Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Rituals 2010

In 2009, the dream of spending New Year’s Eve on the beach was realized. It was something to watch the fireworks along the shore while a big band, a long buffet table and the resort people entertains us.

This year, we are back into our mixture of Philippine-German New Year’s Eve rituals.

But first I have an inspiration and decided to add another ritual early this morning. Since the girls are old enough to hold responsibilities at home; I told them that we need to tidy up and clean our house before the year ends because that would mean a clean and tidy house all year round -- although both of them mumbled and told me 'you dont have to repeat that.' I saw that they have started sorting out their things and have cleaned up their corners, even though they are still in their pajamas! Arent I clever?

Then girls gave me suggestions on what kind of rounded fruits they wanted to have on our table. But first, I have to answer this, ‘why do we need only the rounded ones?’

I informed them that in the Philippines, rounded fruits are always on the table when the New Year comes because they are supposed to bring good fortune. As is wearing clothes with that are dotted or with circular patterns, loading pockets and wallets with coins, creating loud noises (that would include the fireworks), leaving doors and windows open to let good fortunes in, and if you wish to grow taller – start jumping when the clock strikes midnight. Plus, it is always best to have the whole family at home because it would mean keeping the family one the whole year through.

In Germany, the rituals woes good fortune, too.

Although the Opa is not here anymore to bring us the giant pretzel, the chimney sweeper figures, the clover plants, the lady bug chocolates and the marzipan pigs; my husband and I decided to continue the tradition.

Of course, we might watch the comedy skit Dinner for One when and if the girls would allow us. And we have already lined up some table fireworks and the much awaited Bleigissen, the kits could be brought in most stores; the ritual which is done when a candle is lit and small chunks of lead are melted in a spoon held over the candle. The molten lead is then quickly poured into a bucket of cold water where it hardens and a form would be determined. The shape of the lead would determine the future of the person for the year to come.

Our sparkling wine is being chilled out in the snow. Though we wont have the traditional fondue or raclette, there would be finger foods, cold (sparkling wine, liquor) and warm drinks (glühwein, cacao and tea) to keep us up and awake until midnight!

As usual, we would try to take a nap with the girls; but if not, we would let them sleep until late and would shake them awake a few minutes before midnight.

Wishing everybody a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Das Christkind Kommt (The Christ Child Comes)

In Germany, Santa Claus or St. Nicholas arrives every December 6, bearing gifts. Therefore, German kids wait for the Christkind (Christ Child) to bring the gifts for Christmas.

What is the Christkind? It is a Christmas figure developed by church reformer Martin Luther in the 16th century; in anticipation of the coming of Christ. Christkind or Christ child, is a representation of Jesus as a child. Traditions have expanded the Christkind role in certain parts of Germany, Austria, and other countries nearby. Today, towns may elect a teen girl to play the Christ child for several weeks during the Christmas season; dressed as a winged blonde teenage girl, usually bedecked in white and gold. The angelic symbol has been particularly revived in place like Nuremburg, Germany, since the end of World War II. One tradition that dates back centuries is the christkindlesmarkt, a Christmas market held in various towns each year.

My girls cannot wait for das Christkind to come. Because our tradition is: the Christmas tree would not have any gifts under it until the Christmas Eve, after das Christkind has visited us.

What we do is go to church together. After the mass, the girls and their Papa would go for a stroll while I am allowed to go home to help the Christ Child to carry the gifts and place them under the Christmas tree. The girls would be too excited and would usually beg to go home with me; but we tell them the surprise would be better -- which always is!

Oh, just last night IC came to me in bed and whispered, 'Mama, please tell das Christkind to write my name on the gifts in block letters so I could read them clearly.' Sweet girl!

But before the girls would be allowed to open their gifts; there would be singing and poems especially prepared for das Christkind; and then Christmas dinner would be served. I am sure today would be a great day!

WISHING YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oma's Memories

Today is Oma's (Grandma) birthday.

Since the girls are opening their advents calendar, they know what day it is (the 21st); and because we wanted them to remember, we told them that it is also Oma's birthday.

We dont want them to forget. They know that Oma is already in heaven; and when Opa died last month, we realized that they are now old enough to understand loosing someone.

But what surprised us is that they have the intense need to take souveniers; to preserve memories; to remember.

Take for instance our Christmas tree, they are full of Oma and Opa's Christmas items.

And almost daily, there is a mention of Oma.

Every time they ask me to spread butter on their bread, they would always tell me that Oma does it perfectly -- Oma tends to use more butter. The butter would be thick and you wont see any bread corners!

After eating fruits, they would remind me that Oma always said it is bad to drink something or else they would have a stomachache.

They love using Oma's pink and lila apron when helping in the kitchen, it made them feel better, (unfortunately, made them know better than me!) with the household.

Once every week, they demand to have Oma's Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce with 'Krakale' on top. 'Krakale' is homemade croutons. It is a good thing I asked Oma to teach me how to do it way, way before. It has always been a favorite but we havent written down the recipe, we had to memorize it.

Christmas time is always baking time with Oma. One thing we dont miss baking is 'buttergebackenes' (butter cookies); this time, we had to search the internet for the recipe. The recipe from Oma is still in one of the boxes, somewhere.

Oh, the girls have kept the bottle of perfumes they found in Oma's house. They spray them on sometimes because they wanted to smell like Oma. They remember how Oma loves to give them a quick spray once in while during visits.

What about Oma's clothes and shoes? Of course, they have kept one or two of them, too. They want to look so elegant like Oma, they said. Oma loves to dress up and she dont miss her weekly salon visits; the girls are simply fascinated! Some of Oma's accessories and knick-knacks they have kept as souvenirs, too.

Although Oma's in heaven, her memories live. And the girls savor them with glee.

Happy Birthday, dear Oma!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Christmas Tree of Memories

Our Christmas tree is up.

At first, my husband wanted to pass the Christmas season without a Christmas tree (I think it is too much for him just weeks after Opa's death). But the girls wanted a tree, and of course, I wanted one, too.

After a short negotiation, we agreed to have a small tree; we nodded in skipping the mistletoe and grabbed some window lights.

But what about the decor for our Christmas tree? We havent really settled down yet and most of our things are still in the boxes; and buying new ones doesnt seem practical as we have loads of them buried in some of those boxes.

Finding those decors would be out priority indeed. And yet... you know what the first things we saw as we were sorting out the empty house of Opa? The Christmas decors collected for years by Opa and Oma!

The girls were thrilled because some of those Christmas balls and figurines were their favorites -- in fact, they remembered that they have extracted a promise from their grandparents that they would only be allowed to bring those home when they wont be needing them anymore. They did try most Christmas, to beg for one item but Oma's answer would always be, 'you could always come to us and you would see your favorite things.'

MC also looked in frenzy for Opa's Christmas pyramid; she told Opa before that she wanted to have the pyramid when Opa doesnt want it anymore. After days of searching, we found it.

Although we were all a bit disappointed because the pyramid needs some repair; the girls decided to just place it under the Christmas tree because as they said 'this is our Christmas tree of memories.' While busy hanging the balls, the figurines, the bells, the glitter strands; the girls reminisced on how Opa and Oma's Christmas tree always seem to be filled with colors. They love it that now we have our Christmas tree of colors and memories.

A Christmas Pyramid (German: Weihnachtspyramide) is a Christmas decoration that has its roots in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Germany but has become popular throughout the country. It is suggested that the Christmas pyramid is a predecessor of the Christmas tree. It is a kind of Carousel with several levels some depicting Christian motifs, such as angels or manger scenes, and others with more secular motifs such as mountain-folk, forests, and other scenes from the everyday life of people in the Erzgebirge. The spinning motion of the pyramids is traditionally achieved with the help of candles whose rising heat spins a propeller above. Generally Christmas pyramids are made of wood and based on four- to eight-sided platforms with a long pole in the middle serving as the axle to which the entire apparatus tapers above and which supports any further platforms. Inside in a glass or ceramic support is a driveshaft on to which at least one platform is attached. The figures, which stand on the platforms are also traditionally made of wood.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advents Calendar 2010

December 01, the traditional countdown for Christmas started with the opening of the first window of the advents calendar.

And I realized just how time changes.

When before, it would usually take me the whole eleven months before December to collect, prepare and create the girls' advents calendar; now it took only a day.

No, they dont want me to buy 24 surprises (48 actually) to be placed inside calendar.
No, they dont want me to create my own design again.

They have already decided. They wanted a playmobil advents calendar.
Yet I still asked, 'Should I change the packaging so that it wont be in the box?'

Their answer was, 'No Mama, the playmobil calendar is good enough as it is.'

I thanked them for sparing me the work; but honestly, I missed the exciting chance to collect the 48 items. And I admit that I miss being creative for my girls.

What I did is create a Christmassy corner and planted their playmobil advents calendar. It made them happy, me, too!

But wait, it turned out; it's a role reverse.

My girls were the ones secretly collecting, preparing and creating our advents calendar! I didnt realize the meaning of their long absence from our side. And those words: 'please knock before entering our room; please dont look on our table if you must enter our room.'

Yes, they are working on our advents kalendar. But, they excused themselves as they were not able to finish it on the first day of December, nor on the second day, nor on the third day,....

