Monday, August 24, 2009

Growing together in a trial and error enterprise called marriage

Just a day after I read DorothyL's "Women...Men...Collision", I had a collision with my dear hubby.

Unlike before when we were on our early adjustment stage that we often had to walk out from each other to ease the tension, I - racing with him to grab the car's key to drive around the village or go wherever I would impulsively think to go usually seeing a friend to release with, he - usually going out to drink with friends as long as he liked,(thanks God he doesn't drink anymore!) now we simply play dumb and deaf with each other in the house. It seems like we're torturing each other but it gives us time to reflect upon the situation amidst the unusual deafening silence. It means we can now control ourselves from walking out and talking it over to friends for an outlet or advice who in return might spread the bad news around which may cause more strain to the relationship at that vulnerable stage of adjustment. Because we learned much from this big mistake of opening up to friends who had all the tendency to spread our conflict around causing more damage than help, we agreed to keep any problem just between us except to very few really trusted friends. So now we rarely open up any of our mess to other people except if it's really necessary. My husband also realized that drinking alcohol would not help in solving any problem at all. It may give us just a momentary relief  or boost to talk it over but the problem remains. When the alcohol is gone, we're back to our problem so it's never a good way out. Now if we have a quarrel, we almost bump each other sometimes, waiting who's going to speak first. It's so thrilling to both of us until we patch things up. 

I'd like to borrow Dorothy's words, "We  need  to spice things up, to know that we are alive and that our partners are also alive. When we have these so called collisions, it awakens our deepest passions which we both need to feel, in order to go into a deeper love for one another."
In situations like this, after we sort things out, we realize how much we love each other even if at the height of feeling so annoyed, I come to think of dumping him (and he also thinks the same) but when I think of all our ups and downs  together in all our entire marriage, I later realize that oh... it's too late to part ways when we have more happy moments together to count than the odds. He thinks the same way, too. We have invested for each other so much emotionally for so long that during our misunderstandings, if I imagine myself without him even if I consider myself strong, life won't be the same. When we come into terms, he honestly admits he feels the same way, too. How deep love grows in time against all odds!

Indeed, "no matter how good or bad the situation is, it will change". In any relationships, however, if a situation turns good, we have to aim to make it much better so we won't bore each other and if it turns bad, we will do our best to make it good. If we do this, we can reduce the divorce or separation rate and abandoned children in the world .

It's so challenging to discover ways that work and eliminate those that don't work for both of us in our relationship. It feels so good to think that we have both grown in this "trial and error enterprise" called marriage.  

P.S. *Enterprise is defined by Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary as "eagerness to do something new and clever despite any risks".

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's in the beautiful poem "Bonsai"? (An alternative way of interpreting Edith K. Tiempo's poem - for Literature Lovers:)

The speaker in Edith Tiempo’s poem begins by presenting an image of feeling secure by keeping things that she holds dear. In the second stanza, however, she starts to question this attitude of keeping earthly things. In the third stanza, she explicitly mentions that keeping earthly things is an absolute self-gratification. This questioning leads directly into the last stanza, where she implores the readers to share (hand over) material (breathless) things of their control to the needy (merest child) as all material things are but temporary but life and love are real. The obvious tension in this poem is between a sense of materialism and an idea of spirituality. “Bonsai” clearly amounts to more than just questioning the exaltation of keeping material things. It is dealing with more general questions of what we cling on to and what may unsettle us in life.

The first stanza is telling us how good it makes the speaker feel to keep little and foldable things in a box deliberately. The opening images create a sense of security for the speaker. It is not just the images she chose but also the simplicity and regularity of the opening lines, particularly the sense of balance of her monosyllabic lines (Lines 1 and 2). Line 1 and 3 are made up of 4 syllables while 2 and 4 are made up of 5. Moreover, the word “once” is repeated twice (line 3 and 4) in the same stanza and in successive lines showing the intensity of her love for doing such a thing as keeping something.
All that I love
I fold over once
And once again
And keep in a box.

The second stanza, however, repeats the first line in the first stanza but this time the speaker uses a question mark and the question word “why” in the second line. The tension is presented in these structures where the speaker in the first stanza presented a sense of contentment and security in the things she keeps. It is where the tension is introduced because the proposition she begins with in the first stanza is now contradicted in the attitude she presents in the opening of the second stanza:
All that I love?
Why, yes, but for the moment-
And for all time, both.

