now I am trying to introduce to her the song that goes 'all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth' :D

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mama, is this healthy?

Photo: MC harvesting grapes from opa's garden

MC has been pestering me with this question since last week, everytime she's got something to eat on her hands or she sees something on the table. 'Mama, is this healthy?'

I know that they would be starting a nutrition program in kindergarten, so I have to be careful with my answer. I told her that most food are good for us, for as long as we dont overeat. Good thing, too, that they were on a fruit diet last week. They snacked only on nectarines, apples, pear and grapes. But of course, they get the regular meals which include pasta, rice and bread.

Oh well, the kids were both nursing cough and cold last week, too. But since our doctor is a naturopathist, it was also easier to explain to her that the medicine they were taking in to cure their cough and cold are only coming from natural sources, from plants and herbs. Thus, healthy.

I was a bit sceptic to bring the kids to this doctor, because he is not a pediatrician; but after what happened to MC during this particular visit with her pedia, the trust wasnt not really there anymore. Since my husband and I are satisfied with our relations with this naturopathist as our doctor; we asked him if he could handle the kids, too. He agreed. For the girls' first visit, he simply talked to them, introduced himself for them to get used to them. An added attraction was the candy container right in front of the reception hall! Now, they cant wait to go visit the doctor!

Anyway, back to the nutrition program called 'Komm mit in das gesunde Boot' (Join us in the healthy boat). The kindergarten would be doing this from October 2007 to April 2008. The kids would be rediscovering food and drinks together. They would join in grocery shopping, preparing and cooking/baking the food, to setting the table, and until eating/drinking together. They would even visit the neighboring farmlands to learn where most food come from. And, they would be introduced to exotic dishes from other countries! The program sounds like an adventure.

It is interesting to note that each parents would also be asked to be present in one time or another. I am already eager to join them. And my husband warned me that I might be asked to cook for them. Oh yeah, Filipino food in kindergarten? Why not?

MC's group would be starting with the program tomorrow. Her first assignment? To bring 2-3 different kind of food. And she particularly asked for rice, pasta and some fruit. Well, she'll get those too!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Frühkartoffeln: New Potatoes

Frühkartoffeln or new potatoes are becoming a popular vegetable dish. You might have seen new potatoes listed in menus and offered in supermarkets, but the truth is, true new potatoes are rare to find.

Jeff Cox of The Organic Cook’s Bible says that ‘real new potatoes are harvested from the plant’s trailing underground roots while the plant is still growing. They tend to be small and their skins are thin and flaky. They are prized for their fine, delicate flavor, so if you find them — usually when the first early summer crop is still weeks from harvest … nab them. I’ve never seen them sold anywhere but at the farmers’ markets and roadside stands, but they may start appearing in specialty markets.’

Sometimes, small waxy potatoes are also being termed “new potatoes”. But the fact is, new potatoes are immature potatoes harvested in the spring and early summer. In Germany, you can find new potatoes in the Pfalz, where they start reaping them up at least 2-3 weeks even before the rest of the regions would be harvesting their own new potatoes.

How can you find out if your potato is really new? By its skin - it would be flimsy, and parchment-like. The skin would be so thin, you can readily peel them off with your fingers. You need to use them within a few days after buying them, as they are perish faster.

Although new potatoes have a normal shelf life of several weeks, storage facilities are crucial. The storage area should be cool, dark, and well ventilated. Exposing the potatoes to direct sunlight can build up green areas, which would turn them bitter. And don’t forget to trim the sprouts as they might contain a mildly toxic compound called solanine. Potatoes may be kept in the high-humidity drawer of a refrigerator, but should be taken out and left in a warm place a few days before use. This is to allow the sugar to convert back to starch.

These new potatoes are much loved due to their creamy texture and high moisture content. Since they can be cooked whole, they are mostly roasted or steamed. If they are to be cooked with the skin, scrub the exterior gently. But peeled or unpeeled, they can also be enjoyed stewed, pureed, boiled, baked, fried and microwaved. New potatoes can either be teamed up with butter, salt, sour cream, curd cheese, onions, parsley, chives, paprika or oil.

Our kids top the new potatoes with butter and salt, and they have their full meal. Other cooking styles can be done and exotic spices and veggie combinations can be created too — simply experiment!

Here is a home favorite:

new potatoesSteamed New Potato with Curd Cheese

For potatoes:
a dozen new potatoes
a pinch of salt
a pot half filled with water

Add the pinch of salt in the pot and let the water boil. Then steam the freshly scrubbed new potatoes. Turn down the heat. Let cook until potatoes are soft.

For Curd Cheese:

500 g curd cheese
2 tbsp. milk
1 cup sour cream
a pinch of salt
chopped chives
chopped onions

Mix the ingredients together except the chopped chives. When done, sprinkle with the chives.

