Making quality time out of nothing at all

20130722-105101.jpgThis is a picture Katie and I made last weekend. It took us 2 days to finish and possibly makes up for all her other drawings on paper where she didn’t use all the white space. You probably can’t tell but it is a castle with rainbow turrets, a yellow flag for me, a pink flag for her and a fabulous green background with multi colored polka dots.

This is Katie’s idea of quality time.

I am going to look at this picture to remind myself that quality time need not be that carefully planned, perfect moment. That making memories doesn’t always require going someplace new or spending a lot of money.

I am going to look at this picture when Katie asks to play/read/snuggle and I am thinking of the things I think I have to do (like fold laundry) or want to do (like take a nap) instead of playing/reading/snuggling.

I am going to look at this picture when she is talking to me and I am itching to take out my phone and people-watch on Facebook. Or check my email. Or play Candy Crush.

I am going to look at this picture and remember that right now she wants to hang out with me and it’s not going to stay like that forever. I only maybe have a couple of years before I become uncool.
20130726-161026.jpg2013: still on the favorite list.

This morning Katie announced “I wish it were tomorrow so it’s a Nanay and Katie day with no camp and no work”. I have a feeling we are coloring again tomorrow. Or playing princess tea party. Or dancing wildly. Or maybe even sorting socks and putting away the spoons and forks. Together. Whatever it is, I am preparing to give my undivided attention (at least in 10 minute chunks).

The days are long, but the years are short. And I know I will never regret time well spent with my best girl.

Handy Sunday

I have to admit it: my housekeeping skills are disappointing. In fact one of my life upgrades this year was regular housecleaning. Right now my biggest problem at home is a mountain. Literally.
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Katie says: I don’t want to be in this picture!

By the way, all this laundry is clean. The main reason why it hasn’t been put away is this: 20130721-181412.jpg
I love Ikea. Most of our furniture is sourced from there whether bought directly or second hand on Craigslist . I love Ikea so much that I refer to the furniture by its name in the catalog that has a semi permanent place in the bathroom for reading and browsing purposes. The above is a representative picture of the interior of my 6-drawer Malm dresser which I bought for $40 from a desperate-because-I-have-to-vacate-my-apartment-by-midnight student. Katie’s clothes are in a similar dresser with have the same sagging phenomenon.

Fortunately, this problem is a pretty easy fix (not duct tape, although I had already tried that). About 3-4 months ago, I got some little plastic parts (free when you ask) meant to go under the bottoms to support the now saggy shelf with the full intention installing them immediately. In the meantime, my (clean) laundry has reached new heights. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out to rotate the shelf part of the drawer so the saggy part goes in the front where there is more support. After the first 2 drawers (there were 7 that needed refurbishing), I kind of knew what I was doing. With a Philips and straight screwdriver, a moderate amount of swearing, and some help from little hands, our clothes receptacles are good as new.
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My next projects: the supporting metal rails under my bed and putting together a Bjursta table await. Meanwhile, planning to have a GoT marathon while folding and putting away.

At home in the streets of Boston

Today was a perfect day to go to a sprinkler park. We made a day of going to Downtown Boston with best friend Wubby, them in swimsuits and me in my trusty summer hat. The girls were a cheap date. We took the T ($2), played in the Rose Kennedy Greenway Rings fountain (free) and had ice cream from Emack and Bolios ($3/kiddie cone) while looking at seals in the New England Aquarium (free). The girls decided to walk to the Frog Pond for more water play (free) and a carousel ride ($3) with the caveat that we would rest as needed. Rest turned out to be Dunkin Donuts (munchkins for them, dark roast iced coffee for me) and Bath and Body Works for personal sparkly hand sanitizer ($1.50 with case).
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How refreshing it is to explore the city with children. They donned their sunglasses and sashayed like they owned the place. They took turns looking for the “red brick road” aka Freedom Trail that would lead us to our destination. They tried not to chase the pigeons and waited for me to cross the street with them. Wubby was more genial than my daughter, chirping a bright “Hi!” or “Hello” to every tourist, baby or dog that came our way. Inevitably, we met people for whom the streets have become home. And before I could stop her, she was already talking to a girl who looked like she was in her 20s.

Wubby: (reading from sign) Every bit helps…homeless. (To lady) What does homeless mean?
Girl on street: It means I don’t have a place to live.
Katie: Why?
GOS: I lost my job so I can’t pay for a place to live. But I am looking and hopefully soon I can have a home.
Wubby: My family is moving to another house but you can’t live in our apartment because the people downstairs are having twins so they are moving upstairs.
GOS: That’s ok. If they are having twins they must need the space more than me.
Wubby: (pointing to backpack) What’s in there?
Katie: Is that ALL of your stuff?

We try to shield our children from the unpleasant, and the ugly, and hope they will never have to deal with these things. Avoidance makes it easier to tune things out and pretend that all is well but we lose the opportunity to teach tolerance and compassion. The reality is that the world is not all pink and fluffy, but black and white and infinite shades of gray all of which our children deserve to know about, if not experience. In their innocence, neither girl was uncomfortable discovering the harshness of life.

We resumed walking and I answered more questions. I stopped myself from telling Katie that we were homeless too, once, and that Wubby’s parents had been one of those who had offered us a place to stay. I held their sticky hands when what I really wanted to do was give them a big hug.

“Peng, how come some people can’t have a place to live? Why isn’t there work for everybody?”

“I wish me and Wubby could be fairies and unicorns with magic so we can give her a home.”

“If me and Katie were giants or Martians maybe we can give that lady a job and we can MAKE her a house.”

Thank you Katie and Wubby. You are hope for the future.
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***
P.S. While chatting, we found out that our new friend had worked with animals before she lost her job. I was able to tip her about applying to my old workplace. I hope she finds work soon.

On vacation with friends of friends

I am sipping my coffee in beautiful Vermont, listening to birds and watching the sun spread light over the trees and mountains. We are here for part of the weekend on the invitation of a dear friend’s dear friend.
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A close knit family is as essential to a Filipino as white rice is to adobo. As transplants from the motherland, we have had to make our own families here. Thus, friends of friends and their friends become cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Just like at home.

My bestie Maya is one of those people who are adept at making an ever expanding circle of good-as-family friends. For instance, all the 13 adults in the house are somehow connected to her: through high school (soirĂ©e!), college, dance, or when she first moved to NYC. I met our host through Maya when we were pregnant with our first borns. 6 years later, our children become fast friends, roaming the house’s many secret passages, refreshing their kindergarten phonics lessons and even deciding to have a “sleepover”.

The air is sweeter in the country. After living under the city lights for so long you forget what a massive blanket of stars looks like. We swam in a pond, played on rocks, even waded through a rushing stream. As we return to the bustle and noise, to being awakened by ambulances and drunk college kids, I am grateful for the reminder of a world so massive and peaceful.

Thank you M and J for an awesome time.

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