The World According to Joey: Heartbreak

imageLast year when I joined Joey for his annual fieldtrip, I was quite shocked to see him holding hands with one of his classmates; he didn’t even leave her side and I was left wandering behind them. A few months after that, Joey told me that his classmates have been teasing them everyday and that they are together all the time, especially during breaks.

Curious as to how far things have progressed, I asked Joey how his “girlfriend” reacted when she found out he’s moving to a new school next school year (he had taken and passed the entrance exam at one of the big schools near our place).

Me: So Joey, how are you and “A”?

Joey: We don’t talk anymore.

Me (taken aback, knowing they were inseparable just a few weeks ago): Why? Did you have a fight?

Joey: Mom, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I’m moving to a new school so what’s the point?

Me: (speechless; so I guess this means he knows the concept of long distance relationships – at nine years old!!!)

The Simple Life

Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to live in a farm – you know, grow my own vegetables, plant trees, maybe some chicken? But of course, reality sets in and the dream takes the backseat.

So I always enjoy making the two-hour drive to my Papa’s province to visit their farm. It isn’t much; it is rather small, but, it earned enough when they were young to feed a family of nine kids and send them all the way to college.

The first thing I do when I arrive? I look for the makahiya or mimosa and touch their leaves until the entire bush is drooping! Bonus points that we found all these pink blooms!

image

You want to know a little secret? Our family’s farm has a tiny, hidden nook with flowing stream. It was a hot summer day during our visit so the stream was a bit dried up, but when the weather’s cool, you can hear it flowing through rocks. When I was younger, my papa used to catch fish here and my cousins and I would take a dip in the summer.

image

image

But what I love most living in a farm is picking fruits! We have several mango trees on the property and they’ve all been amazing – they yield sacks and sacks of mangoes every year, and very fragrant and sweet mangoes too!

image

image

image

I guess it’s pretty obvious where I got my love for mangoes. You can’t blame me: I spent many lazy afternoons when I was a small girl sitting on one of the branches of my favorite indian mango tree and eating mangoes straight from the tree!

image

image

image

We live in the city and hubby and I are working almost seven days a week so my kids rarely get the chance to visit the farm as often as I did (and I alreadyisited rarely then), so whenever my old man volunteers to take us/them, I always let then. These are the summers I want them to remember, not the ones spent playing gadgets or watching TV. And summers like these are hard to find.

 

 

adadada

Book: 13 Reasons Why

Suicide has been getting a lot of focus lately, what with reports of famous people, who at first glance, seem to live perfect lives, deciding to kill themselves. Robin Williams comes to mind; and you also have Tony Scott (director of Top Gun and brother of RIdley Scott) and L’Wren Scott (I will forever associate her with Nicole Kidman’s ethereal dresses at red carpet events) all dying by their own hands in the last couple of months. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 years old according to a 2014 study by
the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), and second among people aged 15 to 29 years old, per the World Health Organization (WHO).

So when I saw this book by Jay Asher and read the synopsis at the back, I was immediately intrigued. It was unique in that the novel told its story through the taped recordings made by high school junior Hannah Baker and the thoughts of and goings on while her classmate Clay Jensen listened to the tapes. Hannah had consumed sleeping pills a couple of weeks prior to the start of the novel while Clay was one of the recipients of the tapes. Before killing herself, she made audio tapes detailing the 13 reasons (by twelve people) why she was going to commit suicide. She then mailed the tapes to the first person in the list to be passed on to the next, prior to her death. A second set of tapes was sent out to their classmate Tony, to be released to the public if any of the 12 people on the list fail to pass it on to the next person.

ThirteenReasonsWhy

Book cover.

I won’t go into much detail about the 13 reasons why (the WIki entry for it nicely listed them all down and you can also go to the official website), but what struck me was that Hannah killed herself because of bullying. Not the outright, name-calling type, but one wherein a guy she dated when she first arrived in their town, perhaps to make himself appear manly and more popular, spread rumors that they did more than just kiss on their first date. This rumor “snowballed” and got Hannah a reputation of being “easy” and unpopular (or popular, for the wrong reasons). Being a newcomer, she didn’t have many friends to defend her and the degrading treatment from her peers made Hannah desperate and alone. Her last resort was to approach their English teacher/guidance counselor and talk to him about suicide. However, after a short session wherein Hannah ended up feeling even more helpless, the teacher just let her walk out of the room without stopping her, knowing full well that Hannah was exhibiting suicidal tendencies.

