Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Being a Mother is Like Playing Domino

Not all of you may be mothers, but definitely, you all have mothers. Some of you may have pleasant memories of your mothers, some may have forgettable ones. The official Mother's Day is still seven months away, but it's always timely to hear a story from a mother.

I flagged down a jeep to take me home. After attending a two-hour PTA meeting, I squeezed my way through the crowd and boarded the jeep so I can reach home by 6:00 P.M. For sure the children are already waiting for me and I don't want them to be anxious.

After a while, a familiar face stepped into the same public vehicle and greeted me as soon as she recognized me. Her slender figure was clothed in a lilac blouse and a slightly darker pencil-cut skirt. Though smiling, she was obviously tired.

"Hi Ma'am!" I smiled back at my son's former teacher. "Going home?"

"No, I'm going to tutor one more student. Just one more…"

I learned that after class, she tutors a pupil and now she’s on her way to one more tutee before she heads back home.

“You’re so hardworking,” I remarked.

“It would be a loss if I don’t work as hard. The fees also help augment our income," she said, referring to her and her husband's earnings.

I wondered if she still had the time to prepare dinner for her family. On my part, I had pre-cooked our dinner and all I needed to prepare was the rice.

"Actually, I have no more time to cook for my family. My mother-in-law cooks for us. After eating, I just go to bed."

"Do you have kids?" I asked. This is the first time I had talked to her lengthily about her family.

She nodded. "Sometimes I feel guilty because I no longer have time to teach my first born who is in Grade One." She seemed embarrassed by her confession. But soon I sensed pride in her voice when she added, "Surprisingly, he's on top of his class!"

I congratulated her for her son's achievement.

"You know what my son told me? He said, ‘Mommy, you teach other kids but you don’t teach me.’”

I tried to imagine what that boy must have felt having a teacher-mother who could not be by his side all the time to help him with his homework. I know there are other boys and girls like him whose father and mother are so busy working that even if they would like to, their tired minds and bodies could no longer bear another task. Or whatever energy that's still left, is unfortunately, reserved for an extended work at home. That's what happened to me and my son Ephraim that very night.

Later that night, I was so engrossed preparing for my Research Methodology class in a seminary where I teach part-time. It was my first time to teach the subject so I really needed to study hard. But my eyes were already drooping. Imagine, I did the usual household chores in the morning, I taught half of the day, attended the PTA meeting in the afternoon, and afterwards I dropped by a friend’s house to borrow an electric drill--and now I had to prepare a lesson plan.

That's why I barely noticed Ephraim playing with his domino, not until I asked him to go to bed. He was lining up his dominoes, spacing each black tile so that each one would lean and topple the one next to it in perfect motion and timing. Probably because he was rushed into finishing his project, the black pieces didn't collapse thoroughly. He didn't succeed at completing a domino effect.

Frustrated, he cried, buried his head on the bed and whined, "That's because you didn't help me!"

Initially, I defended myself. I reasoned I was busy working so I wasn't able to help him set up his dominoes. Then I softened as I recalled that when I was also in elementary, I cried once because my mother could not help me with my homework because she was busy with her business. I felt deprived, and I think even unloved. I forgot what my mother told me to appease me the night I cried. But I do remember that she hugged me.

And so I hugged Ephraim. I felt sorry and asked him to forgive me. He did. With a promise to help him next time, he went to bed.

Most of the time, being a mother is like playing domino. I hope I could get the exact white dots that could fit perfectly into my children's dots. Now as a working mom, I always hope that my work schedule would jibe with my children’s school program, sportsfest and other activities. But, as in a domino game, sometimes I have no choice but to "pass" and just get back in the next round. Sometimes I wish my two kids can connect with me. I wish they can understand my dreams as well as my fears, my struggles as well as my victories. I am thankful when my children don’t make huge demands; when they understand and cooperate with me. But when they can't, I must give them the chance and the right to say "pass". After all, they too can run out of the right piece.

Making the rectangular pieces stand next to each other and toppling them by just one tap of the finger is fun and exciting. Once they've collapsed, you start all over. But it's not exciting when my children's trust in me collapses. Unlike a few minutes' task of setting up the dominoes for a rerun, rebuilding my children's trust in me may take a longer time, even a lifetime.

I'm thankful that God knows how to reconnect with me. Not that He is at fault. He is the perfect Father in heaven, and I am the prodigal daughter. But even while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me and reconciled me to God the Father. Through His Holy Spirit now dwelling in my heart, I can be in touch with God. As I walk closely with God who gifted me with two children, I understand more clearly my priorities as a mother. I am humbled when I realize that sometimes I also fail, yet the grace of God prevails. I start again, with God's help, determined to be connected with my children again.