My husband and I told them to just go ahead and work on it leisurely. It would be fun to open more windows in one day after all!

They did finish the calendar today :-D

Friday, December 10, 2010

And MC's Nine!

Dear MC,

Today you turned nine. And let me tell you what happened when you were eight...

A year before you were still emotionally charged with the changes happening around you. The trip to the Philippines where everything's strange and new; but exciting yet frightening and threatening.

You experienced how the typhoon Ondoy flooded our house and saw how all our things floated. You were with me when we watched another typhoon bringing strong wind enough for all the trees around us to break. You kept vigil when there were no electricity for two days; and there were no water for a day.

You had a bit of difficulty with the environment and the new friends and the new school; but with the help of everbody around you; especially the family, the new friends and the school, and our househelp and the friendly neighborhood -- everything turned around with joy though with some caution.

It was in that school that you proudly received your Junior Certificate for Swimming after jumping three feet from the temporary jumping board, which is the rooftop on your school's poolside! Though you admitted, you almost didnt do it; and you did, you closed your eyes before jumping and then, jumped three times more, wow!The pool and the swimming lessons at school were definitely the hit for you.

You didnt want to leave the Philippines because the school there offers warm food. Plus, you could always go swimming anyday! You love the beach, too.

With your classmates, you got interested in Facebook but learned later it wasnt for you.

You also got comfortable with sleep overs; especially with Rosa, your new found best friend. You had friends sleeping over with us, and you were able to enjoy a few sleep overs in other friend's houses, too.

You go around the village confidently with your bike. You had pets. The birds that died one after the other, who made you cry. But I am proud because you took care of them personally -- feeding and cleaning their cages.

Then you got a mixed-breed dog, Candy, that you loved so much. Candy who you agreed to give up to a friend because we explained everything about the difficulty of bringing him with us to Germany, and you cried for him, too. I remember you were a bit frightened of him and yet you always offer to walk Candy. And you learned to wash him, to feed him, to play with him comfortably.

You also discovered you love lumpiang shanghai, siomai and rice with hotdog. That you could also eat fish and shrimps best than pork and beef. You also learned to appreciate spinach, peas and lettuce already! You hated them before, you know! Yet you missed picking fruits and climbing on trees in opa's garden.

You hate shopping and would rather stay at home than go for long drives. You would rather choose comfort than being beautiful. Barefoot is best for you.

You would have wanted any kind of portable games but would rather buy other toys than give a lot of money for one game. You learned to tell time and for that you choose a Hello Kitty wristwatch, in black with small dots of pink -- the choice of color suprised us, too.

You helped in the household chores, even though we have a housemaid. And when the housemaid is off duty, you accept your duty with pride. And back in Germany, you owed up to the cleaning of the bathroom, not the toilet seat of course :-D

You hated math, we always fought while learning, but in the end; with the right rhtymn, you are slowly being comfortable about it. You have also started reading for me at bedtime, instead of me reading for you.

As always, you love to talk about everything during bedtime. You ask very interesting questions which makes me think and learn more and be creative with my answers, too.

You also had your first communion with another close friend Erika, and your first confession. Your teacher and the priest; together with family and closest friends joined us in your chosen restaurant to celebrate. You invited your friends from Germany, unfortunately, all of them said Manila is too far away. Papa gave you a mobile phone that day, without with approval. But you were using the phone with respect and even learned more English words because of 'texting.'

You still love Spartacus, although you have a crush on the Jonas brother. You love watching Barbie series and hates it that they translate the songs into German because then you cannot sing along.

You sang the German version of Happy Birthday during a village party and you received a gift for your effort. (I didnt know you would go up that stage yet you did and I almost cried!!!)

You always think of the Opa. And was sad when you cannot talk to him properly over the phone. And was worried when he was hospitalized. And was shocked during your visit to him. And you cried when he died. And you bravely viewed his body. And was present during his funeral. You have a certain strenght in you.

Yet you also tell me of your fears -- you want to stay in the same neighborhood, you want to stay in the same school, you want to be with something familiar. Yet you are not afraid to nose around adventure; though it would take you time to decide when plunging in.

After 15 months in Manila, you understand and could speak a little Tagalog and I am really proud of that. You have mastered the English language, and have not forgotten your German.

In the beach of Huahin, Thailand you left a message in a bottle, would you receive any response at all?

During the visit to the Christmas market lately, you told us that your body cannot take a carousel ride anymore because you get headaches.

I know a lot about you because you love to talk. In fact, even if you are in one your tantrums, you could still talk a mile.

You are kind. You cannot resist opening your windows to beggars and street kids. You are careful, too. Taking time to sweeping a space with your eyes for fear of leaving anything. You notice a lot of things, too -- small, big, unnecessary and you share them to us.

I just hope you wont stop talking to us; being a wonderful sister to IC (I know, sometimes you cannot resist arguing and fighting with each other); being a wonderful daughter... although it was this past year that you were clinging more on your Papa than with me, but I understand that, too. He needed your warmth more, right?

I know you have still a problem with Math; to be frank with you, I still do, too. But we could solve that together, I just hope you would learn to ask for a break instead of crying and shouting and screaming. But you did promise you wont have any dramas while learning. I am crossing my fingers. Let me tell you this, I enjoy learning the German language with you and keeping up with my numbers, too.

For your birthday dinner, you requested spinach, fish chips and potatoes. We would enjoy that while listening to you again and again excitedly recounting how your day, your special day, went.

My darling MC, happy birthday. You are loved, very much!

Monday, December 6, 2010

St.Nicholas Day 2010

The girls are wondering if St. Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) is coming today.

Although they have accepted that St. Nikolaus is just a normal man in a costume; they are still hopeful ro find a glimpse of him. The excitement didnt dim just because they realize someone is only playing a role.

It has been a tradition that they meet St. Nicholas personally to receive their gifts. But this year, we dont have the time to prepare and the energy to really work on it. So we just thought of something else; which would be great for them, too.

We already informed them that St. Nicholas wont be able to personally come,  but that they would definitely get their gifts. This time, it would be a game, they need to find the gifts themselves. That made the girls more excited, a treasure hunt! I am glad they forgot their disappointed.

The night before, IC cant sleep and was just tumbling around, MC's a little bit out of the weather so she's already in bed but cannot sleep because of IC's excited chatter. When finally it was quiet on their side, I slipped out of bed and scattered Christmas chocolates around the house and placed their gifts in not-so-hard-to-find-places.

This morning, they were both up and ready for the treasure hunt. You could hear IC's squeals of delight, MC was taking it slowly. What tickled me was when they opened our house door and there were more gifts for them (Those were surprise gifts for the girls from our landlord)! IC cant help herself and shouted with glee.

I guess our St. Nicholas Day is a success!

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

IC Talks About Opa

The day after Opa's funeral, I fetched IC after school. As usual, I asked her about her day on our way home. She informed me that she told everybody about what happened.

Her own words:
Opa was in a box sorrounded by flowers. Everybody was singing for him.
And then they carried the box and pushed it until we reached Oma's grave.
The men laid the box inside the hole.
I was the first one in the line. I was allowed to shovel soil in the hole where Opa's box is.
Then we waited for all the people and we went to the cafe for some snacks.
And she excitedly added, 'I also told them that the piece of cake I have for school today? That was from the cafe yesterday.'

To me she said, ' you know what mama, we are lucky. Now we have two angels watching over us -- first the oma and now the opa.'

MC, learning about 'the box' reacted by saying 'that is not just a box; that is a special box.'

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

We bought our adventswreath from the Advent bazaar in the neighborhood flower shop the Sunday before. I always await the Advents bazaar, because for me, it is a solid sign that Christmas is fast approaching. Aside from the Advents calendar, which always makes the girls crazy :-D

My husband and I chose a simple adventswreath which would grace and light up our table until Christmas. The candles are all orange. Although, there's usually a traditional color being followed by the church -- violet for the first three Sundays, rose for the last Sunday and white for Christmas day.

Bluepanjeet.net states: Advent has a two-fold character, as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; and as a season when that remebrance directs our mind and heart to await Christ’s second coming at the end of time. Advent is a period of devout and joyful expectation.

As we light up the first candle, we think about our last advent celebrations; in Manila, in Germany with opa, and further down the road when oma was still with us. And we say thank you for the best memories and thank you, Lord, for the blessings given to us.

We await in grateful hope for a blessed Christmast filled with your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tschuss, Opa (Goodbye, Grandpa)

Auf wiedersehen, Opa.

Today, we really had to let you go.

Dont you know that the girls have been worrying, thinking ahead?
When they saw you thin and sick and not eating and in pain the whole time -- that few hours visit in the hospital left a very big impression. They were confused, and a little shocked.

When we left more than a year ago, you were still your usual, active self. The girls noticed the difference.

They wondered aloud if you would die. If you do, they asked where you would go. They wanted to know if you would be buried beside the oma (grandma), who left us two years ago. They are not sure if it is good for you to be placed on top of oma's grave. They insisted on passing by the cemetery to check oma's grave, which we did almost everyday.