Then she goes on to name the things she loves to keep. Naming or labeling in literature implies an idea that if we can name the world then we can control it. Then, we begin to think about the kind of order that people create in life (Peck and Coyle, 1995). How this kind of order she wants to create is particularly noticeable in the way she describes the things she names:
Son’s note or Dad’s one gaudy tie,
A roto picture of a queen,
A blue Indian shawl, even
A money bill.

All the things she enumerates are modified (gaudy tie, roto picture, blue Indian shawl, money bill) except the first one – son’s note. If we take a look into the commonality of the modifiers she uses, we can come up with an impression she is trying to create. All these words suggest “showiness”. The first object she names standing alone without a modifier suggests that it’s the only thing worth keeping as it is not as gaudy a possession as the rest. It is the only thing mentioned that does not have a monetary value. It is also interesting to note that shawl here has two modifiers: blue and Indian. Blue as a distinctive color represents excellence and royalty while Indian cloth (from which the shawl is made), particularly silk is considered as one of the world’s finest. The meaning of the “blue Indian” shawl is therefore tied up parallel with “gaudy” (showy) because if we take note, both tie and shawl are being worn to be shown. Furthermore, son’s note which is more generally kept is drawn parallel against Dad’s one gaudy tie which is generally worn. These contrasting objects she first mentions and those that followed with monetary value lead the speaker to question (all the things that I love?) their meaning to her. The theme of the poem is also brought to life by her mentioning of only one object worth keeping (the one she mentions first) but it can also suggest that even the son’s note itself is meaningless except for what it says which can be kept in her heart.

The speaker becomes more explicit of presenting her case in the third stanza. She now depicts the attitude of self-exaltation and gratification in keeping earthly things when in fact it is an attitude we can control if our heart so desires:
It’s utter sublimation,
A feat this heart’s control
She goes on further to suggest that as this fascination of vainly collecting earthly things goes on, it tends to diminish the true meaning of love.
Moment to moment
To scale all love down
To a cupped hand’s size
This is the part of the poem which relates directly to its title. Bonsai refers to a plant which is dwarfed or controlled to render more beauty to its beholder. In the context of this poem, however, it is an irony presented. Bonsai here is “scaling down all love” which could mean that we control our hearts from giving what we can give, making our hearts so small. It’s therefore contrary to the idea of making a bonsai which needs to be trimmed, to be cut its main root in order to show its beauty just like sharing what we can share to make our life worth living.

The last stanza concludes the poem by presenting an imagery of destruction of earthly things and the implied security religion offers. While nature (seashells) presented in the first line here shows human destruction, the second line shows the redemptive power of God during the judgment day (bright teeth):
Till seashells are broken pieces
From God’s own bright teeth,

The use of metaphors (till seashells are broken pieces/ from God’s own bright teeth) tells us that all things in this world including humans will come to an end and in the end we will be judged according to our deeds. The imagery presented about God in the second line (From God’s own bright teeth) evokes a scary feeling on God’s authority. It seems to warn the readers that being preoccupied with earthly things is vain and dangerous. The last three lines thus implore the readers to share what they can to those who are in need (the merest child in this poem) to make their life meaningful because life and love are real considering the associated promised second life after the judgment. It is with God’s authority to redeem those who have done good deeds and, of course, trusting in His divine mercy and grace:
And life and love are real
Things you can run and breathless hand over
To the merest child.

Life on earth is but temporary and whatever we cling on (things we can run or control because they are breathless or lifeless) will all be lost. Notice further the temporariness presented by the author by making the first stanza into five lines but then such temporary happiness brought about by material things is disrupted by the irregularity of the second and the third. Then she goes back to five lines in the fourth (last) stanza but this time she conveys the resolution of the conflict/tension. This poem tells us that the things we hold dear may give us happiness and security but the happiness and security they offer are but temporal yet life on earth is so short. Like the implied meaning of the title of this poem, it takes some sacrifice and pain for the bonsai to be trimmed and to be cut off of its main root in order for it to show its real beauty. Indeed, it is not easy to give up what we hold so dear for the sake of others but as the poem suggests it can make our life sublime like the bonsai.

