The Valentine Consumption

Valentine’s Day has always been bittersweet in our home. Most Valentine’s Days R was deployed or out on a training so I had to do everything myself. From candy to cards to a special meal, I did it all. Anything for the kids to know they are loved by not just one parent but by two.


This weekend R asked me to meet him and the kids at the local PetCo… to pick out a new kitten for me for Valentine’s Day! Luckily he warned me because I said no.

Our pets mean the world to me and while I know that the orange cat who had to be put down last year is in a better place, I don’t know if a new kitten would be welcomed in our already full house. The old gray cat may have been loving towards a new kitten but the chihuahua would have definitely made its life a living hell. 

The middle was really upset by my decision and understandably so. She’s very emotional and loves animals… well, she’s a lot like me. She’s doing better now, of course.

Last night R and I gave each other our presents. The kids “helped” us choose the other’s favorite candies: Scotchmallows from See’s for me and Lindts for him. And to be expected, we shared with the kids. 

This evening I took the kids to eat at one of our favorite burger joints and had frozen yogurt afterward. I am so full right now (of both love and food)! 

While R and I didn’t have a romantic dinner together because he was in class all day, it’s nice knowing we don’t need to. I always told him I never wanted flowers because flowers die and me being me, if I want flowers, I’ll buy my own flowers. 


He did buy me a mini rose plant one year but it didn’t stand a chance. We will have our weekly meal out and without the kids but we know it would happen without the Valentine’s Day label.

And that’s just fine with us.


Top 2000, bottom 2/3/2017

Crushing Writer Fears

I didn’t always want to be a teacher. Like every other youth in my family I thought I’d go pre-med or go to dentistry school like my cousin who is also a USF alum. After turning eighteen and partying it up in the city, my grades suffered. But not all of my grades.

My savior in the form of Professor Marty (erm, I can’t remember his last name right now) took a chance on me and spoke to the Dean on my behalf. He explained that I was, in short, a good kid and deserved a second chance because I was getting an A in his class. The Dean agreed on the condition that I changed my major from science to ANYTHING ELSE.

It was a big blow to my ego that I was no longer a science major; after all, I (started to) kick butt in difficult science courses. I mean, who takes another science as an elective for the hell of it?

I do. It was marine biology and my teacher, Mr. Guardino, was awesome even if he turned in the letter of recommendation to USF late. I still got in. I still graduated. I still got a master’s from there.

But I was grateful for the chance to prove to myself that I could finish. It was by chance that a friend of mine suggested I teach a summer program for kids at the elementary school near campus.

What? Kids? Gross.

Ah, famous last words. 

I enjoyed picking these kids’ brains while making it seem like they were the ones guiding the direction of the class. Teaching and working with children just came easily to me. 

Writing also came easily to me when I was younger. I loved reading everything from magazines to Sweet Valley High so I thought the only thing better than consuming these literary works of art was creating them.

Like most parents, my father did not think I should become a writer because I wouldn’t be able to get a job after college. You know how on The Cosby Show, Theo got busted for bad grades and gave a touching monologue about how he wasn’t going to college to get a job but rather an education and his father totally called bullshit on him? Yep, same concept with my dad. 

I started writing again when I became a stay at home mom. I wrote A LOT. Like, a lot a lot.

I was hired to be a columnist for a now defunct children’s magazine. I reviewed CDs and DVDs, including Tenatious D before anyone had ever heard of Jack Black and won best article of true year for that site. I attended writing conferences, met the illustrators Diane and Leo Dillon, had a bagel with Jane Yolen, and introduced my son to the author and illustrator of Hugo Cabret! One of the authors even told me twice to get in touch with her agent after I pitched a YA story I was working on. I published a poem through Cricket Media, and even had the chance to interview Travis from Blink 182 and Steve from Blue’s Clues!

But I got scared. Everything moved so fast. 

Too fast.

There isn’t a moment that I don’t regret not taking my shot. (Yes, that’s a Hamilton reference.)

So now, I feel like it’s time. Little signs to go for it are everywhere in the form of encouragement from friends and my husband. Reminders of what I could have been doing RIGHT NOW. I’m finding all of my personal rejection forms, my old manuscripts, everything. 