They always got curious when there's a burial going on. They begged to see the open earth. They wanted to know what would really happen to you and where you would go.

And then, you are allowed to leave the hospital. The girls wanted to visit you. Unfortunately, you brought with you a virus that meant you have to be isolated; and gloves and mouth covers are needed to tend to you. We cannot risk the girls' health; although they do shout out loud 'OPA' whenever we pass by your house. Those were their usual antic before, remember? Those times, the girls decided to just draw all their love for you.

I think they understood although they have questions which we tried very hard to answer. Why could they not visit you when you are already at home? Because Opa have a bacteria that might endanger the health of kids like you. Why could we visit you and not them? Because we are bigger than you. Could they stay outside and say hello? Tomorrow, maybe. Could I have something that belongs to Opa? Of course, we would ask him.

I asked the girls to pray for you. The girls talks to Oma whenever we pass by the cemetery. We prayed for you, for the pain to go away. We asked Oma to hold your hands, if that would be possible. Maybe Oma could help you ease the pain?

And then November 17, around 3 am -- the call. Opa is dead.

The girls learned about it when they woke up. They wanted to see you. Maybe he is only on a deep sleep?

It was a normal day for them, they went to school. But back home, they wanted to do something for you. They drew and drew -- finished a  handful of drawings; for you, for Oma; and from IC, a drawing for God which you are supposed to bring to Him up there. The same night, when we have exhausted ourselves with storytelling and drawings -- MC suddenly realized that she wont be able to see you anymore, and the tears came.

We told her it is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad. We told her that you are still there for her; just that she cannot see you anymore. That she could always talk to you, anytime, anywhere. Like Oma, you are now an angel, too.

That decided it, the girls wanted to see you. Armed with their drawings for you, for Oma and for God; we went and viewed your body. They saw you: in white, with a white pillow and a white blanket. They said you look great. They left their drawings there, too; and some tears.

After that, they took it all in stride. They helped in almost everything especially everything about you. And today, during your funeral; they get dressed because they wanted to look good for you. They listened to the whole rites, and held themselves proud when their names were mentioned.

They participated and observed. They joined the coffee and cakes afterwards.

In the end, they walked back with us to the cemetery. They wanted to see if you are comfortable. They saw the flowers covering your fresh grave; and asking for your permission (The Opa said yes!), took each a stem of flower. They wanted to let it try and leave it pressed between the pages of their favorite books.

Happy with the flowers, they waved and laughingly said, 'Opa, du bist der Beste. Tschuss!' (Grandpa, you are the best, bye!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holding Hands

I love holding hands with my girls.

I love it when the girls would fight for my hands whenever we would go out for a walk.
Although I dont really understand why they would fight when I do have two hands, one for each of them!

MC just hates being on the side where my bag would be. And that's where the discussion and the fight would always start :-D
IC, she doesnt care; as long as she's holding my hand.

Releasing their hands would not be simple.
Sometimes, I have to tell them to march one by one when the sidewalk would be too narrow to fit the three of us holding hands.
Sometimes I would tell them to let loose when I have to get something from my bag. Or when I have to pay something. Or just because.

Just because wont do at all. I need a reason.

So I would tell them, look at the other kids. They are running alone. They are walking alone.
As long as you would take care, as long as you would take note of the road and the traffic around you -- it is perfectly okay not to hold hands.

So the girls would say, Okay!
And would reach out, and proceed to hold my hands.
I would grasp them automatically; hoping that the sidewalk would be wide enough to accommodate us, holding hands.

Wait a minute... it is fun to hold hands. It is warm -- not only during cold days, but it wraps my heart in warmth and love, too.

That decided it. I will enjoy holding hands with them as long as they want me, too. We would take narrow pathways sideways so that we wont have to release our hold. Or choose wider paths so that we wont have to break our stride, our grips.

And unless they wont let go, I would hang on.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's the season...

... for writing down lists!

I guess the girls are caught up with all the advertisements on TV; and the catalogues that we are receiving at home.

Because...

Both of them have already noted what they wanted for the following gift-giving days: St. Nicolas ( December 6), MC's birthday (Dec 10), Christmas Day (December 25, of course!), IC's birthday (13 April), Easter (24 April).

Mind you, their lists were complicated. But as the girls said, the right or wrong spelling doesnt matter -- as long as we could read and understand their list.

Again, there's a big discussion about electronic/console games. MC wants to have her own; because most of her friends have one or two.

I reminded her that we have agreed earlier, that she could only get one, if she would be able to pay for such items using her own money. Plus, if she's already good in her studies.

And would she rather have buttons to push alone than toys to play with her sister and her friends? She smiled knowingly, 'No Mama, I was only checking if you still remember that condition. Of course, I would love the toys and playing with other kids better, but asking doesnt hurt.'

Mmmm :-D

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Girls and Their Sick Opa

Their grandfather is sick.
He was in the hospital.

The kids visited them there. A series of strokes left him bedridden.
We tried to prepare the kids. We already told them that the Opa is sick.
Opa is thinner. Opa needs help. Opa is not so strong anymore.

When they arrived at the hospital, they both greeted the Opa. And then 8-year-old MC just looked at him and stayed a distance. Six-year-old IC watched closely. Both of them tried to help -- calling the attention of the nurses, giving Opa tissue papers, combing Opa's hair, offering him food, and with some prompting -- held Opa's hands.

After that visit, the kids were quiet on our drive home.
Why is it that Opa's like a child? Covering his head with his blanket?

Where would Opa be if the Oma is already inside? Would he be on top?

Lots of questions. Some have answers, some don't. Just remember, girls, the Opa loves you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Sister!

Oops, I know, you are not little anymore.
You are already in your early 30s.
And you are also bigger than me now :-D

But for me, you are still my little sister.
The one with the killer eyes. And I mean literally and figuratively.
I remember that even our father would figure out in fights just because you threw someone your killer stare and made them uncomfortable.

I would remember you as the one always in the middle of arguments. I remember that with five siblings -- you are the only one that brought our parents to the school guidance counsellor; not only once but how many times. I remember that one time, you brought the whole family in tears just because... and you brought people in tears just because...

But despite all those misunderstandings, I would like to call them now; we managed, and you managed yourself good (despite jumping into different universities and changing your courses).

I didnt know that you would follow my steps -- going into writing and the love of words. I didnt know you had it into you to be the president of the university's student council! I didnt know a lot about you, but now, I am glad I am knowing more about you.

Imagine, more than 30 years of being sisters and I am just starting to get to know you. And I am enjoying knowing about you, as my girls are enjoying knowing you.

Distance doesnt matter, little sister.
You are remembered with pride and joy and much love on your special day.

Happy Birthday, Anna.

P.S. The girls want lumpiang shanghai be delivered to us as according to them, you are sure to have them on your birthday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dear hospital staff...

Dear doctors, nurses, caregivers and other  hospital staff;

I know you are all busy.
The hospital is understaffed.
You are all overworked. Stressed.
You have also your own problems.
We understand that and all others.

Please understand us, too.
We dont want our loved ones to be in the hospital but because they need extra medical attention, we left them to your capable hands.

When you come in the room... we would appreciate it, really...
How about a smile?
How about talking to our loved one, asking him what he needs, what hurts -- and trying to disguise the urgency in your voice?
How about letting him feel human by touching him, through eye contacts?
How about some nice words when you pass by?

The tender loving care, the love, we are always ready to give; but sometimes we need a little help from you out there, too.
Thank you very much.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Girls' Checklist 2

Checklist 1 was posted last October 18, that was a school day list.

I saw another checklist from the girls for their weekend activities and here's what they have:

IC's list
- aufroimen: 60 mins (cleaning/clearing up)
- tringbause: 5 mins (drink break)
- spirlen (playtime)
- bause: 30 mins (break)
- spile + tringbause: 5 min (playtime + drink break)
- bause

MC's list
- duschen (shower)
- trinkbause (drink break)
- aufroimen (clean/tidy up)
- bause (break)
- spielen (playtime)
- fernsen + pause (watch tv + break)
- fernsen (watch tv)
- spielen + bause (playtime + break)
- spielen (playtime)
- bause (break)
- aufroimen + bause (tidy up + break)

All items have been ticked off. I love that they include cleaning and clearing their rooms in their checklists; and that they do, tidy up!

P.S. I copied those lists word for word, spelling errors included :D

Monday, October 18, 2010

Checklist 1

IC's tscheklist

- schauer (shower)
- essen (breakfast)
- salegeh (go to school)
- essen + hausaufgaben (lunch + homework)
- bause (break)

MC's tschecklist

- sauer (shower)
- essen (breakfast)
- schulegehen (go to school)
- essen + hausaufgaben (lunch and homework)
aufroimen + trinkbause (tidy up and drink break)
- bause (break)
- spielen + trinkbause (playtime + drink break)

I saw this checklist in MC's room last September. It seems that the girls have their days scheduled and are doing a regular checking on their lists, too. Yes, they really tick off every items after doing them :D

IC copies from her big sister; and I love that they have inserted TRINKBAUSE (drink breaks) in between because that is important especially during warm days.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Overnights and the Rules

My girls have been invited to slumber parties, but almost always; they would end up going home with us. Even though all their bags are packed already.