(P.S. Compare this alternative interpretation with that found at: and you will see that various interpretations may arise so that every Literature teacher should be aware of this. This was submitted as a requirement in EN217 at ADMU.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Teaching kids in a natural way the reality of DEATH

There is one subject which is not easy to explain to young children. Having pets in the family, however, has helped in many ways to make my kids at their fragile stage understand this inescapable fact of life – DEATH.
The first time my two children got a pet was when JD, my eldest, was about four and Josh was about two. It was a cat they both agreed to name “Honey”. Honey had a glossy golden fur and a pair of sharp emerald eyes. She was fantasized with every moving object around her including lizards and spiders. Helpfully enough, she kept the rats away. In the morning, she would surprise us with her catch she would lay down around her, sometimes a mouse and sometimes a bird. How she would catch a bird or a rat remained a mystery to us .  She was such a wonderful smart pet and JD and Josh adored her so much. But one morning, we found  Honey lying down by the doorstep breathless.  Now, our concern was how to tell our little JD and Josh about it. But then JD who just got up was already dashing towards us. “What’s up, Mom?”, she asked. “Oh, I’m so sorry, darling, but dad found out that Honey had eaten a cockroach sprayed with repellent”, I regretfully explained. JD embraced her Honey for the last time and sobbed like she lost a best friend. We assured her that she and Josh would get a new one but she insisted that she wanted Honey alone.“No more  Honey to kill bad mice!” Josh sadly expressed.

That was their first encounter with death. Then followed by another. And then another and more.  

The next one was with a parrot they named Paulie. It was given by a good friend as a present JD and Josh were hoping that someday, they would hear Paulie talk like the one they loved to tease at our favorite restaurant. It wasn’t long, however, when they themselves found Paulie hanging from its pole. Indeed, the death of Honey prepared them to accept this reality of life. They didn’t ask too many questions again although we felt how sorry they were for Paulie.
Then, again we were given a colorful Indian python, we named it Ems. It was the size of JD’s arm. Our two kids would take Ems inside our house to play with it. If we had some friends or guests visiting at home, they would show Ems with great joy and pride. Their joy and pride, however,  were curtailed when one day, Ems was changing its skin and found a way out from its cage. One day, Daddy Nole found it on the road cut into two. The pastor at the church next to our house explained to him that he saw it curled around in one of the pots at the church so with his fear, he hacked it immediately. When JD and Josh learned about Ems’ horrible death, they were angered but soon they realized that it would always find a way to escape, anyway. So whoever would find it would really kill it.

We did not stop acquiring pets despite what had happened.  We had all sorts of pets at home - bantam chickens of various attractive colors, aquarium fish, a lovely Japanese spitz given again as a gift Josh named Balto and later a brown flat turtle he called Bernie. It’s a pet he asked his dad to buy during his and his sister’s summer vacation in Bangkok. His Ate JD, complaining that Bernie stank, shampooed it thoroughly. An hour later,  it was dead. Josh who then got a high fever that night was hallucinating and crying for his turtle. Dad who was deeply touched went out to look for a shop that sells turtles. Luckily, he found a green Japanese turtle which Josh had really wished for. His hallucination stopped when we awoke him to see the new turtle he called Bernie (again). Another summer came when JD and Josh had to spend again another vacation with us. It’s one of the hottest summers in Thailand. From a long trip upcountry one weekend, we got back only to find out that Bernie was already dead. Disappointed Josh had to console himself that anyway he still got the Flowerhorn in the aquarium. After two weeks, however, perhaps for too much heat, he also found the Flowerhorn turning upside down, dead. 

Then, I got a message from my mom just last month telling me that Balto, our Japanese Spitz was already dead. It was the dog that Josh and JD cried for when we left him in GenSan to Pangasinan three years ago.  He was such a darling to all of us. When Daddy Nole told Josh about Balto’s death a week ago, he retorted defensively: So what if Balto is dead? It would pain me, anyway, if I see him again not recognizing me!”  I’m so thankful he has finally come into terms with Balto’s death. Now that there’s no more pet left in us, Josh now 8 is again asking for lovebirds. But he’s very much aware now that sooner or later, they will also die. 

Last year, JD and Josh’s paternal grandma passed away. Saddened by her death, they realized later that life is really like that. Just like animals such as their beloved pets die, it’s a painful truth their young minds should comprehend and accept that even those who are dearest to them - mom, dad, siblings or anyone else close to them - will soon pass away as no one can escape this fate called death. They are assured, however, that for human beings like us, we have the blessed hope of a life after death.