Question for Reflection: Our desire to be connected with our heavenly Father should be greater than our desire to stay connected with our children. What steps or adjustments do you need to do to be closer to God?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Like Watermelon Seeds

Ephraim, when he was about four, with his sister

Previously, I wrote something about my daughter. To be fair, here's something I wrote about my son after a swimming incident.

The water was shallow. In fact it's only thigh-deep. But for my son Ephraim who was only four years old at that time, the seawater was up to his chest. With one more step, the salty and greenish brown water would reach his neck. The water was murky because there were too many people, especially children, playing in the water. It was summer and the cool and frisky water of the sea was too inviting.

While holding the tiny right hand of my son, I observed the people around me. There were young girls in pink suits. One even had a pair of goggles. I think she was only three but she showed no fear of the rushing waves. Some children her age are naturally fearful and wouldn't dare to swim alone. But this girl looked even excited. Another group of young boys about the age of my five-year old daughter, were throwing water at each other.

I also heard my six-year old niece, Erika, shout, " Tita! Tita! Look at me, I can swim!" Then she quickly demonstrated her apparently new skill. She looked back at me, as if looking for a confirmation that indeed, she now knows how to swim. I watched and nodded to please her. But the truth is, she wasn't swimming at all. She was just crawling.

From the middle of the sea, I saw my husband rose. His body was itching so he decided to say good-bye to the brine. But I still didn't want to get out of the water. I was actually itching to go to a deeper portion of the sea, not here by the beach, babysitting Ephraim. I wanted to go there, in the middle of the sea where my sisters-in law were, frolicking together with our friends. They giggled as they all struggled to remain afloat by embracing a solitary bamboo pole. I also wanted to float and to feel the warm sunbeam on my skin. I wanted to be cradled by the rolling sea waves as the gentle breeze touch my cheeks. Ahh…how relaxing it would be. Unfortunately, I'm stuck here at the beach with Ephraim…Ephraim…

Ephraim! I was too busy watching others I forgot that I was keeping an eye on my young son. When I turned to him, he was already submerged in water. His little face was ashen white. With both eyes and mouth closed, he nervously paddled. He wrestled to rise to the surface.

My heart raced, my mind reeled. No! He's not going to drown. I will not let him get drowned. I immediately grabbed him. As he rose to the surface, Ephraim caught his breath. After the rescue, his first words were, "I didn't know seawater is salty. It tastes just like watermelon seeds!"

Looking back now, I thought that was a brilliant comparison. I always knew the sea is terribly salty but in all my English composition class, I had never thought of comparing the saltiness of the sea to that of the watermelon seeds.

Come to think of it: In the first place, who would have thought that there's still food to scrape in a tiny watermelon seed? I don't know the origin of this novel morsel. But maybe, just maybe, the one who peddled the idea that a salted butong pakwan can be eaten, is someone who had too much time in his hands. So he invented a food that will require him a lot of preparation before he can actually eat it in seconds. Or he could be someone who was an environmentalist and thought of a novel way of recycling spitted watermelon seeds. Or most likely, he was someone who had nothing to eat, but saw lots of seeds spitted by those who have much watermelons to eat. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. I also believe that afflictions have a way of bringing out the best from us, even the best ideas.

That’s why the next time I find myself in the middle of a sea of problems concerning my kids, my husband, my friends, my budget, my work, my whatever… and I feel like I’m drowning, I will not panic. For a while I may feel like my lungs are ready to burst, or I am about to pass out for lack of oxygen. I can paddle my arms as vigorously as I can so others would know I’m crying out for help. Then I’ll remind myself that great ideas come when one is submerged. That's when I get a different perspective of life. That's when I realize my limits. That's when I call out to Someone stronger than I am who can save me. And sure enough, He will come to the rescue. When I come to the surface, I know better about life, and about what really matters.

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." The Bible, from Matthew 11:28-30

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bike Ride

My cute daughter Phoebe (second from left, last row) when she was eight years old

I wrote the following when my daughter was around eight or nine years old trying to learn how to ride a bike.

The street was a sea of people that shady afternoon. Boys were scrambling to possess the orange rubber ball and shoot it in the ring that was hoisted on one side of the road. Mothers were strolling the wide street with their kids. A man, his shirt rolled up to his stomach, was fanning a barbecue pit in front of his house, obviously getting ready to grill some barbecue. In a few minutes, people would start milling around his improvised stall and buy his barbecue. This is a common sight in our neighborhood especially every summer when children are out of school and adults have enough spare time on a Saturday afternoon.