Maybe it's because my husband was not yet ready, too. Because although he would say the girls could decide, one would still hear the hesitation.

That changed when MC was invited to a birthday party. It was the big wish of the birthday girl, Rose, which is MC's closest friend -- she wants a slumber party. Almost all of the girl's in class were invited; and MC caught up with the excitement, too. She declared she would go.

My husband and I agreed because we know the girl and her family; and MC and Rosa has been playing together and been visiting each other for sometime.

But of course, there are rules to follow:
- You are not supposed to leave the house
- You would be picked up, unless something came up; in which we would call Rosa's mama and we would ask her to pass the phone to you if there are other arrangements made
- You can always call us anytime
- Be a good girl
- Dont forget to brush your teeth

How was her first slumber party? Fun!

And of course, IC wanted to experience it, too. Easily arranged. She got invited, and she stayed! Although at first she was not yet 100% sure; she just said just pack my bag and I would let you know. She did let us know.. a few minutes in her friends's house and she turned to us and asked 'why are you still here?'

My girls are growing up :D

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Tooth Fairy Found the Right Address

So IC's got a loose tooth.

After a week, she was holding the tooth between her fingers, amazed that it came of easily. She ran immediately to the mirror, and was shocked that there's a little blood there. Ugh!

Despite some fear and much excitement, she didnt forget that the tooth fairy would be coming next! Yipee!

The problem is, she is supposed to be spending her FIRST overnight slumber party in a friend's house; on the same night that the tooth fairy is supposed to come. And her friend's house is at least 30 minute drive from our place.

Afraid that the tooth fairy would not find the right address, she decided to leave her tooth under her pillow, in her bed, at home. Of course, we are all instructed not to open her bedroom door so that the gift from the tooth fairy would not be lost. She is the only one allowed to go inside her room, please.

The next day when she arrived home, although bursting with stories, she decided to run to her room first; of course, closely followed by her friend and her sister.

She slowly opened her bedroom door, stood in the middle of it for a minute to make sure that everything still looks the same -- and looked under her pillow.

When we heard the shouts upstairs, we knew that the tooth fairy found the right gift for her; and it was delivered to the right address, too!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

She's in Grade One!

Einschulung, the first day of school for first graders.

A major event much awaited not only by the future grade one pupils; but of the whole family as well. It is a tradition in Germany to celebrate this day in grand style.

The preparation is not only done academically, but also in a real style. In IC's school -- a few months before the end of their pre-schooler term; moms and dads and siblings, too -- gathered after school to create the special Schultüte or the school cone.

With a pot luck snack giving us more energy and keeping the kids a little busy; everybody started crafting the specially designed school cone. IC wanted something girly and pink, of course! Next thing would be the surprise goodies that would go inside the cone.

Other preparation highlights during the school break, IC was the one who pushed for all of these things:
- she started with intensive reading. She said she wanted to learn how to read already so she would always ask us to read for her more than once a day.
- she started, together with her sister, writing letters for the whole family, almost nightly
- together with her sister, she would sit down with some Math problems; we even started with those flash cards
- she wants to know more about the planets, the world, etc.

She was so concentrated on learning more; that in most cases, we would be the one asking her to take a break or to play!

Of course, my little fashionista would not forget to prepare for:
- her first day of school attire. It took us hours to find her the right set of clothes and the coolest pair of shoes
- her Schultasche or her school bag set. Which was a gift from her grandpa in Germany, good thing it came on time :D
- she always reminded us not to forget her surprises in the cones and proceeded to tick her list :D

She was so concentrated on ticking down her list that it would almost always bring her to frenzy, but hey, it is only once that you get to enjoy the Einschulung, right?

So on the day of the Einschulung, she was up early; she dressed up with her new clothes and shoes; she carried her new school bag; and as nonchalantly as possible, greeted her classmates (who are all bursting with excitement) who are already gathered inside the auditorium for the first graders' Einschulung welcome
 party.

Family, relatives are invited. The first graders were the VIP guests, and they were all so proud they couldnt barely sit still; most especially when their names were called to receive their most awaited Schultüte. And when they were asked to join their respective teachers in their classrooms -- it was chaos because the parents and grandparents just cant get enough photos! Good thing the kids took it all in stride, after all, they are now in Grade One!

Cool!

September 17, 2010
Manila

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Loose Tooth and Not A Lie

IC wants to let her grandfather know that she's got a loose tooth.


This is her first loose tooth which she actually tried to keep a secret for a whole week because her older sister just had a visit with the dentist where teeth extraction was done. IC was afraid she would need to go to the dentist to have her loose tooth extracted :D
But when the excitement was too much, she proudly announced it to us during breakfast. And she wanted the whole world to know -- showing off her loose tooth to everyone who cares (and those who doesnt care included).

Therefore, a must is a call to her grandfather in Germany.
And it goes: 'Opa, I've got a loose tooth,' she said.

Opa, who already uses a hearing aid; took sometime before realizing that it was IC who was calling. By the time he understood what was being shared, IC had passed the phone to her big sister, MC. And I have already turned on the phone's speaker.

Opa asked MC when we would come to visit him in Germany. MC replied, maybe this Christmas. Which Opa understood to be 'this Sunday.'

'Are you coming this Sunday?' he said. MC doesnt know what to say and just repeated 'Maybe this Christmas.' Which the Opa didnt understand as he kept on repeating, 'This Sunday.'

Before MC could explain again, the line got disconnected.

Actually, MC was in a dilemma; which she admitted to her little sister. She doesnt want to disagree on what Opa perceived her heard, as she doesnt want him to be sad.

But IC's voiced out opinion seemed to have decided everything when IC said, 'It is a good thing you didnt say yes, or else, that would be a lie.'

Friday, September 17, 2010

How do you best deal with family misunderstandings?

By talking about it.

By listening.

By listening to the silence that would follow.

By listening to your your heart.

By feeling and sending love, love, love.

By feeling and sending more love, more love, more love especially when there is distance.

Accept. There is anger, there is hurt, there is misunderstanding, there is understanding.

And always, there is love. Talk about love. Listen to love. Feel love. Accept love.

For love conquers all, including family misunderstandings.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

With you, with papa, with my sister

It is the 'ber' month in the Philippines.

September signals the start of the Christmas season preparations. Actually, there were already early Christmas season sale in some of the bigger warehouse stores last August!

MC was telling some friends that she is looking forward to spending the Christmas season in Germany. I told IC about it and asked her, 'Mein Schatz, do you want to spend Christmas with the Opa in Germany or with your grandparents here in the Philippines?

She responded with urgency, 'Mama, I would like to spend Christmas with you, with papa and with my sister! Where we go doesnt matter at all as long as we are together.'

IC was thinking she would be spending the Christmas alone with either Opa or with her maternal grandparents! I hugged her and assured her that we would be spending Christmas together, as always.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our 9th Wedding Anniversary

August 10, 2010 at 6:30 am -- Not yet fully awake, I saw my husband leaving what seems to be something white near me. Squeezed between the sleeping girls, I cannot move to find out. You see, the night before, the girls and I decided to have our special bonding night where we camped in front of the living room and watched TV until late.

Around 8 am, I woke up and almost forgot about that something white. It fluttered on the floor. I saw it was a letter. I saw it was an anniversary love letter!

Oh my, shame on me. I completely forgot our wedding anniversary. When I told the girls, they also complained saying it is unfair. 'Why did you not tell us earlier? Then you are to blame if you wont get any gifts from us,' they said.

To atone, I declared that the whole day would just be a family day, as every wedding anniversary celebration we had. The girls could choose where we would go and do during the day and I could choose where we would have dinner. Everybody agreed!

Traditionally, we always celebrate our wedding anniversay in the hotel-restaurant where we had our wedding reception; but since we are in the Philippines and not in Germany -- we just enjoyed the memories of that day and that place.

We went to SM Mall of Asia, the largest mall in Asia -- and had a beautiful wedding anniversary celebration while enjoying shopping and stuffing ourselves with the tasteful offers in the different restaurants and food stalls around the mall.

Since I was the one who forgot our wedding anniversary this year, I paid everything :D Which was rewarded with, 'Mama, when is your next wedding anniversary? Let's do this again.'

That's precious!

Monday, August 23, 2010

But they look normal!

The girls dont usually stay around when it is my turn to watch the news on television; but a few nights ago, they did.

There they saw the uniformed policemen chasing the supposedly bad guys; whom they cornered, handcuffed and presented to the television crews.

And the bad guys were wearing t-shirts and jeans, sweating and asking for forgiveness.

IC asked me, 'Who are those in t-shirts and jeans?'

I told her that those are the bad guys. 'But they look normal to me.'

MC, who's been listening, repeated,  'They are normal people. Dont bad guys always wear black?'

I smiled and told her those bad guys in black are mostly actors acting as bad guys; and mostly found not in real life.

So I gathered my girls around me and told them that sometimes, you wont know if a person is good or bad just by looking at them. Nor would you know that they would do harm if they are wearing black clothes.

The best thing to do is this. Just be careful and be aware of your sorroundings.

When something or someone or a place makes you uncomfortable, let us know. Talk about it. Always talk about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

There's a snake in our garden!