(Written 7 August 2007)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A great retirement place called GenSan

I grew up with adventurous parents who loved to move from place to place and worked in sales and marketing before in which I had all the chances to travel very often so I have wandered and lived in different places in the Philippines. I have also traveled in other countries and have worked abroad but if you ask me where to spend my retirement years someday, my final choice is the city of saints and generals - General Santos City or commonly known as Gensan. Famous for being the Tuna Capital of the Philippines and the home of the world's boxing champ Manny "Pacman" Pacquaio, Gensan has been awarded the Most Competitive City and Most Livable City many times (visit The reasons why this city has been awarded as such are similar as mine that it has become my personal choice of retirement place.
One major reason I prefer Gensan is its being free from calamity. It's typhoon-free as it is shielded by Sarangani Bay. It's not in the earthquake fault line so there's no worry of quakes even of tsunami. I know how it feels when you experience tsunami coming because I was enjoying the holiday with friends on an island in Phuket, Thailand when the killer tsunami struck on December 26, 2005. I was also in Dagupan City when the July 16, 1990 earthquake shook Luzon and took away almost 2,000 lives.It sank Dagupan for about two meters which caused over a week-long flooding and almost a month without electricity. During our retirement age, we don't want to be threatened by any disasters such as storm, flood, earthquake or tsunami. Gensan is so blessed for being away from these catastrophes so it will be a great retirement place.

Accessibility is another important criterion to consider when we retire and Gensan meets this qualification. It is a fast-growing city but it's not very congested like other metropolitans. When I was working in Gensan, I did not have to get up early to go to my workplace as the traffic was always clear so I was comfortable driving there. The roads are wide and well-planned so it's easy to reroute in case a street is congested. So even if I will stay there over ten years from now, I believe it will still be the same as when I left the city six years ago, it's still pretty much the same when I was back there last year even if more buildings and infrastructures have been built. It's not that I still want to still drive on my retirement age but I want to be stress-free by getting quickly to the place I want to go. If one of our children chooses to work or stay in Luzon or in another country, we can easily fly to Manila as Gensan has an international airport that serves daily flights. Thanks to Cebu Pacific that offers airfares at very affordable prices and now PAL does the same so traveling to other parts of the country or abroad even at our retirement age has been made a lot easier and quicker. Gensan also got the most modern wharf in the country. If I and my husband are already old, we may want to travel by ship for pleasure and sight-seeing we won't enjoy on plane.
Peace and order is, of course, a very important factor to consider when choosing a retirement place because if we are old, we are no longer that strong and active to run away from any trouble. Gensan is a peaceful city except for the terrorist attacks way back then. Cultural diversity is very rich in Gensan but Gensanians respect differences. Migrants from Luzon such as the Ilocanos, Tagalogs and Kapampangans and from Visayas such as the Cebuanos and Ilonggos blend well with their different languages and ways of life. Christians of different sects(who compose the majority) get along well with the minority Muslims. In fact, we can hear the amplified worship of our Islam brothers from their mosque in Silway every Friday. Churches of different sects are adjacent to each other around the city. One may think that there's a zone for the church and Gensanians are church-goers so they are peace-loving people. Furthermore, Gensan's rich soil makes it competitive in agro-industry so it's self-sufficient and can provide its people jobs and livelihood thus very few are poor and the crime incidents are rare.
Equipped with modern facilities and leisure amenities
Of course, we also look at our retirement place's facilities such as hospitals, shopping malls and leisure amenities. Gensan has modern and well-equipped hospitals such as St. Elizabeth, GSC Doctor's, Baptist and Socksargen. In our retirement age, we have to visit the doctor a lot. When it comes to shopping malls, Gensan has a lot to offer. Gaisano, KCC Mall, RD Mall and the soon to open Robinson's all show how competition can bring better and quality service and lower prices. A retiree who is a shopaholic needs not go to Davao or Manila anymore for some products available in really big malls such as SM as it will also be established in Gensan soon. What about places to relax for retirees in Gensan? As I am not a shopaholic myself except for my family's necessities, Gensan's fine beaches attract me and my family more than its shopping malls. We used to go beach-hopping on our visit to my husband's friends in the small peaceful and productive Muslim community in Tinoto where we were always given loads of fresh and dried fish. We started from my former debater's family beach which has white sand and beautifully formed rock cave where we enjoyed its shade while dipping in its pristine water where we could clearly see the colorful corals and rare aquarium fish. Then we proceeded to Maharlika Beach where we picnicked at lunch but it was rather crowded that day so we moved to Kawas Beach, in Alabel (Gensan's neigboring town). My kids loved Kawas's very fine sand with a lot of creeping creatures especially under its mangroves at low tide. Being a family of nature lovers, we also enjoy game-fishing and Gensan has a good place to do this patience-testing activity at Inland Gamefishing Resort located in Nursery, Lagao about 5 kms from downtown. My family's great memories of Gensan together keep me yearning for it to be my retirement place.