Guten appetit!

This is my first article published at PMN: Food and Cooking.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Never Barefoot

Photo: 1) MC at Costa Brava in Spain (2005); 2) The kids enjoying a quick sandy break; but keep your shoes on, please (2007)!

The kids love walking barefoot at home. I love walking barefoot too. But, never outside.

Another hard rule that the kids follow is never walk the streets barefoot nor explore a strange area barefoot. In our garden is not a problem. But running along the streets or playing in some strange sanded area barefoot are big no-nos.

This decision is influenced by a bad experience we had in 2005. MC joined a playmate and her mom to play in the sea near our place. While playing barefoot along the sandy shore, she stepped on a used injection (syringe) needle.

The lifeguard sprayed disenfectant on her foot but it was not treated as something alarming. When MC got home, she was whimpering and haltingly told her story. The first question that her playmate's mom asked was if she's got a shot against tetanus. Oh, yeah, she's got those and more.

What I understood was that she stepped on a nail (in the German language, nagel is nail; needle is nadel); I didnt realize that there's a big, alarming difference between stepping on a nail and an syringe needle.

It was two weeks after that incident happened that we got the story cleared up. During the barbecue party from kindergarten. The kindergarten adminstrator casually asked us what we did after MC stepped on the needle. Oopps, now I heard it right. That was NADEL and not NAGEL. My husband panicked. We almost didnt enjoy the party; we simply wanted to go home to quiz again MC's playmate's mom on what really happened. And when we did, the culprit was an injection needle.

Stepping on a nail is one thing, but on a needle, from a used injection? That was really bad news. It got our imagination running: what if that needle was used by a drug addict or drug addicts? Would she be infected with hepatitis? Would it be HIV? My husband's horrible imagination got the best of us. I tried to calm him because in doing so, I am also calming myself.

He called for a doctor appointment immediately. The very next day, we were at the doctor's office. The doctor quizzed me. He noted that it would have been best to secure the syringe so that it could also be examined; but who would have thought of that? Now we know, but it's too late.

MC underwent a lot of blood tests; the doctor and the nurses had to put gloves to do the tests, which they never did before. But I ignored the implications. I stubbornly keept my faith and optimism. I had too or I would go crazy. It is enough that I am seeing my husband worrying himself crazy. My family needed me.

After a day, the blood tests came negative for hepatitis, that's good news. But they wanted to do another blood tests for HIV. To make sure. Wow, that rattled us a bit, more than a bit actually. It almost killed us.

The day we got the test result was the day before our long awaited vacation to the Spanish beaches. The vacation should have been an exciting prospect, but because of waiting for the unknown, we simply cant focus on the fun awaiting us. The girls were happy, though. We tried so hard to be as normal as possible, though our thoughts were chaos.

We also had some guests from the Philippines who had no idea what kind of torment we are suffering; the wait was simply torture! If I could do something to ease the torment, I would do it; but all I can do was wait and keep my faith.

And then at 4 pm; the call. My husband got the phone. He took the call in the kitchen, and after a few minutes he came back and gave me a long, tight hug. He was already crying when he said, 'it's all okay.' Whoosshhh... I could faint with happiness. What a relief!

Nope, I didnt cry when I heard the good news. I felt real joy. Like maybe winning the million lottery so many times over. Our friends were really confused because my husband was crying and I was cheering. That was when I told them the story. That was when I cried. And that's why, never barefoot!

And our Spanish vacation? It was a dream!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

PMN Fam Pics: Green Sofa

I want this green sofa out of our living room! Actually, this is part of our sala set. And I hated the whole set. The color is simply too bleeeh! Don't you think so too? My husband wanted to buy a new set, he's been bugging me for the past years; but though I dont like the green sofa, I dont want to say yes. Why? I wont have a peace of mind with two very active and experimental toddlers running here and there with their pens and sticky hands. Not to mention when they have playmates around, arrgh!

Though I hated it, I have to keep it for a few more years. That's my decision and am sticking stubbornly to it. So what remains is my imagination and my creativity. I try to pimp it up with colorful throw pillows and for special occasions, I have colorful rugs thrown over them. Voila, the hated green things disappear. Meantime, I try satisfy myself by looking at catalogues for the next perfect couch and sofa set.

Read here to learn more about the PMN Fam pics.
  1. Julie: Environmental Responsibilities
  2. Analyse: The Colors of Burgundy
  3. MegaMomGreen Thumb
  4. Mitch: On Nature
  5. Noemi: Luijoe's meadow
  6. Rachel: My boy in green
  7. Vicky: Green
  8. Lynn: Going Green
  9. KK: I love green
  10. Lisaflor: My little alien boy
  11. Mommy Chi: The Green Room
  12. Cookie: Go green!
  13. Auee: What is your green rating?