Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to School, Back to Schedule

Back to school. It's supposed to be an exciting time of year, but for me it creates a ton of anxiety. With school supply lists, back to school nights, parent nights, getting the kids back on their routine, signing up for field trips, signing up for birthday lunches, coordinating schedules. A month in and the smoke is just starting to clear. 

So as you can see, I'm not a girl scout, I didn't come prepared. I see this along the same lines as starting Christmas shopping right after Easter, that's just not me. Oddly enough, I've been doing the school thing w/Meatball for the last 4 grades already and you'd think I'd have it down to a science. But add Spaghetti into the mix you have a recipe for potential disaster. Drop kid 1 off her, pick kid 2 up there, bring kid 1's form here, don't forget kid 2's lunch there... exhausting, right?!? But as parents, we manage.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade (the same grade Meatball is in now), my mother dropping me off for swim class, soccer class and dance class. I was a shy kid and my mother would literally drop me off, no hanging out w/the other mothers, no watching me do whatever activity she signed me up for, just dropped me off because, "It's good for you to have a lot of activities, honey". Thanks, Mother for forcing me off the deep end of socialization.

And here we are, years later, history repeats itself as I find myself signing Meatball up for after school activities, dropping her off, picking her up, shuttling her from one thing to the next... I never asked my Mother why she just dropped me off and took off, but now I'm beginning to assume she probably took naps in between.

The things we do for our kids.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letters to my Lola (grandmother) & Lolo (grandfather)

It's been about 5 years since my Lola (grandmother in Pilipino) passed away. I think of her often and miss her very much. I've found as time passes: the girls grow older, my parents grow older, my husband, Pretty Pants, and I grow older, the importance of family grows stronger, the memories get richer.

The Meatball was lucky enough to have met my Lola. We have a photograph of them together in our living room, the Meatball's face close-up with her great Lola's face beaming in the shadow behind her. Of course, she doesn't remember as much as I do since my Lola was with me for most of my childhood. As immigrant, working parents, the Colonel and Rambo didn't have a network of friends and relatives, so the Colonel's parents, my Lolo and Lola would take turns coming from the Philippines to help raise me. It wasn't too unusual for my parents to do this, since having three (even four) generations in a family is customary in the Philippines.

I remember when one grandparent would be here they would ask for me to write a letter to the other. Ever since I could remember living with one grandparent in my parents home, I would write, "To my dearest Lolo, to my dearest Lola..." As a child, the letters wouldn't be too long, maybe one page and a drawing I made in school. Each letter would state pretty much the same thing: how happy I was to hear from them, how I'm doing in school, what I'm doing in school, how my parents were doing, how my dog was doing, and how I was being a good girl. In return, I would also receive letters stating the same thing: how was my health, how happy they were to hear from me, how happy they were that I was doing well in school, to always remember to be healthy, remember my prayers and be good to my parents.  I exchanged letters with my grandparents for about a good decade or so in my life. Initially, it was part of a routine, something I always just did, not until I came across a letter my Lolo wrote during my freshman year of college did I realize how important these letters were. Reading through my Lolo's letter, I can imagine him sitting at his writing desk, my letter on the left, his cup of coffee on the right, inserting the delicate typing paper into his now antiqued, typewriter, communicating with his Apo (granddaughter). How beautiful these letters are to read now!

In an age of e-mails, texts, acronyms, half sentences, one word answers, emoticons, I wonder (and sometimes fear) what communications my own children, future grandchildren will remember of me? I've heard that some parents create an e-mail address for each of their children to "write" like a journal of letters of their youth. I haven't tried that, I'm actually still open to writing letters, starting with, "To my dearest Apo..."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Relishing ME Time

I'm sitting at my kitchen table with dinner cooking on the stove. Listening to the new Roots album from my iTunes. A glass of cab on my left, the mouse on my right. It's a unique Tuesday at 7:57 pm. A Tuesday with NO KIDS.