Dont we just get stranger visitors these past weeks?
First those burglars, then the snake!

Early morning, our househelp was tending the garden. A thing she normally get busy without any major problems; though we always tell her to be careful in those wires around the mango tree.

This particular morning, she came to me a little excited and a bit off color, 'Ma'am, you know what, I saw a baby snake under the big pot in the garden!'

Yiiiii, I got scared in that second, too and immediately asked her what she did to the snake!

She was trying to use a stone to bash the snake, but it turned out that the snake was not affected at all. Good thing another guy came to help her. They were able to place the snake inside a bottle, alive!

So, my dilemma then was; should I tell the girls or not? I wouldnt want them to refrain from stepping out in our garden just because of that snake! I told my husband and both of use decided, it is good for the girls to know so that they would be more careful.

Both girls gingerly walked to where the bottle with the snake is located; examined it with disgust and left. But not before listening to our lecture:

- If they are looking for things around the garden especially in the bushes; they better make loud noises to scare those snakes away
- Use sticks and tap them on the ground and use it to clear those bushes if searching for something
- Better make giant steps that would create noise when playing around the garden
- Avoid overgrown bushes and tall grasses
- Do not lift any big stones or big pots that has long been left untouched
- Do not hop on logs and big stones in unfamiliar sorroundings
- Wear pants and shoes when playing on a field
- And on encountering a snake, get out of the way, fast!

When I was a teen-ager, (that was a long, long time ago) we encountered a snake while looking for a place to picnic. Actually, it was a cobra and was ready to strike. Good thing everybody moved out of the way fast! Even the older ones were able to jump a fence withour breaking anything; when a few minutes before that they were already complaining they cannot walk anymore :D

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Get well soon, Opa!

Dear Opa (Grandpa),

We heard you would be admitted in the hospital.

We heard you would be operated on.

We heard you wanted something from the girls.

The girls heard you wanted something from them.

They asked for papers and pens; tubes of paste, whatever they could grab to create something to make you feel better.

They agreed to create 'story books' of what has happened and what is happening to them here. A country 8,000 miles away from you.

They fought for colors, demanded more items, and concentrated on their monumental task on hand -- to make Opa feel better.

After a few minutes -- they had enough -- although their story books are not yet done. But being reminded that those books would be sent through snail post; they went back and were able to finish their crafts in an hour.

The wrote notes and sealed the envelop with happy thoughts and a happy sigh, 'We are glad Opa would feel much, much better now,' they both agreed.

Opa, you were admitted in the hospital; operated on and was declared in good condition. The next day, you received the girls' 'feel much, much better' envelope full of stories.

Indeed, that envelope did its job -- filled with love to make you feel much, much better.

And yes, you asked for new photos of the girls. Those photos would be there in a few days -- marked with much, much love.

We love you, Opa!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Black Sand

Took-off for a short vacation on the beach.

We were the only one occupying the beach resort.

It is rainy season. The waves are high. The sand is black.

On the other hand -- we have the beach for ourselves; the water is warm; the sun showed up, too.

Now the black sand. I thought the girls would find it 'dirty'. Well, that's what I thought.

The girls loved the black sand. They said it looks exactly like mud. It would be fun to build castles with; to lather themselves with; to throw mud at each other; to cover themselves with.

What a great idea! I followed their lead and came up with my own beauty and wellness regimen on the beach. I covered my body with the black sand and started massaging and rubbing  it all over. In fact, I got the attention of the girls that they offered to become my beauty and wellness assistants. We ended up looking like muddy wrestlers; but I guess we had more fun!

The highlight of this wellness massage would be facing the waves to wash the sand off our body. That was another good idea because that means the girls have conquered their fear of the waves. But of course, there were some precautions:

- Although we are alone on the beach, we always make sure that the lifeguard is present whenever we head off to the beach
- We take note of the color coding warnings if the beach would be safe
- Although it is rainy season, we never forgot to pack our sun protection items: sun cream, huts, t-shirts, tent and loads of drinking water
- We always watch out not only for the weater forecasts but also for the natural weather signs: the looming gray clouds on the horizon -- to let us know if its time to go back to our room

And yes, they got to play in the rain, too!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Injury and Escapism

What happened was this...

They were biking. MC on her own. IC was hanging on to her babysitter's back.

Then it happened. IC's right foot got stuck, in the tire.

They all panicked. IC was crying for dear life; while MC and their two babysitters were screaming for help.

Then this version: according to their babysitters, MC stopped them from calling for me because if we know of what happened, I would be angry.

So when MC called for me, I already saw our driver (the father of the babysitters); running back to the house in panic. That made me move faster.

I saw IC lying on the street, sorrounded by onlookers of mixed adults and kids.

Oh my baby's in agony. There seemed to be no way out but to cut the spacers in the tire.

A neighbor brought an industrial scissor and my husband cut the spacers.

In a second, IC's foot was freed. I had to carry her, at the same time, praying that there's no damage on her ankle. There's cold compress, TLC and sweets afterwards. And loads of TV watching.

Those were our homemade remedies. After a few hours, she was walking normally again. Great!

As for MC, I told her that no matter what, tell us. Especially if it's an emergency. We would be angrier if we didn't know and they are hurt.

Best to tell the truth!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

After the Storm

After the storm: Brown-out. No water. No phones. No internet. No television. Not even a radio!

Boring! The girls were shouting the word every few seconds a few hours after the storm left our area.

But I also saw, they were curious. It is their first time to experience a power outage this long.

They tried turning on light switches; sneakily pressing the remote control for the television.
Warned about water shortage, they took to washing or quick showers.
Bored because of the silence, they lined-up all their battery-operated toys that make sounds; and pressed them randomly.

And of course, the cries of 'what could we do? Boring!' continued.

Well, I told them they could play with their neglected toys. But they better find them before it gets dark.
I told them they could bring out their table games and we could play together. I told them we could go out and play with the puppy. I told them we could walk around the village and check out the damages left by the storm.

When it started getting dark: I told them we could start bringing out the candles and their holders. I told them we should help out in preparing dinner and in setting up the table. I told them we could prepare our bed. I told them we could do shadow plays. I told them we could cuddle and tell stories together.

Oh but I did a few things, too. I had to drive in the dark to find drinking water suppliers that are still operating. Good thing there were a few with generators so we found enough. I tried finding enough battery for our radio to listen for the news, sadly, there were no more batteries in the size I needed, available in the stores that are still open.

So, we dont even know what is happening in other parts of the world! (I called my parent's house early morning and they were ok but with the same situation).

I had to turn-off my mobile phone to save power. Since we dont even have a radio to monitor the news, I sent sms to some friends and they informed me that it might take 2-3 days before everything would return to normal!

I told the whole family. I again turned-off my mobile phone. We took quick showers. Prepared the candles and matches. And braced ourselves for the next day.

Of course, I am thankful that nothing happened to us. And that is the most important thing!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Watching the eye of the storm

Storm warning signal number 1 in Metro Manila, Philippines.

The weatherman said the first typhoon (the Philippines would be hit by an average of 20 typhoons within a year); would be just passing through the border of Manila where we live.

School has been canceled for the next day. We took some of our things in the garden to a more secured place.

Then we got ready for bed. Then at around 11 pm, our puppy started making noise; followed by our birds. A few minutes after that, the wind!

I really thought there's a tornado passing by! My husband and I decided to bring the animals inside.

MC woke up and I told her if she is not sleepy, we could watch the eye of the storm. She forgot about bed and started running around the house. Checking the dog, the birds -- but the most exciting thing for her is to watch the swaying of the trees outside, to hear the howling of the wind, to guess what kind of items kept falling and clattering outside; to check out again and again our windows and doors; and to just feel the storm passing by.

In fact, instead of keeping all windows closed; we left one side open so we could feel the wind and the rain! Of course, I told her not to put her face directly on the window to avoid being hit. We tried to wake IC up, but she's deep asleep. I am sure she wouldnt want to miss this, too. (In the morning, when she learned about it, IC was disappointed!)

And then, a few minutes of watching the storm; the power outage! Brown-out! Instead of being frightened, it added excitement. She knew where to find the flashlights, even! I didnt know I have a girl scout in our midst :D

MC and I stayed up in silence, cuddling while watching the storm raging outside. It was a different bonding experience, watching the eye of the storm.

Somethings to remember though:
1. Never go out in the dark until the storm has calmed down
2. Make sure all the windows and doors are closed
3. Remove all delicate things along the window sills; and start checking what should be stored inside before the storm
4. Make sure your mobile phones have enough power; if not, then turn it off until needed
5. Store enough water
6. Keep flashlights, candles and matches within reach
7. Avoid walking around in the dark and watch out for those wet patches that could get slippery, especially around windows that was left open
8. Keep calm

Monday, July 12, 2010

Attempted Break-ins

Twice, in more than a month actually.

The first time, my husband and I woke up at around 2 am because the neigborhood dogs were barking in frenzy; which doesnt normally happen. My husband looked out of our window, facing the street, and he saw someone jumping from the empty lot beside our house. He went down and checked, there were no disturbances within our perimeter; so we went back to sleep.