Her last line in the book was “thank you” which to me was the saddest line in the book, signifying that she’d given up and the thank you was for her classmates, her teachers and everyone around her, for not showing any concern for her. A sort of thanks, but no thanks.

According to a study by Yale University, bullied people are two to nine times more likely to kill themselves, and another study revealed that more than half of suicides among young people are due to bullying.Among the red flags of suicide, taken from the website http://www.bullyingstatistics.org, are:

  • Showing signs of depression, like ongoing sadness, withdrawal from others, losing interest in favorite activities, or trouble sleeping or eating
  • Talking about or showing an interest in death or dying
  • Engaging in dangerous or harmful activities, including reckless behavior, substance abuse, or self injury
  • Giving away favorite possessions and saying goodbye to people
  • Saying or expressing that they can’t handle things anymore
  • Making comments that things would be better without them

While I have never had thoughts of suicide (thank God that I love life too much and have too many plans to consider that), I myself have been a victim of bullying all throughout my school life.

When I was in fourth grade, an older schoolmate once attacked me and a group of friends with a small knife; it became clear that the attack was centered on me and one other friend of mine. When we reported it to the school officials, our then Asst. Principal was so worried as she knew the attacker and that I was easy prey, she actually asked my parents to move me to another school as soon as possible. Transferring wasn’t quickly achieved in those days so I waited out the entire school year, and had to be taken to and from the school by my nanny (who was built like an Amazonian queen and who would have punched the guy asleep if given the chance) and watched by our teachers while at school.

Going to a new school gave me no respite however, as I experienced a different kind of bullying: name calling. I was born with wavy hair – neither slick straight but not curly enough to be cute. Needless to say, my wavy hair earned me the name “poodle”. I tried taming it with gels or putting water to keep my hair down until I eventually gave up and just wore headbands and tied my hair. Thankfully, my hair is better behaved now (and yes, I do get rebonds and digital perms alternately). The most amusing thing happened to me a few years back when during a reunion with my grade school classmates, a couple of my male classmates could not remember me until I told them, “ako yung tinatawag n’yo na poodle dati” (I was the one you called “Poodle” before) and it was like a lightbulb flashed above their heads. It was almost cartoonish.

Looking back, hIgh school was probably even worse – a lot of people will probably agree with me when I say high school is the toughest place to survive in. And it’s even tougher when you’re an average looking girl studying in an exclusive all-girls school where beauty, more than brains, is the currency. On a side noted, this is probably why I can relate very well to the song At Seventeen. A lot of organizations I wanted to join didn’t get me because I was up against prettier, more popular, or richer girls. I was even handed a note from a higher-batch schoolmate bearing the words “The Simpsons” during a snack break. This same schoolmate (who was also my neighbor a couple of houses over), would sing or hum at the top of her voice the theme song of the said program whenever  I would pass by her along the street.

(On hind sight, the grown up life isn’t too different from high school).

Thankfully, I wasn’t raised by my parents to be a pushover and I was too much of a loner (in a good way) to be bothered with such trivialities. My stubborn streak and my pride wouldn’t allow me to suffer in silence either – I reported both incidents to school authorities. I knocked over one of the guys who were bullying me straight into the ground (I was one of the taller girls in grade school). He never called me Poodle again. And I got a public apology over the Simpsons incident.

And I got the sweetest victory when I saw the look on their faces when they realized during our mini reunion that I don’t look too bad now (yes, losing all that acne, buck tooth, and big glasses helped a lot). Yes, the ugly duckling has somehow turned into a swan (come on, this is my blog, so better agree with me on this one!)

So you see, I had my feet firmly planted on the ground and was too level-headed; and I had a lot of friends and family to support me. But I know there are a lot of young people who are not as fortunate as I was.

Bullying, affects not just the victim, but the perpetrator itself. It’s a sort of self-defense mechanism on the part of the bully, to cover up some deep-seated insecurities. It has to stop and the only way I know how is to not be a bully myself.