That afternoon, I was on my way home from the grocery when I spotted from afar a thin girl in a familiar shirt and pair of shorts. She was pedaling a bicycle, slowly at first, then breezily. When the girl saw me, her face brightened up. She smiled and shouted, “Mom!”

Hey, that’s my daughter! Pride flooded my heart as I saw my eight year-old daughter, Phoebe, navigate our busy street. Her Tita Rothy gave her that bicycle. Even before she had her own, she had been practicing already on a borrowed bicycle. And when she finally got one, she spent almost every afternoon learning how to balance herself on the two wheels.

I did not watch her every time she practiced, but I would ask her from time to time how she’s doing. During her first few attempts, she would say, “It’s hard,” or “I can’t balance myself”. The succeeding trials were rough. Sometimes, she would come home with scratches on her leg or knee. I would kid her, “You’ve ruined your legs. You can’t be Miss Universe anymore.” She would pout then ask me for a remedy. I bought her cebo de macho and cautioned her to be careful.

In spite of the wounds she suffered, Phoebe would still practice riding on her bike until her efforts paid off. Later on, I asked her, “How did you feel while you were still learning how to balance and control your bike?”

She replied, “It feels good. I get excited but I get nervous too.”

“Didn’t you feel embarrassed with the people on the street looking at you…you know, whenever you fall down, or when you can’t park sooner to give way to a coming vehicle?” I was imagining how I would feel if I was in that situation. I don’t like people staring at me, so for sure, I would feel uncomfortable.

“Oh yes,” she said. “But now I can balance myself, and I can go wherever I want.”
At the age of eight, my daughter has learned how to ride a bicycle, and up to now she still rides in the afternoon around our neighborhood. I admire her for that. I admire her for her courage and persistence in facing the challenge of riding a bicycle, in stretching her abilities, in getting up after a fall, in taking a risk.

Like my daughter, I think I should also take more risks. Not only in trying a new hairstyle, but also in trying out something new that would help me grow as a person. I should also muster the courage to let others see not only my strengths but also my weaknesses so people can see the real me. I will keep on putting my persistence to the test by writing (even at two in the morning) and sending queries to editors until my works get published. And even if I get rejection letters one after the other, I’ll keep trying. It’s all part of the risk. Hopefully, afterwards, it will be a breeze, just like riding bike.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. The Bible, from the Book of Romans 5:3

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Your Spaghetti Doesn't Always Have to Be Red


If you have been following my blog this past week, you definitely noticed the physical change—I changed the template. Let’s say I got bored with the color and font. I also thought it’s a fresh way to mark my second week of blogging. But more than that, I thought it’s a good object lesson in changing perspective.

For some of us, when we keep seeing the same things, we lose our excitement. Or when we refuse to listen to someone who has a different insight, we get into trouble. When we snub the veggies, we miss out on the nutrients that our body needs. Trying something new—rearranging the furniture, cooking a new dish, doing things spontaneously, doing someone a favor instead of always asking a favor, giving instead of receiving—these could give you a boost of energy, a sense of adventure, an important benefit, and even teachable moments.

My “change” this day is not only the template of my blog, but also the food that I served in my family’s plate. We often have spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese. Sometimes we garnish it with tuna flakes, sardines, sausage, or ground meat. But for the first time today, I cooked spaghetti with olive oil, basil, garlic, and bits of German franks. (While doing so, I imagined I’m one of the cooking hosts of Lifestyle Channel or Travel and Living preparing culinary dishes.) I got the recipe from my youngest brother who served it on his birthday. I liked his olive oil and basil spaghetti, which he also garnished with raw slices of tomato and mussels then topped it with toasted peanuts and garlic. Delizioso!

Today, I’ve proven that in our family, our spaghetti doesn’t always have to be red. We all liked the spaghetti in olive oil! Our heart will also benefit from the antioxidative substances and good cholesterol found in olive oil. For more information on the health benefits of olive oil, check out

When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste. ~Laiko Bahrs

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard

A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat. ~Old New York Proverb

No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention. ~Christopher Morley

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? ~The Bible, from the Book of Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things Could Get Better

How's your thank you list? My two friends shared the following:

Clemenchita said, “Ahummm... thanks for the "Thank You List" you've shared Ate. It reminds me also to give thanks to the Lord for His goodness in my life even in a small thing that I've done.”