We reported the incident in the morning and were told that we should call the security guard on duty on that same hour that it happened.

The next time last week; our housemaid was surprised to see a dress which was supposed to be hanging at the back -- lying in the front gate. That was when she noticed that the front gate was wide open. And when she went around the house, she saw evidence that somebody attempted to get into our house.

By that time, I was already up and she called me in a voice filled with fright. I saw that the screen in one of the windows were already damaged and that they used my Nordic walking stick, to lift the wooden lock in our sliding door! I think they were disturbed by something or someone because they flee.

I woke my husband before I went to the security guard to report the incident. And to my surprise, I also saw a police car roaming around! It turned out that another house, in the next street; were ransacked early morning. All their important belongings were taken; the good thing is that nobody from the family woke up thus nobody was hurt.

Police investigators came and went into our house. We informed our girls on what happened. We showed them the damages and explained to them the implications. They were alarmed, but a little excited seeing the policemen going in and out.

But we also told them, that from now on; we would have important changes imposed.

- Double checking on the doors and windows before sleeping
- Regularly checking that all windows and doors are functioning properly, meaning we could close them tightly
- Never inform anyone that you are alone at home
- Always leave certain outdoor places well-lighted
- Keep important telephone numbers within reach (now we have them plastered in the living room, in the kitchen, in all the bedrooms)
- We bought a dog!

In our neighborhood, we also talked to the homeowner's association which agreed about the following:
- unscheduled early morning walks together (just a phone call a day or two to inform them)
- an extra guard at night that would roam around
- a fund raising campaign to buy CCTV cameras
- exchanging phone numbers
- immediate reports when someone noticed something dubious
- be more aware of each other's guard dogs' disturbances at night and early morning
- regular perimeter checking, to immediately report damaged fences

You could see the group effort and the spirit of volunterism in our small community. That may not be enough to completely stop the crime, but with our same goal to keep our village safe -- we have started to form friendship.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mama, Please stay the way you are

'Mama, you celebrated your birthday a few weeks ago, does that mean you are getting older?,' asked IC.

And she pleaded, 'but I wanted you to stay the way you are!'

Dear IC,

You know what, age doesnt matter.

That is just to keep track of the years; of the numbers.

But when it comes to me being a mama to you; I am not getting older.

I am just gaining years of experience. I am just adding more knowledge on how to be a mama.

I would stay the way I am; but I need to grow; as you grow, too.

But this is absolutely true: I would stay the way I am, true to being a mama to you and your sister.

And I would accept it, too; when there is a need to change. Just because both of you have changed, too.

We have to move on, you would know that, in the future!

For now, let me love you the way you want to be loved! And more.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We've got a dog!

Welcome, Candy!

Candy, that's the name of our gold-yellow two months old mixed breed Labrador/Japanese spitch.

Why did we agree to finally buy a dog?

Well, after two break-in attempts in our house, I guess, we really have to do something, right?

The best bodyguard would still be a dog!

IC wouldnt want to know anything about buying a dog. She simply refuses to even talk about it.

MC is very enthusiastic; and in fact, has agreed to take care of the dog. From waking up early for a walk; until before bedtime activities. She has proved, with the birds, that she could already take a responsibility seriously; so we agreed.

But... IC should also agree.

We drove to the pet store. IC wont go; and when she did, was very reluctant. In fact, arriving at the pet store; she decided, nothing looks good. So she point blank refused to even look around. Actually, I had to carry her because she's so afraid of the different pets around her.

Meanwhile, MC cant contain her excitement. She found one; and she wont let go.

Trying to get IC to be a part of the decision-making was hard. Until we talked about the name of the dog.

Anyway, because we wanted to feel secure at home; we got Candy.

And because we got Candy, IC, who used to hate dogs; seems to be changing her mind. She has started petting Candy.

As for MC, she's taken her responsibility to heart. Waking up at 6 am, because she heard the dog barking and as she said 'it might be hungry!'.

I am glad to have Candy. For our security and for the kids to learn to be more responsible.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do wishes come true?

Another question from 6-year-old IC, do wishes come true? And how would you make sure that they would come true?

Dear IC,

Yes, wishes do come true!

As you told me, and to which I agreed, there are many ways to make your wishes come true: by prayers, by being well-behaved, by following rules, by working for it, and by simply being you!

Sometimes, your wish might come but might not look and feel exactly what you wanted; but that is because different people have different ideas. That is why your wish could be a little different.

Sometimes, your wish might be delayed and that is because; it is not easy to do. Nor would it be simple to prepare. You might also need to wait because it is being created with extra special things.

Sometimes, your wish might not come true. That is because, it might not be good for you. It could be best to be given to other people because they needed it most.

But most of the time, your wishes would come true. That is because, you earned it and your worked hard for it and most especially, because you made it real because you loved who you are and what you are doing!

Most of all, wishes do come true because people who love you would help you make them come true!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

IC's Three Wishes

Overheard from a conversation between IC and her Papa:

'Papa, what would you wish for if you have three wishes?'

Papa answered: well behaved kids, three times!

IC's answer? A mobile phone (a real one, please), a big house with a princess bed, and another five wishes!

Happy Birthday, Papa!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

IC just got married!

My six-year-old girl got married today. With another six-year old, Calvin, her favorite boy in class.

It didnt come as a surprise at all.

Calvin already went down on his knees while in the playground during school hours last Monday; and asked loudly for all kids to hear 'IC, will you marry me?'

The kids protested. Why not? Because they dont have any rings to seal their vows, that's why.

Thus, they consulted their teacher during their farewell circle. And everybody was in agreement, there should be a complete ceremony, with rings, with music, with dance, with cakes and whatever.

Tuesday, they were still discussing the wedding. Isabela wants to have it after a year; Calvin wants it done as soon as possible. Their classmates want it done the next days!

Wednesday, they already practiced their respective roles. The wedding invitation has been created and distributed to all their classmates: Thursday, 10:30 a.m. in their classroom. I am supposed to bake a cake, while Calvin's mama was tasked to bring cookies. I asked someone to buy a cake, had IC's and Calvin's name on it and IC was happy.

Thursday, IC's excited. She's got two big bags for school. It turned out, she's packed her 'wedding gown,' her 'wedding shoes,' her make-up kits and a song book in one bag. The other bag contained her school things. While dressing up this morning, she took notice of my polo shirt and short 'Mama, you should dress up or else you wont be allowed to be my guest!' Oops :D

What happened at 10:30 a.m. today? There was a wedding. My husband and I attended, of course. The bride was dressed in a fuschia gown, barefoot with a homemade necklace and had a light pink eye shadow. The groom was wearing an Egyptian-inspired red headgear in shorts and t-shirts; barefoot, too.

The officiating 'lady' was holding the song book; the teacher was playing a hymn; the classmates were sitting quietly when the bride and groom marched to the 'altar.' After the rings were given (Calvin had to run to his school bag to retrieve the forgotten rings); bride and groom danced. Followed by the wedding 'kiss', a group dance, a group photo -- and of course, the cutting of the cake and the reception.

The kids had fun. It was making their fantasies a reality. The teacher informed us that it was mostly the kids' ideas. It was great letting them create and re-create; to let their ideas flow so smoothly when they wanted to do something together.

Do you think it would end like tha`t? Of course not, the last time I heard; another couple's tying the knot next week, too!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Would you still be my mother when I am bigger?

Another question that IC bugged me about before getting in bed: 'Mama, would you still be my mother when I am bigger?,' she asked.

Dear IC,

Yes, I am going to be your mother when you turn seven next year.
Yes, I am going to be your mother when you turn eight next, next year.
In fact, I am going to be your mother when you turn 88!

Of course, I would get older and would look like a grandmother, but yes, I would still be a mom to you. Because, in the future, you would also grow bigger and taller and your body would change and you would be playing with other kinds of toys; but you would remain my daughter, too.

Of course, I would be a grandmother when you'll have a baby of your own. But still, you would remain my daughter and I would remain your mom.

And you asked what, when I am alreadyy dead; would I still be a mom to you?
Hopefully, I would be still be watching you from heaven and would continue loving you because you would remain my daughter for eternity.

But of course, I wish to stay with you and enjoy being a mom as long as possible.

This goes to your sister, MC, too.

Thanks for waking me up this morning to greet me Happy Birthday! I love the drawings, dear girls.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We're off cleaning a beach shore!

It is 3:51 in the morning, I am already up. I need to finish a writing project because I am starting a new project.

In a few hours, I would wake up the whole household.

We are going to the beach. This time, not only to relax and bum around; this time we have a purpose; this time are have no space for all the rubber duckies and shovels and beach toys, this time I wont bring a book, this time we are going to work, this time we have a car full of cleaning materials!

We are off to the Dulong Buhanging Beach in Mulanay, Quezon to clean its shore!

We were in Mulanay, Quezon; a province around 300 kilometers away from Manila, the Philippine capital. Mulanay, Quezon is a coastal town with a population of 50,000.

We realized we need to do something when we visited the place two months ago on a whim; with an eenzy, weenzy goal. We dropped by the beach and boy, we had a great time! The thing is, if you forget what you would first see before reaching the beach; you would really enjoy the place.