Mini Me

This should put to rest all doubts on whether Georgie looks like me or not.

That's me during my baptism (left), and my first birthday (right).

That’s me during my baptism (left), and my first birthday (right).

Plus, I am happy to report Georgie got my long, tapered fingers and not dear hubby’s pudgy ones.

At one month.

At one month.

At seven months. How can anyone resist those big puppy eyes?

At seven months. How can anyone resist those big puppy eyes?

The World According to Joey: Field Trip 2014

I don’t get to spend as much time with Joey as I would like since I get home really late so I try to make it to his school activities, especially those that fall on a weekend. So a few weeks ago, I went with him on his field trip.
As soon as I saw the place, I wondered if I got myself in over my head. Adding to my trepidation was Joey asking if we could go on the zipline together. Zip-what?????

Teacher’s pet alert. 😀

Anyway, first even was an obstacle course. I wasn’t really paying attention until I realized that both the kids AND parents were required to participate in all the games. What have I gotten myself into?
A good thing this particular obstacle wasn’t part of the agenda for the day.

Joey and I aren’t particularly athletic – we trip, we fall, and land on our butts when faced with physical activities (cue my papa’s clucking sounds; it’s always been one of his greatest disappointments that for a former athlete like him, none of his kids and grandkids inherited the gene).

We got through the first activity fine. But the next one was tough — the dreaded zipline. Joey kept giving me big puppy eyes and I couldn’t just say no. 
We got as far as getting our harnesses fixed and the kuyas were about to push us off the ledge but my knees were already turning to jelly and my heart was about to pop out of my chest so I had to back out. The little kid was so sad. Fortunately, his teacher was right behind us in the queue and volunteered to take my place so Joey could still do the zipline. Life saver!

And yes, I conclude that Joey is the teacher’s pet. Hahaha!
Joey doesn’t like noise – here, he stepped out of the main hall because the music was playing too loudly.

There was a second zipline which I would have gone on with Joey (it was really short and low!), but they were only allowing kids. I did get to hold the rope that pulls Joey through the zipline, so yey!

Don’t grow up so fast, little boybie.

Joey with his friends.

Baby Drop Box

A few days ago, this video of a “drop box” started appearing on my FB news feed. I clicked the link and watched one of the most touching videos I’ve ever seen. 

ORIGINAL – Provided by Arbella Studios.

The video tells the story of how a pastor and his wife thought of a way to help save the lives of unwanted babies being left on the streets of Seoul.  They came up with this box similar to a post office mailbox, albeit softer, and installed it outside their house. This drop box is where moms, and just about anyone, can put unwanted babies and the pastor then takes the baby into his care. This way, the babies get a chance to be part of a family, loved and cared for, instead of being left on the streets to fend for himself, where he would most likely not survive.
I was sobbing halfway through the video.
The drop box struck a cord in me because more than two decades ago, I almost had a second brother. My parents were walking around the Blumentritt market when they heard the sounds of a baby crying. It was siesta time and the area was mostly deserted as the vendors were taking their afternoon rest so my parents got curious as to where the sound was coming from. They searched for the source and found a tiny baby in a shoe box, tossed amidst a mountain of trash.
My mom took pity on the baby (my father was more worried on being charged with kidnapping for taking the baby from the trash), especially upon seeing that he had scratches and was being feasted on by flies, and got him to  the Chinese General Hospital which was just a stone’s throw away.
The baby was just five months old and my parents said the doctors thought he’d been aborted and thrown away just like that. My parents told the doctors that they would shoulder the expenses, and to do what they can to save the baby and that they would adopt him if he survived. But being so small and already having gone through so much in his young life, the baby didn’t even make it through the night.
I never forgot that incident, even though I wasn’t there to personally witness it. It happened when I was still a small girl, even before my youngest brother was born and I had always wondered what it would have been like had the baby survived and became a part of our family.
I love babies and I can’t ever think of a valid reason why anyone would ever think of depriving them their right to live. Though they drive me crazy (especially now with all the sleepless nights), I take one look at my sons and I know I would give anything, go through anything to make sure they are alright. One time, Joey even asked me why I always give him the last piece of food (even if it was my own), and why I am always the last one to sleep (after tucking him in bed and singing his baby brother to sleep) and I can only say, because I’m your mom.
I wish there would be more people like the pastor and his wife. And I wish God would bless him with a long and healthy life so he can save more babies.

