Piano update: 8 months

Katie decided not to do dance this year so she can sleep in on Saturdays. Her remaining activities outside of school have been piano and Faith Formation.

Piano has grown on us. Katie loves going to lesson and has acquired some skill in sitting still for the 15-20 minute class. I have acquired skills of my own (aka bribery) to make sure this is the case. Regular practice is still a struggle but I have heard this is the case for many young piano students. Katie also sings in her school’s chorus and am feeling mighty pleased with all this music that is becoming part of her life.

Once Katie knows a piece well enough, she can play it in a duet with her teacher. They average 2-3 pieces learned per week which I think is excellent. She has been taking lessons for 8 months now. Yes it isn’t Mozart, but I like to see and share the progress 🙂

In the video, Katie and her teacher are playing “Lemonade Stand” in the Faber Piano Adventures: Primer Level lesson book.

Yellow means go slow

An ex-roommate and very good friend once told me that setbacks are allowed by God to give us a chance to pause, reflect and warn against a bigger danger. Getting sick is a way for the body to replenish and renew. Vacations rejuvenate and change perspective. In short, waiting is good and has its own purpose.

There’s a really good song by Simon and Garfunkel called Feeling Groovy. The first few lyrics go

Slow down you move too fast
You gotta make the morning last

Who does that, though? My every day is filled with the desire to catch up- with reading, cooking and cleaning, getting to places on time, work and laundry. It’s a frenzied no-mistakes-allowed-self-imposed miserable cycle. So suddenly a wrench gets thrown in the well oiled but overworked machine and you can either curse at your “bad luck” or you can embrace it.

I am proud to say I’ve gotten better with every wrench thrown my way and see the bigger ones, in retrospect of course, as blessings. From the time I had 3 months to get back on my feet after a nervous breakdown, to Katie’s stomach bug/flu/pinkeye mega week after Christmas, to the surprise flat tire that led to needing 4 new ones, all of these were a message.

Slow down.
Make the morning last.

The latest bump in the road came in the form of a traffic citation. I was in a hurry to pick Katie up from a friend’s house after work. It was kinda foggy and darker than am used to on my commute home. And I had a big bite of summer roll in my mouth (the other half was in my hand) and wasn’t paying attention at a non busy intersection when the lights came on. Turns out eating counts as impedimented driving and so I was cited for that on top of failure to stop* for a whopping $140. Incidentally, $140 is what I spent at Market Basket for the next 2-3 weeks of groceries so the fine is a really big deal.

Except it’s not.

Because I have been getting cocky on the road and speeding here and there. I guess I needed the reminder to be more damn careful. The citation also made me think of having Fluffy’s (my car) brakes checked and sure enough they do need to be changed ASAP. To be honest I haven’t seen the silver lining of an impending $430 brake job yet but see? All about attitude.

As I dropped her off at her Nana’s house last night, Katie told me “Enjoy the break”. Last week I started planning a vacation am getting really excited about. Tonight am going to my friend Mrs. R’s house for girl talk. It’s a lot of slowing down am not used to but it’s all good.

Here’s to moderation and slowing down in 2014.

*Incidentally, my mother taught me to drive. And she taught me that when the light turns yellow you have to go faster so you are through it before the light turns red. My citation above can totally be blamed on a lack of commitment and a moment of indecision due to prioritizing food. But that is a whole other post.

In search of Samantha

Santa is my weakness. My parents made Santa so magical for me that I am compelled to do the same for Katie. I remember the awe of coming back after late night (not quite midnight) Christmas Eve mass to find presents under the tree. Santa always seemed to know what I wanted and later on, I would write letters to help him out. He never disappointed.

Now Katie has never been a fan of Santa or any mascot in costume. Take for instance my attempt at a Christmas photo with Santa in 2009:
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However, Santa did give nice presents so I guess from a distance she was able to deal with him.

Two Christmases ago, Santa brought K her favorite toy: Magnatiles. It was quite miraculous, not only because the delivery was magical but also as it required going halves with my ex-husband because I couldn’t afford them on my own (awkward but chalked up to “for the good of the child”).

As early as December 1, K already knew what to ask for
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American Girl. I never understood how dolls could be so pricy and I had hoped that we would be able to dodge this bullet because K prefers stuffed animals over dolls. Apparently they are all the rage in elementary school starting 1st or 2nd grade. Splitting with the ex was out of the question (“Oh, hell no!”) so I was going to be on my own.

K initially wanted Samantha, the orphan girl who grew up with her grandmother, befriended a kitchen maid and stood up for child labor in the 1900’s. In the looks department, she was cute (as long as you got over the, um, creepy eyes and rabbit teeth) and had brown hair and eyes like Katie. I scoured eBay for a used Samantha in decent condition ($70+$20 shipping) and by mid month was all set. After a quick trip to the Natick/Boston store doll spa for a cleaning ($5) and hairdo freshening ($10), the previously unavailable retired doll was ready to go under the tree. Of course at some point in December K had also switched her choice from Samantha to Saige (2013 girl of the year who fought to have art classes funded in her school despite having stage fright and being quite shy –$119 in store) but Santa had already depleted her budget and didn’t want to get stuck with 2 dolls.

The result was magical (<– link to video). And as always, worth the effort. P.S. 3 weeks later, she is still playing with Samantha every day. That is totally a win.

Merry Happy Holidays from us!
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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 (soirée!), 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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