The usual thing: dirty beach shore, with broken glasses almost everywhere you step! It was not a nice thing to see.

In fact, my girls were the ones who opened my eyes and gave me the idea. Always being warned to watch their step -- as a result, both of them were very meticulous on how to move around when in a strange place and particularly on a beach shore, we were picking up debris and broken glasses before we knew it!

When we reluctantly left the area after a short but unforgettable visit, at first, we wanted it to be just a family project. Visiting shores and cleaning up, just like that. And then somebody said we could ask the city officials to help our, or even ask for sponsors.

Well, why not? After all, there are a lot of shores to clean. And this is just the initial stage.

So our family project, turned into an advocacy. To make a better place for the future generation.

Presenting, our first

Renew and Re-Green Project -- at the Dulong Buhangin Beach in Mulanay, Quezon.

In cooperation with the Mulanay, Quezon city officials led by Mayor Prudencio Maxino Jr., City Engr. Delio de Leon, its SK group -- with the generous sponsorships of:

Pilipinas Shell, Pepsi-Cola, at Clorox Phils. Intl.

The International Filipino, the newspaper for Filipino OFWs and migrant workers and Deutsch Resources Management Inc.

Wish us luck!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Where did you come from, Mama?

Six-year-old IC has been repeatedly asking me this, 'Mama, where did you come from?'

It seems she cant fully understand the fact that she and her sister were born in Germany; and yet, I, their mother came from a far away land, the Philippines.

Dear IC,

No, I didnt come from anybody's womb to be born in Germany.

More than forty-years ago, your Lola (Grandma) gave birth to me. (Of course, she is not so old then.)

For me to reach Germany,

I actually travelled by plane, a 12-hour ride from Asia.

There, your Papa and I got married.

There, you and your sister were born.

Both of you were in my womb.

No, you and your sister didnt arrive by plane :D

Friday, May 21, 2010

To promise or not to promise?

When sleepy and tired, the girls would tend to have tantrums.

Then they would start creating issues.

And last night was this: MC wants to buy a classmate a very expensive gift because her other classmates also brought expensive gifts.

My answer was: let's see. Knowing that although she's tired and sleepy, she would remember.

Her papa said, there are also things that are not so expensive yet great to have, too. MC wont hear about them.

She wants to extract a promise that she buy an expensive toy for her friend.

I kept repeating,'we would see.'

She kept on crying because I wont give a definite answer. Her papa said just give in. But I told him, 'I will not give promises that would be broken.'

What happened? She was too tired to care in the end. She slept.

In the morning, I asked her what she wants to give her friend.

Her answer? 'Mama, I think I am the only one sleeping over after her party. I think my presence would already be a nice gift.'

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Homeworked 2010

Of course, my girls are growing.
Someone noticed!
Thus, this drawing.

Thanks again to Rienne!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

MC's Spontaneous Pajama Party

My girls, ages 6 and 8, wont sleep unless my husband or I, would bring them to bed, read a story ( in MC's case she would sometimes read for us); exchange stories, cuddle, whatever.

And then, during a barbecue party at home with some friends in school; MC got caught in a spontaneous pajama party. Just because MC dont want to join us for a long drive the next day. MC, as expected, is not yet ready to sleep over in a friend's house. What happened was, her friend stayed with us.

MC arranged and prepared everything, together with her friend. They got themselves ready for bed. They prepared their sleeping arrangements. Then they closed the door on us with a warning, 'Please knock before you open.'

I heard them talking and giggling until late night, I like hearing them.

Anyway, even though MC's friend is to sleep with us; I know I had to prepare MC for it, especially as it was a spontaneous decision. I talked to her about the following things:

- MC had to accept that her friend would be sleeping over (Not because her friend wants to sleep over, MC would agree, right?)
- MC had to agree that her friend would be sleeping in her room (She is someone who values her privacy, so it is rare that she agrees for sofa bed to be used, in her own bedroom with her)
- MC must know that since it was a spontaneous decision, her friend would have to borrow her clothes, too
- MC must also show her friend the bathroom and kitchen; where the basic things are

MC realized that she is now the 'hostess' and is responsible to her friend. That made her stand a little taller and I think, that made her grow-up a little, too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My mom is not voting

How could I ask my kids to be a better citizen when I have not registered for today's historical automated election in the Philippines?

IC's kindergarten teacher dismissed the class last Friday and she came to me with a smile, 'I heard from your daughter that you are not voting,' she asked.

Sheepishly I nodded. 'It was too much paperwork when we have just transfered house after being devastated by the typhoon,' I told her.

But of course, that is not an excuse. I could have registered earlier. I could have prepared all documents because I knew what was needed anyway. I could have done many other things so I could have voted today. I could have done something.

This made me realize that we should not take for granted such things small or big, because the kids today have both eyes and both ears open. They would simply ask and would wonder why you missed on such an opportunity to help in being counted in what they see as the future of the country; which means the future of our kids.

That Friday night I gathered my kids close and told them that yes, I wasnt registered. Yes, I wont be able to vote.I informed them that I took my stand publicly. I supported my chosen candidates by volunteering my time and effort in writing about them and making people informed about their candidates. I read the important items about the elections and helped disseminate the essential information.

'But next time you should vote, mama,' said IC.

I will, I promise!

Please pray for the Filipino people that their choice for the future of the Philippines would be someone who is ready to work for the people.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Facebook and my 8-year-old, Again!

Their teacher was absent. So they went off with a substitute teacher to the computer room for their antolin.de work.

The kids were shouting for Facebook. They all wanted to open their Facebook accounts.

The substitute teacher, getting curious, asked them what Facebook is all about.

The general answer of the kids? Facebook means games!

Of course, they arent allowed.

But there comes the teasing again. MC is jealous because she dont have one.

But she informed her classmates that she could also play games in the computer without the aid of Facebook.

And then she asked them if they know how to play chess (that is MC and IC's favorite computer game); most of them dont know what chess is; and only a few knows how to play the game.

MC concluded with saying, 'I could also play games in the computer, I dont need to have a Facebook.'

Note: Since it seems to be the only thing being discussed during their break time, I already talked to the Guidance Counselor of the school about it. It turned out that Facebook is also the hot topic these past weeks whenever she talk to any students. She said there should be a guideline given to teachers which they should pass on to their students and their parents, she would work on it.

Here's another Facebook story I posted.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Urgently Needed: A- Blood Type

As of 17:00, We received an SMS 'Es ist genug Blut da.' (There's enough blood donated already).

Manila, Philippines
Morning

An SMS or a text message we received early this morning:

‘Wir haben einen Schwertsverlezten Deutschen im Makati Medical Center. Er braucht dringenst A-. Bitter weiterleiten.’

The same message we actually received last night through the school messaging system:

May 02, 2010
19:22
Manila, Philippines

A DED member had a serious accident in Leyte and Leyte and is transported to Manila. The patient needs a blood transfusion A-.

If you know of anyone who is willing to donate blood, please leave a message here of call/text 0915-3305977.

Let's help anyway we can, even by reposting this so that more people would know; and who knows, we might reach someone who could help immediately.

Thanks a lot for reading this.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More on Facebook and my 8-year-old

I posted about Facebook and MC here.

The day after that, she came home with this story.

A classmate, who like MC, was one of those ignorant ones about Facebook, came to school with a big, big smile.

MC, curious, asked her, 'Why are you so happy this morning?'

The classmate informed her proudly that she finally got her own Facebook account the night before. She said that she could finally play at Facebook. She loves Facebook, she announced to MC.

MC just shrugged and said, 'Ok.'

Her classmate teased her, 'you dont know Facebook. I am sure you are jealous!'

MC shrugged nonchalantly and said, 'I dont care about Facebook. My mama showed it to me and I wasnt interested.'

'You are simply jealous,' insisted her classmate. To which MC replied: 'Think what you want.'

To me, she said, 'They are all crazy about Facebook. I dont understand why!'

I hugged her and said, 'Sometimes, you just have to accept that people have different interests.'

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When will I get my PSP?

Dear Girls,

This has been discussed, and will be repeatedly discussed.

This has been asked, and will be repeatedly asked.

This has been in your wish list and will be popping up in your list again.

But our answer, at least mine, would still be, not yet.

My answer before stays. You are getting your PSP if you could already pay for one.

I am not paying for something very expensive that would provide my kids a world of their own. I still wanted to be a part of your world.

I am not paying for something very expensive that would keep you from talking to me anymore. I still wanted to hear you talk to me, ask me endless questions, pester me, even.

I am not paying for something very expensive that would keep you busy alone while we impatiently wait in line. I still wanted those stolen moments when you would wrap yourself around me, ask me endlessly 'are we next yet?'

I am not paying for something very expensive that would keep you quiet during long drives. I still wanted to play those 'i see something that you dont see' games while on a trip.

I am not paying for something very expensive that would keep me from smelling your sweaty little bodies. I still wanted to have you snuggling with me when you are bored saying, 'and what should we do now?'

I know most of your friends have PSPs. But as I always tell you, 'being the minority doesnt mean you are missing something. It just simply mean, you chose the alternative.'