Abundant in food supply
The most important criterion I personally consider for a retirement place is the abundance of food I can put on my table at affordable prices. At our retirement, we need to be nourished with roughage or fibrous foods; that is, from vegetables and fruits as our digestive system weakens by age. Gensan abounds with fruits such as banana, pineapple, mango, papaya, avocado, guava, durian, lanzones, mangosteen, jackfruit and many others at low costs. There are also plenty of vegetables fresh from the farms either at the big market or at "laray" at night. Our PhP500. worth of fruits and vegetables would fill our car's compartment 6 years back. Fish and seafood are very famous and cheap in Gensan. Being the "Tuna Capital" of the Philippines, it is known for export-quality sashimi, which I love so much. Retirees may enjoy the "panga" (shown in the picture below), charcoal-grilled tuna jaw dipped in soysauce and calamansi (toyomansi) or the tinolang bariles, tuna or any fish with soup, tomatoes, lemon grass and pechay or camote (sweet potato) leaves. The fresh lato and guso, two varieties of seaweeds (both in the picture with panga below) always available at Gensan's market can be readily eaten with toyomansi and fresh tomato as condiment after thoroughly washing it. Some soak guso in warm water for a while. All these kinds of fresh and nutritious food abundantly available in Gensan will make a healthy retirement.

Gensan's calamity-free location, peace and order, accessibility, availability of modern facilities and superb recreation places and abundance of food all sum up a perfect place for a happy, healthy and stress-free retirement.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Regular Medical Checkup: A Life-saver

It is often said that, “Prevention is better than cure”. Indeed, it is. In developed countries where annual medical check-up is a must, people get the benefit of finding out any health problem before it’s too late to cure it. In the Philippines where I worked for many years, I never got any fringe benefit in terms of medical check-up except when I had to buy a health care policy on my own from providers. Now that I’m working abroad, I realize how important regular checkup is.

I had my third annual checkup three months ago. Catered for free by the university where I am working, it is also free for the immediate family so my husband has also availed of it. Every time we receive our results, we both have to see our American doctor for his interpretation and advice. My husband’s second year check-up (and mine third) yielded the most promising benefit for both of us. When my husband showed his results to our doctor, he was very much impressed with the improvement as he compared the results over last year’s. His very high level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and high triglycerides, two major culprits for cardiovascular disease and hypertension which caused his mother’s death two years ago, has lowered significantly after following the doctor’s advice to exercise regularly and to cut meat and fats from his diet. He completely gave up his drinking and smoking about two years ago when he joined me in Thailand so the doctor said exercise is made more effective now that he eliminated these two contributing factors.

The warning
When my turn came, I handed in my results to the doctor. “Oh, your glucose level is the same as last year’s!”, the doctor remarked. What he meant by the same was “beyond normal”, 150. I apologized to him for not following his advice to exercise regularly, to reduce my meat intake and to lead a less stressful life. Alarmed by his warning, I researched further in the Internet. What I found out changed my view that I had better health than my husband as he has two symptoms while I had only one and mine was only minor. “High sugar can be a single fatal cause”, it reads. It is as deadly as high cholesterol and high triglycerides combined as symptoms for cardio-vascular disease, a traitor killer. Alas, I have to follow my doctor’s advice and my husband’s example if I want to live longer and see my kids grown up.

An irony
The irony was, I was the first one who encouraged my husband to change lifestyle knowing his bloodline. His uncle was debilitated by a stroke just a few months ago as well as three of his cousins just a couple of years older than he is. Almost all of his maternal aunts have been afflicted with stroke and one of his uncles died at early 50’s due to heart attack. Because of his family history, I had to convince him for a checkup during the first time and he hesitated to have it but he willingly submitted the second time. On my part when interrogated by the doctor about my family medical history, I had to ponder for an answer. Honestly, I’ve never heard of anyone in the family who has distressed with diabetes. Then I suddenly recalled that my maternal grandma turned blind when I was in Grade 3. My doctor speculated that it might be due to diabetes with the way I described the sudden plight of my grandma especially when I mentioned that her two elder sisters turned blind, too, at their later years. Our university doctor at KMUTT has the same suspect as our family doctor at Bangkok Adventist Hospital.