If I really didn’t want to do this, I would have gotten rid of it years ago.

But I didn’t.

In one notebook and a file folder, I found two separate collections of poems, three outlines for YA/MG novels, four picture book manuscripts, and two unfinished YA manuscripts! I found three poems to revise and polished them with fresh yet wiser eyes. 

Here we go…

The Christmas Conjecture

I forget that he is disabled.

My husband hides it so well that I make a lot of decisions based on me forgetting that he is unable to handle crowds and control his anxiety that I accepted free tickets to a big football game this week. 

He said he’d be able to handle it and I didn’t want to push it. He’s had a few weeks off from school and we had to reschedule the kids’ dental appointments for that day anyway. 

Last week we went out to eat and I don’t remember where we ate, only that halfway through our meal, he was making a face. Turned out that he felt there were too many people in the restaurant and he didn’t know what to do. I told him he could go for a walk, switch seats, or we could leave but he said he’d be okay. I believed him. 

We didn’t go anywhere for Christmas as his family are a long drive away and many of my relatives flew to the Philippines for the holiday. I started my month long break with a bang visiting family in L.A. and going to Disneyland but the passing of my aunt has made for a somber December. For so many reasons, Christmas has just felt so different this year, surreal and numb and overwhelming all at once. I thought I was sure everything will go back to normal but as it turns out, this is the new normal. We are so very grateful for our family and friends and pray that 2017 will be even better.

Happy holidays!

The Maternal Memories

When I was about five years old, I told my parents my tooth was loose. Mind you, they were very old school, traditional Filipino immigrants so this wasn’t a celebration by any means. No magical being was going to show up in the middle of the night and put a quarter under my pillow because what does a five year old need with money? And free money at that?

Oh no, this child of immigrants was taken next door to her aunt, a medical profession, a nurse.

A nurse is NOT a dentist.

My auntie Delen (short for Magdalena) carried me and sat me up on her tile kitchen counter. “Where is it?” she asked.

I opened my mouth, pointed, and just as I was about to say, “It’s right here–”

SON OF A BITCH!

She pulled out that fucker before I even knew what was happening. I don’t remember much after that except for lots of blood and tears but I lived. I learned valuable lessons in trust that day:

  • Can’t trust my parents, separately or together
  • Can’t trust my aunties
  • Especially can’t trust that auntie
  • Can’t trust my family in general

While I eventually got over these issues, I remember that I was taught that every sister of my father and every sister of my mother (who sadly I have not met my mother’s sisters to this day; one passed away when I was younger and the other still lives in the Philippines) was like another mother and I needed to treat them as such. Same as their brothers on both sides. In our Filipino community back in the day and I’m sure it is in many Filipino communities today, this extended to their family friends. Pretty sure my teachers thought I was lying about ANOTHER uncle passing way. (Sure, you’re going to his funeral. Again.) But that’s how it was and that’s how I teach my kids now.

It was with great sadness that we celebrated the life my auntie Delene last week. Family members set aside their differences (hopefully permanently but what do I know) to pray and be with each other at this time. She was married to my dad’s brother so I saw many of her relatives from around the country, all of whom saw me grow up and met my husband and children for the first time. It’s funny that even now I think about all of my aunt’s family. I never thought of them as her family, just as family.

There were Filipino (specifically Ilocano) rituals and Catholic rituals that we followed. And although my husband converted to Catholicism a few years back, he still prayed the rosary, an activity that is strangely strictly female. He didn’t have to be blessed by my auntie Leonore (auntie Delene’s sister), he did anyway.


My brother did too. He’s a dork. I can say that though; I’m the sister.


There was a lot of food. Family members took turns cooking. Actually that’s wrong. They ALL cooked to relieve the burden of preparing food on my cousins but that’s what they do. That’s family.

I don’t have recipes and I didn’t have room in my stomach to try everything but I can assure you from past experience that this food was amazing.


Rest In Peace, Auntie, and no, you still can’t look in my mouth. 

The Ugg Challenge

Being active has never been difficult. 

Staying active? Well, that’s a whole different ballgame.

When I taught PE last month to elementary school kids, I had no choice but to clean up my diet to keep up with seven classes daily. I averaged 12,000 steps a day and was sore and exhausted by the time I got home. 