And by chosing no PSP -- you chose to play with your dolls, to go around with your bike, to build things with your playmobil, to create crafts and arts with your papers and colors, to discover the world together with your friends and with your family.

There would be enough time in the future to enjoy your PSP.

For now, let's enjoy each other!

Love, Mama

Monday, April 19, 2010

Facebook and My 8-year-old

Going home after school, eight-year-old MC was not in a good mood and it seems I am the culprit.

Prodding her to tell me what's bothering her, she said, 'Mama, what is Facebook?'

I told her Facebook is something that you would see in the computer, in the internet.

She continued belligerently, 'Why are you not telling me anything about Facebook? Dont you know that eight out of 14 kids in our class have Facebook? Only six, including me, doesnt have a Facebook. Even the brothers and sisters of my classmates have Facebook. Our teacher said, she used to have Facebook; but now she dont have it anymore. I dont understand why you wont let me know anything about Facebook.'

I told her that I didnt tell her anything about Facebook because I dont think that Facebook is important to her at this time. I told her I use Facebook because it is good in disseminating information and in sharing some ideas and is good for promoting business matters and events and is great for finding people you have been missing for a long time. (Nope, I dont play games nor add applications, I dont want to complicate things.)

I told her that she could have Facebook when she is at least 18 years old. For now she better enjoy her toys, her friends, her bikes, her freedom to play outside. She blurted out the next question, 'but how is it that G, (our neighbor who is a year older than her) already have one, too?'

'Remember that she proudly informed us that she lied about her age to get a Facebook account?' I emphasized to MC. 'To get something because you lied about is not worth it. You better wait until you are old enough.' Those words seemed to calm her down.

Then I explained to her that her Papa doesnt also know what Facebook is. And G, our new housemaid doesnt know what Facebook is. And F, our office assistant doesnt know what Facebook is. And her Teacher, lost her Facebook already. But all of them are satisfied with their lives. Meaning, Facebook is not that important to live a happy life.

Still, MC wont be appeased. The kids at school was teasing her because she doesnt know anything about Facebook. She wants to know what Facebook is. Basta!

The next morning, I turned on the computer and went online. Finally, MC got to see what Facebook is all about. She saw texts and photos. 'Is that all about Facebook, Mama?' she was disappointed.

I frankly told her that there are more things about Facebook; but these are the things that are important to me.

Then I asked her, 'what do you think is better?'

To which she sheepishly replied, 'I think I better play with my toys!'

But before she left, she gave me a very sweet hug, still smiling sheepishly. I returned it to her, with a small prayer that when MC start really to get really curious to learn more about these social networking sites, I hope that she would let me know.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trees have feelings, too!

While on a long drive to the province last week, MC was bewildered by the many posters plastered all over the walls and the street posts, hanging on trees branches and stapled on the stems of the plants and trees.

She said, 'Mama, why are they doing those things?'

I told her that it is election time. They placed those posters for people to know who to vote.

She said again, 'Mama, don't they know that trees have feelings, too? It is painful for them when those posters are nailed or stapled on their stems and branches.'

I told her she's right. The juices of the trees would flow when they do that, and that would be their tears.

She said once more, 'How could the trees talk to them to let them know that it hurts?'

I told her that when the wind blows and the trees would sway to the wind, you would hear them talking. It would be up to you to interpret what they are saying.

To which MC added, ' You see, I am sure they would say, please stop hurting us.'

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy 6th Birthday, IC!

She turned 6 today.

Last March, she cant wait for April to come. She knows her birthday is in April. She knows her birthday would be celebrated after Easter. She knows her friends would come to party. She knows her cousins would come to party.

She's already listed down the gifts she wanted. She's already listed down the party loots she wants to have. She's already listed down the games we would play.

And then came April. It is too hot. She changed her want list. She wants a swimming party. We found a resort near our house. She would party there with her friends. That would be in the next Friday, the Easter break just ended last Monday.

Yesterday, she agreed to celebrate her birthday at home with her cousins and the 'adults.'

But she specifically demanded, 'please tell the people you invited to my birthday to come with a gift. Or else, the security guard in our village would not allow them to enter.'

I informed the people we invited, and they all found it cute.

Well, cute it is. But IC is serious.

This morning, before leaving our village, IC told me to lower the window of our car.

The birthday girl told the security guard, 'make sure that the people who are coming to my birthday have gifts, or else, dont let them in.' ;D

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Generosity

It was the pre-Easter celebration in school last week. The girls and their school mates were all over the school playground getting busy.

I saw one girl with a big sack of plastic Easter eggs being followed by her classmates. In an instant, I saw the same girl and her followers beside me.

'You know what, MC wants to have two Easter eggs. But I am only allowed to give her one,' she said me. Her followers all nodded with her declaration because all of them got only one egg.

I told her that it is her decision. If she doesnt want to give MC two eggs; and MC doesnt want just one egg -- then they should be able to find a compromise that would be good for both of them.

After my little speech, they went off looking for MC who immediately sneaked up beside me and said, 'Mama, I told her I dont want to accept it if I got only one egg; because then IC wont be getting any egg. I dont want that,' said IC's big sister. 'So I said, two eggs or nothing.' IC, beamed to her sister, in hearing that.

A few minutes after, the girl with the eggs come to us and offered two eggs -- one for MC and one for IC. She declared that it is okay to give two eggs to MC because one would go to her little sister.

Running off, she shouted to her brother, 'Sorry but you arent getting any egg, I already gave it to somebody else.'

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our Holy Week

Our first time to celebrate Holy Week in the Philippines. In Germany, the highlight would always be the Easter Sunday; which is much, much different from the traditions I grew up with.

First I told my husband that usually, all works stop on the Wednesday before Maundy Thursday. But the real thing is that, a week before Holy Week, everybody's already in a vacation mode that there would be no more work done as most people are already in vacation or preparing for their vacation. He wont believe it until he noticed that most of his emails went unanswered and we couldnt reach anybody anymore. The usual answer, 'please call after Holy Week.'

To the girls, I told them that usually, there wont be any good shows on tv because most televion stations would be closed or would only be showing Holy Week specials. And that malls and shops and almost every commercial business would be closed. They noticed that!

I also informed them that they could join the parade of angels and princesses who would be on hand during the dramatization of Jesus Christ's way of the cross which is a famous tourist event in our hometown in Pasay. They did join the procession. IC was an angel and walked half the station, and MC was a princess, and she joined the whole procession until the end.

The way of the cross is a part of the local tradition of 'cenakulo', which is a nine-day extravagant stage play that derives its sequence of events from both the Gospels of the Bible’s New Testament and from the Book Martyr of Golgotha.

Before that, we visited the church where they watched a theater group about the life of Christ. I also pointed out to them that all the images inside the church are covered, because Christ has been stripped bare.

After that, they saw the procession of various life-sized religious images. I also told them that midmorning, there are also the 'penitencia' or the flagellants walking back home together from their assembly place. I assumed they are not ready to see those things, which they are!
 As our usual practice, too, there were no meat on Good Friday. Good thing the girls loved the buttered shrimp and fried fish that my mother prepared for us.

Since the girls were getting fascinated by the colors of the events during Good Friday, I decided to give them a list of traditional happenings during the Holy Week in the Philippines.

- Pabasa -- the Gregorian chanting of the poetic prayer story of Jesus’ life, passion, death, and resurrection known locally as the “pabasa” or the “pasyon” . It remained well preserved particularly in the provinces where it is held continuously day and night sometimes for as long as three straight days. In recent years, the melodies of pop songs are sometimes used to make the chanting of the Biblical passages sound more interesting and lively. And after those 'pabasa' -- there are food and drinks served.

- Visita Iglesia --Visita Iglesia (Spanish for "Visit of the Churches") is a Holy Thursday tradition of Philippine Roman Catholics, brought to us by the Spaniards. It is the practice of visiting 7 churches to pray and meditate. The tradition has its roots to the early years of the establishment of the Church, when there were 7 great basilicas in Rome that Christians would visit for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. (We experienced this already last year, but this year, the kids said they would pass; simply because, they forgot what this is all about!)
- Moriones Festival -- In Marinduque, the colorful and unique festival attracts thousands of tourists every year. Male participants wearing oversized masks and costumes patterned after the ones worn by centurions who tormented Christ.

- Salubong -- is an Easter Sunday pre-dawn ritual that reenacts the Risen Christ's meeting with His mother. It is performed in the churchyard under a specially prepared arch where the veiled image of the Virgin Mary has been placed. A child dressed as an angel is lowered by ropes from a high platform to lift the mourning veil of the grieving Mother. The church bells are rung, and there is a procession of the images of Christ and his mother that ends up inside the church.

The participants in the procession are segregated by gender. The men and boys follow the image of Jesus Christ, while women and girls follow the image of Mary. The procession ends with the two groups meeting in the church, where Mass is said. It is re-enacted in the evening of Black Saturday.


- Easter Egg Hunting -- This is a western tradition that is now being done in most hotels and malls in Manila. Of course, in our home, we mix our traditions in such that we did our egg coloring with the kids and tomorrow, Easter Sunday; there would be egg hunting, too.

Oh, and some myths and fads: nobody should take a bath or wash their clothes on Good Friday!