The World According to Joey: Super Powers and Heartbroken Letters

It amazes me how kids think. One minute they’re so smart-ass, the next, they blurt out funny little quips that would have you laughing out loud. Take this one for example; I was at home with Joey trying to get him to sleep. He wouldn’t listen to me so I texted his dad (he admits it’s because I’m not as scary as his dad):

I finally got him to lie down on the bed beside me and turned off the lights and turned away from him to sleep myself. After thirty minutes, I felt squirming from his side:
Me: Joey, why are you still awake?
Joey: How did you know I’m still awake?
Me: I have eyes at the back of my head.
Joey (sits up on the bed): Really mom? 
Just two days ago, he kept looking at my head, lifting my hair and asking me how come he couldn’t see the “eyes” at the back of my head. And now he thinks his dad has super powers and that I am a monster.

***
We’ve been preparing Joey for his baby brother even before I got pregnant, gently testing the idea of having a sibling with him. He finally agreed and got excited to have one so hubby and I were really happy.
But of course, he can’t help feeling jealous sometimes.
At the hospital after giving birth:
Me: Joey, go to sleep while I feed your baby brother.
Joey: Is he going to sleep beside you?
Me: Yes, because he needs to be beside mommy for a bit.
Joey: Can I sleep beside you?
Me: Maybe when we get home, the hospital bed isn’t big enough and you might squash the baby.
While I was feeding the baby on my hospital bed, I heard muffle sounds of someone crying. As it was just me and Joey, I asked:
Me: Joey, why are you crying?
Joey: Nothing mom. (But stands up and hugs me)
Me: Tell mommy so I can help.
Joey (starts sobbing loudly): It’s just that why do you have to do everything with the baby and nothing with me?
I can’t tell you how many comforting words and reassurances I had to make to get him to stop crying; although he begged me afterwards to not tell his dad that he’d been crying.
***
Joey’s pangs of jealousy didn’t end there. One time, as I was changing Georgie’s diaper and trying to get him to sleep (and scolded Joey in the process as he was creating a racket with the loud TV and his toys clanging on the floor), he told me he was leaving the house for good.
Joey: I’m leaving.
Me (trying to humor him and interested to find out how far our exchange would go): Okay.
Note #1, which he slid under the door right after I scolded him (and which I only saw later that night as it was blown away by the fan). Joey later told me (once he’d calmed down), his heart was broken when I scolded him.
Joey: Do you want me to survive out in the wild?
Me: You’re not going to the wilderness. There’s no such place near our house. (Joey leaves the room).
Joey (coming back with a pack of yogurt and milk in his hands): I’m leaving now.
Me: Okay. But how are you going to eat the yogurt, you don’t even know how to open it.
Joey (gets mad and stomps out): I’m leaving!
A few minutes later, I heard sobs from outside the door and later, this note slid under the door:
 
Pardon the sloppy handwriting, he got it from his dad.

Joey did go in eventually, saying sorry and hugging me after I sat beside him on the floor and offered him a chocolate bar. And with that, I realized I have a very sensitive little boy whose world quite revolves around me and how I treat him. So I make a promise to be more mindful of what I say to him.
Thus, he gets to sleep again on the bed with us; a squeeze considering we now have Georgie as well but, it will have to do.

PS: That sleeping on the bed part? Hubby relented and took out the foldable mattress and now sleeps on the floor. 😀

 

The World According to Joey: Lego Love (Part 2)

When I was a kid, I remember our papa bringing home a bucket of Lego bricks – the plain ones, consisting of those flat lengthwise bricks and the square and plump bricks. Back then, those were the only Lego products available in the department stores (Isetann, Plaza Fair and SM Carriedo, that is, the only department stores our family used to visit in the 80s and early 90s). But I was oh so happy to have those bricks, making buildings and houses. 
Fast forward to today and Lego has evolved – you can build practically anything. The good thing is, the bricks, whether you are using old ones or new ones, all fit together (and I can’t fault Lego for the quality and craftsmanship of each toy). And Joey has inherited this fascination with Lego (you can read about my older entry about his Lego love affair here).
But, as with all kids, Joey has moved on from his NInjago obsession, though he still asked me to buy this Final Battle thingie:

His focus now? Star Wars. Oh, be still my poor bleeding wallet. Star Wars Lego pieces are almost two times more expensive than the regular ones (Ninjago, Build City, and the more recent one, Chima) – and I am sorely tempted to curse our customs for the exhorbitant import and custom fees that make them even more expensive here (I bought a Star Wars ship in HK for around Php800 but when I checked it here, it’s Php2,399!!!). 
Started off Joey’s collection with the planets – I believe this group is up to Series 3 and there are three planets per series. Joey’s got five, so far, although we don’t strictly follow the order of things – he just picks up what to him is the prettier planet. And each planet comes with a small ship and character.

Unfortunately, the more famous characters like Luke Skywalker, C3PO, Han Solo, etc, don’t come with the tiny planets. So poor parents like me have to shell out for the bigger ships to get them.

Han Solo’s ship

That’s Han Solo in the middle

Would you believe Joey looked up this repair droid on the internet and then dragged me to Hobbes and Landes to buy it?

The good thing about playing with his Lego rather than toy guns and tablet is that it encourages Joey to be creative, and patient – building a ship can take hours or even a day, depending on how big it is. And may I add that even the grown-ups (ahem, hubby; and fine, me) love them too.

The Lego brand has also expanded – accessories, bags, clothes, books, and several cartoon series on the Cartoon Network. A Lego movie is even in the works and will be shown early this year!
I previously got him Toy Story and Ninjago Lego watches during their related phases, and keeping up the tradition, and to motivate him to learn the time, I got him a Star Wars watch too (honestly, I figured it was cheaper to get a new watch WITH C3PO than get the Lego ship where the droid is a part of).

This is, incidentally, also my favorite Lego watch. It’s gold!!!
Hubby and I couldn’t find Luke Skywalker anywhere (he is probably part of the big ships) so when I saw this book at the book fair last September, I had to grab it.
Joey’s Ninjago addiction may have waned, but he’s still desperate to have the green ninja (the only one missing from his collection), so I had to grab this one too. See? Now Joey spends his free time reading!

Now, kiddo and I are busy poring over the internet, researching on Legoland which we are planning to visit sometime this year, and reading the new Lego books we gave him for Christmas. 
That and watching old Star Wars movies which we have on DVD.  And gingerly stepping around the house to avoid the Lego landmines on the floor.

Burgers and Cupcakes

After giving birth last November, I was finally able to meet up with a couple of my friends for a much needed time-out from mommy duties.  I’ve been out and about several times already but always with the two kids in tow, so it was really stressful, what with having to watch over a precocious six-year old kid and a one-month old baby; today was my lucky day as nanny #2 finally reported for work.
Make no mistake – I love my kids and my mom hat is always the first one I put on. But there comes a point when I just need some time to have fun without taking care of the kids at the same time.
You know, take a breather. 
This is probably one very important thing that moms should never forget –you can be a devoted mom, but to be able to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself also. Your world can revolve around your kids but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate what the universe has to offer, right? Otherwise, feelings of resentment and self-pity might kick in,  until it ends up driving you nuts.
Just a word of advice: everything in moderation. 

Anyway, it wasn’t really a night out (none of my friends do clubs and we don’t drink except for the occasional cocktails after a particularly stressful day at work or to celebrate milestones) so we just ordered what now seems to me to be one of our standard comfort food: mussels (any which way) and burgers (of the bleu cheese kind).
Bleu Cheese Burger at Draft, Rockwell
Spicy mussels at Draft
We decided to do a bit of (window) shopping as a lot of stores are now having their inventory/year-end sale and grabbed some cupcakes and coffee after at Cupcakes by Sonja. 
My choco cream cheese cupcake.
Just an observation. We really are getting old – we were home by 10PM! Hahaha!