Mei said, “Just this morning I was thinking along the same lines.. dami kong reklamo sa mga nangyari sa kin last week that it's about time I reverse the trend by writing a gratitude journal. I am thankful simply for another week that may not be perfect, but full of promise and hope. if everything was soooo bad the previous week, then things could only get better! =)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thank You List

Managers have to-do list. Mothers have grocery list. Children have wish list. I think we all ought to have a thank you list. Here is mine for this week:

I’m thankful that...
…I’ve finally started blogging
…wonderful people like you read my blog
…high school friends still remember me after so many, many years (I won’t
tell you what year I went up the stage in my gala uniform to get my diploma!)
…my husband cooked spaghetti for our kids and their 11 friends who came to the house
…we celebrated a friend’s birthday last Wednesday with pizza and pistachio ice cream
(my favorites!)
…I keep learning new things because my job requires that I read and research a lot
…when I read some verses in the Bible, I realized its application in my life
…I’m now able to reconnect with my cousins whom I haven’t seen in years, thanks to
Yahoo Messenger
…I had a nap this afternoon
…last month’s telephone bill was already paid (on time)
…we have a kind neighbor who gave us lumpiang ubod at pritong lumpia (fresh and
fried spring rolls)
…I found six yards of fabric for our couch at a bargain price
…someone gave me a tip on how to get a scholarship for our daughter

Most of all, I’m thankful that…
…God made all these things possible. Without Him I can not do anything. He is my
Source of wisdom and strength, my Enabler and Helper.

Why not spend your weekend making your own thank you list? Share them with me and I’ll post it here. Thank you!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tower Bridge

Gazing at London from My Kitchen Sink

Gazing at London from My Kitchen Sink

While sweeping the kitchen floor, I threw a glance at the shelf just above the kitchen sink. A solitary laminated plate with a strawberry painted on its surface leaned against the pink wall of the shelf. I decided to adorn the half-empty shelf with some souvenir which my husband and I have collected. I placed on the shelf a small Korean tea cup given by our friend who attended a seminar in Korea. I added a miniature porcelain plate from Strasbourg with hand paintings of its towering buildings which my sister bought when she toured Europe. Next to it I displayed an egg-shaped salt shaker given by an aunt who’s residing in Germany. I also borrowed some pieces from my daughter’s porcelain mini tea set (I think they’re made from China, as usual). To complete the decoration, I placed against the wall of the shelf a coaster with a picture of the Tower Bridge, a well-known London landmark. An English missionary gave it to my husband. Though I really want to visit the countries where these souvenir came from, for now I am pleased to gaze at each one of them each time I wash the dishes. I particularly like gazing at London from my kitchen sink.

There are other ordinary things I find pleasure in. I like to watch the sky in the middle of the morning and follow the clouds as it drift against the blue expanse. I gasp in wonder when at dusk the sky is painted orange-pink. At night, I gaze at the millions and millions of stars that adorn the firmament. And when my children are already asleep, I stare at them, one after the other. I stroke their hair and pat their behind the way I used to do when I put them to sleep when they were still babies. I don’t know why but it gives me a great sense of serenity doing that. When I wake up in the morning I spend about a minute tracing with my eyes the features of my husband’s face—his closed eyes, his big nose, his full, red lips, even his sunken eye bags. What a delight to wake up each morning beside the love of your life.

I consider it a blessing to learn to enjoy the ordinary things in life. To be thankful for the things that I already have, like my husband, my children, my family and friends who remember us enough to give us souvenirs, and many more. I’m thankful for the sun that shines so brightly causing my laundry to dry quickly. I’m happy to see a bunch of mangoes dangling from a branch. I get excited cooking my husband’s favorite dish. And I easily get satisfied munching chocolate chips. It’s liberating for me not to covet or gripe about the things that I still don’t have or the things that I won’t ever have. If I don’t have them, I still have other things to enjoy and be thankful for. Or maybe I’ll have them too later on. I just enjoy what I have for the moment.

Later in the evening after I had displayed my souvenir and had enjoyed the view from my kitchen sink, I received a message that my brother, sister, and sister-in-law were going to Bangkok for a pleasure trip. I’m glad. I hope they enjoy the trip. As for me, the view from my kitchen sink is just fine.

What are the things you are thankful for?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sunrise and Sunset

Sunrise and sunset are wonderful occassions for the Creator to display His marvelous work of art. They are fleeting moments for us to enjoy, opportunities for us to give praise to the One who adds color to our lives.