The turning point

My husband was told by the doctor that if natural intervention would not work for him after exercising, losing weight and cutting his meat and food intake, he should take medication for maintenance. With his strong determination to break what seems to be a curse in his bloodline, he started jogging everyday except Saturday, working out every Sunday and gradually limiting his consumption of meat and fatty food. Thus, with his second annual checkup, his results dramatically changed. What about me? Confident of my normal LDL, triglycerides and everything except high glucose, I never did any intervention whether exercising and avoiding meat. But encouraged with my husband’s results through his discipline in religiously obeying our doctor’s advice, I promised myself to follow his example. The turning point was triggered by the blurry eyesight I experienced once after my consultation with the doctor. The doctor asked me if I ever experienced it before but I said “never”. The sight of my blind grandma suddenly flashed into my mind and I was too scared to be like her.
Waking up early is the least thing I wanted to do but from then on, I had to get up and followed the doctor’s recommendation of at least 180 minutes a week exercise coupled with the suppression of my craving for my favorite beefsteak. (I don’t like chicken very much and I never eat pork.) For two successive years with high glucose, I had to do another checkup without intervention as advised by my doctor and the result remained the same. Then, after intervention of about two months of exercise and cutting down meat and fatty food I had to test again; surprisingly, there was a big drop in my sugar level.
Now, I put health my top priority. My body is the temple of God so I must take care of it. Besides, it is my most invaluable investment in making a living so if I don’t take proper care of it, I will be a loser. So, every morning when I get up, I head to the nearby park to jog two loops of 1050 meters (more than 1 km) and to walk two loops in order to warm down. I started with thirty minutes a day and have gradually increased it. This time, one hour is too short for me to track about 5 kms daily.
I now enjoy the added benefits of jogging and brisk-walking as an effective way to set off stress. I do enjoy the refreshing morning breeze with the healing kiss of the sun rays through the trees around the well-maintained park between my workplace and our condo. I also enjoy the noise and the sight of different groups of people most of them following the Thai daily color-codes doing different forms of exercise in their designated corners around the park- some doing Tai Chi, yoga, aerobics and other forms of exercise. It's a very encouraging sight. Most of all, I do enjoy the glimpse of beautiful flowers, the fish and the turtle swimming in the ponds, the squirrels chasing each other on the trees, the frivolous birds hovering on the trees and the sky – all of which I will cease to enjoy without my precious eyesight I need to save by not allowing diabetes to conquer it.
What more? After jogging, I go home with fresh fruits, vegetables and my new diet partners-newly made tofu and soymilk- all sold at the park’s gate. They’re not available in the afternoon; besides, research shows that exercising in the morning is better than at any other time.(Visit for more information.)
Regular medical checkup, therefore, is not beneficial without intervention such as exercise and proper diet once you find out your (possible) health problems. Many tests have saved lives that it is worth spending money for checkup regularly. In case our companies do not provide free checkup for us and our family members, let us aim to set aside budget for a regular health checkup to find out as early as possible what we need to treat before it’s too late.

(Written November 22, 2007)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Long Distance Parenting

Raising kids from a distance is a real challenge. Parents who are in the sales and marketing as well as business people and diplomats who travel a lot and most especially overseas workers everywhere in the world are faced with this challenge. In a research conducted in the Philippines on the effect of parent's leaving their children to work abroad, it was found out that many children grow up misguided and confused. For example, many kids think that material things sent to them by an overseas working parent is the only expression of a parent's love. It was also shown that a big number of children whose either or both parents work abroad do not know how to save money and use their time wisely, do not do well at school and in most cases, they are problem kids. Here are some tips to raise children via long distance:

1. Set a bonding time with your kids away from home.
Like what I've seen from the movie, a mom set a bonding time with her daughter when both mother and daughter have to pause for a while every 3:00 PM to think of each other. Even when the mom passed away, the girl continues to do it. With the advanced technology nowadays, we can now keep in touch conveniently and efficiently away from home through mobile phones and the Internet. The time I and my husband set with our two kids in their early teens studying in our country while we're working overseas is every afternoon from their school and from our work. It's a good time we ask both of them how their day was. In that way, they can relate to us what made them happy, sad, upset, excited or any emotions that they need to express. With this done at a regular basis, they won't have pent up emotions that may turn into indifference or even rebellion. Aside from the regular time we set, we also send them SMS any time of the day assuring them how we love and miss them, giving them inspirational quotes or sometimes simply sending jokes to make their day. We also see to it that we set a weekly chat which is a guarded time exclusively for both of them. Sometimes, we make it fun by having a trivia question and answer and even teasing each other just like when we have our family time together at home.