Giving Birth


I kind of have the impression that the world was on a wild baby boom last 2013 and it seems that 2014 will be no different. Having given birth to two adorable boys via the same method but under different circumstances, here is my two cent’s worth.
Finding the Right Doctor and Hospital
I had different doctors for my two boys, mainly because we moved houses and my old doctor/hospital became more than an hour’s drive, which would be disastrous if I suddenly get stuck in traffic while going into labour. So hubby and I decided to have our second baby at the nearest hospital, which also necessitated the need for a new obstetrician, as my old one wasn’t accredited at the new hospital. I did a lot of online research on our doctor (in short, stalking and snooping; let’s hope she’s not reading this, hahaha), didn’t find anything bad, so I was basically satisfied. She was also highly recommended by one of hubby’s friends so that sealed the deal for us.
Among our other considerations were the facilities, convenience, and the cost. Since our hospital is a top-notch brand spanking new one and is just ten minutes away from our house (St. Luke’s at Fort Bonifacio Global City), that ticks off the first two factors. Again doing some online research (you can try this link for 2013 prices to give you an idea), I made comparisons among the other hospitals near us and luckily, our hospital offered competitive maternity packages wherein I ended up paying even less than for my first delivery. It did mean though that I had to endure a semi-private room since St. Luke’s didn’t offer private room packages. I don’t like sharing rooms but I just told myself it’s just for two days anyway. The hospital doesn’t get crowded too and I didn’t have to share my room after all. 
Rooming in
I once thought that it would be a very nice idea if my newborn baby stayed with me immediately after birth but looking back, I realize this wasn’t the best scenario. First, it didn’t allow me time to recuperate and recover at least some of my strength before I had to take care of him. In fact, I was still in the recovery room and I was already breastfeeding and barely had time to sleep during my two day-stay since, as we all know, babies almost always wake up and need to be fed every two hours.  
This was totally opposite from when I had our firstborn – I had a full day to rest on my own, and was given the option to just inform the nurses and my doctor if I am ready to take care of my baby. I slept almost the entire first day and by the second day, I was recharged enough to endure taking care of him without feeling as if my body had the flu.

Anesthetics
I have a high pain tolerance so I basically only require the anesthesia almost when I am about to get in the delivery room. I had the epidural with Georgie, administered when I was already in delivery room (told you, I have high tolerance – I managed through the entire labor without any anesthetics and only asked for one as I was to be wheeled into the delivery room) and the general one with Joey, although I wasn’t fully knocked out during the delivery. 
My preference? Well, I can’t exactly remember all the details of my labor with Joey – I do recall shouting back at my doctor, refusing to push anymore, and remembering being so groggy that I slept for such a long time. But I do remember the details of my labor with Georgie under epidural. What I didn’t like was not feeling the contractions as they come – I mean, my doctor had to tell me there’s a contraction before I knew to push. 
I also had a very bad after childbirth experience related to epidural anesthesia which is why I am not particularly fond of it – one day after being discharged, I was back in the hospital because of spinal headaches so bad I was crying of pain and throwing up whenever I had to walk the short distance from our bedroom to the comfort room. I didn’t even want to eat because eating would mean I would have to sit up and the headaches would come again (the unique thing about spinal headaches is that you only feel them when sitting or standing up; they’re almost entirely gone when you lie back down). Turns out, the needle used for my epidural punctured my spine and the fluid leaked out. Researching a bit on this, I found out this is fairly common for back operations – 4 out of 10 experience it; but relatively rare for childbirth, where occurrence is around 1% only. (Un)luckily for me, I just had to belong to that “elite” 1%. 
Spinal headache is the worst kind I’ve experienced so far. I am not joking when I say I literally saw black spots swirling and that I wanted to hit my head on the wall if only to knock me out and numb the pain.
There are various ways to treat spinal headaches, the most extreme would be to insert another needle and inject some of my own blood into the exact spot where the puncture happened, hoping that the blood will clot and cover the puncture. But we did the non-invasive course first – bed rest and lots of fluid. Three days of non-stop IV (hence, the puffy cheeks when I finally got home), strong painkillers both taken orally and via IV, and being stuck on a hospital bed rid me of the more painful headaches. On the 4th day, I was feeling well enough to continue resting at home. 
Enjoy
Okay, giving birth may not be enjoyable, and I know a lot of women who dread it, but just think that at the end of it all- you’d have a bouncing little bundle of joy that makes it all worthwhile.