All of that was worth it because I lost a dress size! Coworkers were baffled at how much I lost. I don’t think I lost that much but it was certainly noticeable in a short amount of time. 

Our trip to Disneyland last week challenged me to keep up the physical activity and even now, I’m finding myself choosing more vegan and vegetarian meals as well as getting better at saying no to junk food (I’m talking to you, sweet tooth!). 

Yesterday the kids participated in a race as part of the last final miles of the California International Marathon. They felt like they did better than last year eventually. The middle was upset because she thought she was last (she wasn’t and even if she was, who cares?) and the baby said she was going to pass out (she didn’t). In fact, they seemed to get better when they started getting freebies from vendors. It was truly a miracle that they recovered in time to go to the mall for lunch!

I was proud of them but realized too late that I should have joined them! I hadn’t run in a couple of years (yep, three half marathons in a calendar year prob wasn’t a good move) but I was wearing boots and there was no way I’d be able to go too far without hurting myself. The middle was sad that I couldn’t finish with her but she did it and she did superb! 


Good job, kids!

The Couch Challenge

The girls and I are off track this month (that’s year-round talk for a third of our “summer vacation”; we’ll be off track again in April) but the whole family has been celebrating for a couple of weeks.


You’ll notice someone missing from these pics… my husband! 

He’s almost halfway done with university but couldn’t afford to miss any classes and time from homework. 

Quite honestly, I think he was relieved to not come with us to the Happiest Place in Earth. We (I) take advantage of military discounts, including a great rate at the Disneyland Hotel where we started staying after R’s accident so he didn’t have to trek too far if he needed a break from the parks. Anyone who stays at the Resort hotels can get into the parks AN HOUR BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE. 

And as you may or may not have noticed, I can be a little…

Intense.


I like to be in line before everyone else– we are in an line an but before the park opens.

I like to bring food from home– we bring pop tarts and fruit and drinks into the park.

I like to have a schedule.

I can’t help it.

But I can’t also help but notice that we were all quickly getting exhausted from early wake up calls and late nights so on the third day, we swam.


I would’ve had a drink too if I weren’t so hyped up about the next day. We surprised grandma with a special breakfast with some special people.


It was amazing and exhausting and was happy that R didn’t mind too much. 

Fast forward a week and here I am, updating my blog that I have neglected while everyone sleeps. R has to wake up at 4 am and the boy still has school. I was about to retreat to my favorite couch in the loft because I don’t want to wake up to R’s alarm when what to my wandering eyes should appear?

Three sleeping children without a sofa for me!

I thought about waking them and sending them to their beds because I surely didn’t want to wake up when R did.

But then I realized that if that is my biggest problem, I am pretty lucky.

The Middle Age Mandate: Part 2

I’ve decided to cut out meat to feel better and hopefully shed some weight. Despite a couple of setbacks this week in the form of my mom’s delicious Filipino food and a graduation party for my nephews, I’ve been doing pretty well. 


Clothes that were too tight a month ago now fit and I don’t feel as self conscious in most of my clothes. I still have a way to go and I hope I can continue to have mostly vegetarian or vegan meals. I feel good. Healthier. Less deprived more often. 


Spinach blueberry and banana smoothie with soy milk. (I’m not trying to be fancy; I’m lactose intolerant!)

I’ve been trying to drink these dense smoothies every morning before milk and with a bit of local honey to fight allergies, they’re pretty delicious! I get hungry after a couple of hours so I have to make sure I have a snack on hand or I lose my mind. 

I recently took a frozen pad Thai meal from Trader Joe’s to work for lunch and while it was delicious, I realize I felt famished after eating. There wasn’t enough protein in my meal to feed my hunger and I probably ate too much for dinner to overcompensate. I felt terrible for a brief moment and realised I now know that I need to have enough protein at every meal. 

My husband R has also changed his diet in a very different way. While I have tried to adopt as close to a vegan lifestyle as possible (my silly rules help me avoid sugar), he has chosen to cut out processed food and white flour/sugar/rice. Hes been really supportive of me and I of him. Our meals even overlap when I make quinoa salad or beans and rice. He’s even cut out tobacco! Of course, he is losing weight faster than me! 

I’ll keep you updated!