2. Remember their special days or events.
During my first two years abroad, I saw to it that I had to go home for my son's and daughter's birthday or even on their annual piano recital no matter how it cost. Otherwise, we have to let them visit us in our workplace to celebrate their birthday. In their developmental years, it is necessary that we have to develop their self-confidence.When my daughter has a singing appointment or my son has to perform with the choir or the string ensemble, I and my husband have to affirm that they can do it well.

3. Support them actively in their studies.
During exams, we have to always remind them to perform excellently and challenge them to get high or perfect scores. We also instruct them especially our boy who is still very playful not to watch TV or play during examination period. Then at the end of their exams, they report to us how they perform. If they don't get a perfect or high score, we don't blame them. Instead we encourage them to do their best all the more next time. We also allow them to ask us any time of the day about their homework. By doing such, they may not envy their friends and classmates whose parents are just around them.

4. Spend quality time and build memories when you are together.
Since our kids were born, we have family time together. Instead of doing passive activities such as watching videos or playing video or computer games, we take them out to see nature. We all have enjoyed going to the beach, to the farm and to game-fishing together at least once a month. So when we're away from them, they really miss the moments we share together and they always long for our reunion. When the kids are with us in Bangkok every summer, we take them to new places they haven't been to so they have painted a happy family enjoying each other and doing adventures in life that will remain in their memories. We also do gimmicks and household chores together such as trying out a new recipe where they are the ones preparing the ingredients and cooking. So even if you don't see your kids very often as it will be the case in the future when they are already on their own, the quality time you have spent with them while they are young will last forever.

5. Do not pamper your children with material things.
Many parents play guilt-trip for being away from their kids. To make up for their absence, they buy or send them expensive toys, clothes, gadgets such as cellphones, video players or even computers even for the very young ones who may not need them yet so they are free to do whatever they want as no mature people may supervise or control them. Or even if there's someone supervising them if they don't want to be controlled, they can do whatever they want. This is the common trend we see in our country where overseas workers' children growing not only addicted to computer games but also becoming irresponsible individuals who do not know the value of hard-earned money. Some parents pride themselves by how their kids are adorned with the material things they provide not realizing the adverse effects of such pampering which may even lead them to become nuisance of the society. If overseas working parents have nothing more to give, they may turn rebellious or even criminals by stealing just to satisfy their need for that's the way they were brought up. Remember that material thing is not equal to love and attention. Keeping this philosophy in mind, we do not buy our children their own computer until this time unless we are sure they have control over their desire to play games without limits, visit websites for adults and just chat with friends. Instead of filling them with non-essential things, give them something worthwhile. This leads to the final tip.

6. Invest for their future by developing their talents.
As children especially young ones need their parents' attention, they may not completely achieve it while their parents are so far away. But instead of giving them PCP or computer where they spend most of their time playing games at a very young age making them idle and sometimes obese, why not let them learn to play musical instruments such as piano, violin, guitar, flute, etc.? Or you can have them sign up for a voice lesson, martial arts, swimming or dance class even if it requires a big share of our budget so that they can develop their talents and potentials. All these kinds of activities will develop their character as they learn discipline, patience, value of time, money and effort. These will occupy much of their time after school that they may forget about hanging out with bad friends who may influence them to try smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs . Most importantly, they may use these talents not only to entertain their family and other people but also to generate income from teaching or performing in the future. In this way, they become confident, productive and independent individuals.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Effective first aid remedies for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