Spaghetti and Meatball are ending their summer with some much needed grandparent time. I honestly don't know who needed it more: me, my husband, the girls or the grandparents. The funny thing about enjoying this silence is the dread I felt knowing these 4 life-without-kids'-days were coming. The guilt of feeling happy about them being gone hung over me like a fog. I couldn't see through the guilt and be honest with myself enough to say, "Self, you need this break."

This kind of reminds me of habits and routines. We get so used to doing the same thing in and out week by week with the kids in tow. Take them here, take them there, make them dinner, help with homework, read them a story, put them to bed, hope they stay in bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. I find myself getting so caught up in these routines, for my kids, that it takes NO KIDS days like this to realize how dependent I am on them as they are on me.  Sadly, I had to force myself to remember what I needed to take care of ME on this day 1 of 4 NO KIDS days. But I'm happy to report it was worth it!

Getting caught up in day to day when you don't know which way is up has only come upon me recently with the event of the 2 year old Spaghetti aka our tornado, but that's another blog post. Tonight, I'm happy with refilling my wine glass, enjoying a meal for 2 with Pretty Pants, turning off this computer and enjoying the silence sans kids.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rice - It's what brings us together

The most common staple in our household has to be rice. We have rice for the majority of our meals. Rice with dinner, rice with lunch, rice with breakfast.  You get the picture.

I find it so fascinating that food is a way of learning about one's culture (think Anthony Bourdain's popularity) or in this case, retaining one's cultural heritage. For as long as I could remember, all my family meals were served with rice and now as an parent, I've subconsciously taken this way of eating with me and serve my family rice with every meal. In fact, Spaghetti's favorite meal is chicken with rice!

There isn't too much variance away from eating rice. I actually think it would be very challenging not to have rice as part of our diet. Part of the reason why is because we're so used to it, the other half would probably be the fear of losing that part of my identity. Remembering fond memories of partaking in meals (rice included) w/my parents and wanting the same for my children may just put more emphasis on rice not just for a meal but to hold on to the tradition.

Do you have any foods in your family that have stood the test of time?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Traveling with the kiddos

Traveling with Spaghetti and Meatball is an art all on its own. It takes me a good week before any trip to start prepping and packing for our family. This rings especially true since both the hubs and I are both working and can maybe at the most allot one hour each day prior to a coming trip to pack anything we may need, lest we forget. 

I always start with the girls first. Count out the days to equal the number of outfits divide the number of outfits in half and add the half to the pile. This formula equals to one and a half of the trip's worth of clothes for each of them. Why? They're kids and with kids accidents happen. And I know for a fact, I'm not going to find myself washing clothes on vacation. Along with their clothes, add shoes, socks, hair clips, toiletries, sun block, hats, books, toys, dvds, and dvd player to take along on the plane and other modes of transportation. Top off with Spaghetti's Pull-Ups and wipes, little bottle of detergent (just in case) and of course 3 or 4 reusable shopping bags and 3 or 4 quart and gallon size Ziploc bags because you never know when you're going to need them. Set aside the traveling car seat and traveling umbrella stroller, which should be as lightweight and fast to collapse should you happen to fall in line at a very busy airport security line.

The day of traveling, I dress the girls in layers. Easy removable layers and easy slip on shoes (again for airport security line ease). One bag for snacks, toys, and other distractions for the plane/car and another bag for in-case-those-bastards-lose-our-luggage packed with at least one day of wardrobe, extra pull-ups and wipes.

Can I begin packing for Pretty Pants and I yet?!? You get the picture, traveling with kiddos is a ton of work and preparation. But all in all, priceless.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

dog days of summer

My parents rarely eat out. I don't know how they do it. Even as a child, I don't recall eating out at all during the week. The only eating out we did was our Sunday after Mass lunch ritual which went from Chicken Tenders at Burger King, to the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut, and the big time: Lo Mein and Moo Goo Gai Pan at the local Chinese restaurant, the Great Wall. Good stuff, really it was.

Now that I'm a parent in a dual income household (just like my parents), I just can't fathom how they found the time or maybe the energy to prepare home cooked meals every day. Incredible! .I can almost hear Rambo, my father, exclaim when we're at a restaurant he's not too fond of, "You know this chicken here, I can cook this at home and you can pay me half the price!" Goodness. 

Most times I wish I had that discipline, that energy, that developed practice of eating at home all the time.  Then there are times like below, when you just need a break from the norm and take your little one, like Spaghetti, to the local food court and partake in dollar Tuesday at Hot Dog on a Stick!  One hot dog, two hot dog, three hot dogs she scarfed down to that little belly of hers. For $3 dollars, I got this memory and maybe that's worth more sometimes than eating at home, just like Sunday after Mass lunch rituals...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Practicing the art of discipline

I just took Spaghetti out of a time out. Nothing new. Our 2 and a half year old gets a timeout at least twice a week. We plop her down while she screams and wails in the same timeout spot as I glance over at the clock, counting down five minutes. I'm sure those 5 minutes feel like hours in 2 and a half year old time. At this point, I'm not sure if timeouts are effective. I haven't read any books on discipline in a while, just recalling trial and error from disciplining her older sister, the Meatball (who, by the way, was and still is a saint growing up).

With Spaghetti it's a little different, she has a stubborn streak. My parents (and husband) say she's a lot like me. Go figure. So when it comes down to discipline, I try to be as firm and patient as possible, but like any one there is always the last straw pulled, the pushed button, the last nerve struck that gets my blood boiling where I cannot control it anymore and I become, my mother.

Well almost my mother. My mother was a hands off disciplinarian and a big fan of crying it out. She was the kind of parent that could take one look at you with a face full of disdain and in the next minute glance away and ignore you as if she could care less. From a child's perspective (aka what I remember from when I was little),  a child wants and needs acceptance especially from their parents, this move worked on me every time. She had this tactic down so well that my challenging, stubborn attitude diminished in seconds as her glare drowned me in guilt for even reacting. She had one of those glares that made you think twice about what you were doing and had you figure out fast that you were and always will be wrong. And boy did that wrong feel bad! I can remember wailing about one thing or another one second then begging and pleading for her forgiveness forgetting whatever the reason was I was wailing about. Throwing tantrums at my mother were battles I never won and I hated it, especially the feeling of not knowing if my mother actually cared if I was wailing on the floor for her for what seemed like days.

I remember feeling so alone during those times. I promised myself that I would never do that to my children and even if they would be a pain, I wouldn't leave them to 'cry it out' extensively. After the Meatball was born, I finally asked my mother why she handled my tantrums that way. "My goodness, anak(child in Tagalog), you still remember those!?!" in her Filipino accent. "Uh yah, you made me feel really bad." "I did not hurt you. You are too sensitive. Emotional." "Gee thanks, Mom." "You know what, anak? I was just tired. I worked so long hours for you and then you were so active, I cannot entertain you so much." "Maybe I was just happy to see you, Mom." "I know, I think you were so hyperactive too." "Why didn't you just tell me you were tired back then, Mom?" "I am not so good in communication like you. We do not do that in the Philippines so much." "Oh." "You are better with Spaghetti and Meatball than me. You are able to talk to them and have patience. You are good in the parenting." 

After this conversation, I understood my mother and her ways. A tired, working mother doesn't have that much energy at the end of the day to pay their children the attention they need. I guess that's the trade off. Our main difference is that I may communicate it better before I impose firmer discipline. I can tell you that half of the reason why I communicate it, is probably because of my own experience. The other half lies in our cultural difference. Growing up, my mother never exercised many emotions. If you were quiet and followed orders, that meant you were well behaved and that's all parents expected. Everything else wasn't really defined. Here it seems like everyone expresses themselves in one way shape or form. I wonder if the combination of the two is effective? I guess, only time will tell.