 Taking medicine is always an issue to any pregnant woman and breastfeeding mom like me, so I want to share my own experience to anyone out there to be of help on common problems such as headache, migraine, indigestion and other stomach troubles, etc.  during these crucial stages of womanhood.
Migraine and headache
Medically speaking, migraine has no permanent cure so far, only pain reliever. I've been suffering from t since I was in college especially during exams, busy days and sleepless nights. Last night, I had a terrible migraine spell. It’s probably due to my stress with my adjustment having just gone back to work after giving birth or eating my lunch late at work (or the combination). I called my dear Ate Luchie for some advice as she’s an expert about first aid remedies be it about baby care, motherhood or giving birth issues. Like me, she has migraine spells often especially if stressed. I remembered that a few days after I gave birth I had a very painful migraine spell at midnight and I was lucky to have her at home so she advised me to apply Siang Pure Oil on the affected area so I asked my loving husband to do it for me. The oil’s soothing effect blended with his gentle massage drove the pain away in just a few minutes. So I did the same thing last night.
As much as possible, I have to avoid taking internal medicines especially that I'm breastfeeding so I can't take just any internal medicine. This external alternative  is more effective than those prescribed by doctors. It can be purchased over the counter everywhere in Thailand such as 7-11 at only 20 baht. It's also available in Chinese drugstores around the world. It's actually a panacea - it heals dizziness, insect bites, stomachache, sprain, etc. - so I always have it in my bag wherever I go.
    Indigestion, gas pain, food poisoning and stomachache                              
Since I was pregnant with my baby last year, I've been extra careful with my food intake as I have gastritis. Very often I suffer indigestion and gas pain and sometimes from food poisoning. Being pregnant then and now that I'm breastfeeding, I've been seeing to it not to take any medicine even if the doctor tells me it's safe. I always believe that it's best for a pregnant woman or a breastfeeding mom to avoid taking in drugs.Besides, any drug can have a bad effect to our kidneys. So whenever I have indigestion, gas pain or stomachache, due to food poisoning  I just boil my  mulberry tea (not the processed) for 2 minutes then drink it. After 5 or 10 minutes, the pain is gone. Unlike coffee which contains caffeine which is bad for my insomnia, the dried mulberry leaves I take help me sleep easily as well. I buy it from a vegetarian shop around or  OTOP shops for only 35 baht per pack and it lasts about  2 or 3 months depending on how often I use it. It's also known for its antioxidant and  teeth-strengthening properties so it's good for both you and your baby.  And mind you, my gastritis as well as my sister-in-law's palpitation is gone after taking this tea for just a few months.If  it's not available elsewhere, ask from herbal shops or better yet, look for a mulberry tree and simply dry its leaves for your tea. Or leave a comment here if you need some help.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Preggy at forty?

My husband and I never planned to have another baby as we already have a girl (12) and a boy (10). Besides, I was already forty so getting pregnant was the last thing in my mind. But when my period was delayed for ten days as I have regular monthly cycle, I and my husband took a pregnancy test and I was really surprised with the result. Alas, it was positive! So I had to reprocess my mindset for I was not ready for it. It was very hard for me to tell my two children about it.

It was my husband who broke the news to them. I really knew that they didn’t want another addition to the brood as they often hear that having two children is ideal for family’s quality life and for population control. My daughter, the eldest, cried upon knowing it and my boy wished that it would be miscarried. So we had to explain to them both that if we had to have it aborted, it’s a sin against God and it’s a great risk. We told them that what if I would take some abortion pills and it would not be successfully aborted. We asked them if they would be able to accept a brother or a sister who has abnormalities because of the abortion pills. Both of them pondered upon it. Of course, we understood how they felt.

During my first weeks of conception, I was so scared of what people have been saying about the possibility of the baby to be born with defects due to my age. So I researched a lot from the internet and what have been said about pregnancy at 40 encouraged me. One article says, “Getting pregnant over forty is no big deal!” Its main point is that, with the advances of medicine and technology, there’s not much to worry except to take precautions. So I had to take extra care of my health all the more and saw to it that I had regular check-ups with my ob-gynecologist and take my prenatal vitamins daily.

It’s actually the reactions of the people around me especially at my workplace that bothered me at first. They were both worried of me and somewhat questioning why I still wanted a child as I already got two and I was already too old to have another one. So I had to explain that it’s unplanned but, of course, it’s not unwanted. I had to tell them, too, that we count it as a blessing.

When I finally gave birth recently, I felt a great relief upon seeing my baby so healthy and lovely. What’s my two kids’ reaction? They fell in love with their new baby brother at first sight that they would not almost leave him. My colleagues at work also welcomed him graciously and now some of them come to visit him very often. For me and my husband, he’s such a great bundle of joy given at a delayed time. Having a baby at forty (after ten years - unexpectedly!) seems like catching a plane ride just seconds before the final call for boarding.