Monday, 26 September 2011

Why Soccer Dad is Better Than Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls vs Soccer Dad
Sure Bear Grylls jumps out of helicopters, navigates his way out of bug infested jungles and swims butt naked in freezing rivers but even an intrepid traveler like him can't do half the things Soccer Dad does on our family trips

1.  Single-handedly get 4 boys out of bed, showered and fed at 4:30 in the morning while I walk about in my bathrobe, mumbling to myself and forcing my brain to remember how to work the coffee machine

2.  Fill out 6 immigration forms in 2 minutes without once having to look up passport numbers and expiration dates

3.  Squeeze 6 people and 12 luggage into a minivan made for 6 when the car rental company messes up our reservation and gives us a Kia Sedona instead of the Honda Odyssey we requested

4. Maintain his sanity while driving a car full of bickering children, a boy choking on a Mentos, a Soccer Mom scrambling over luggage to Heimlich choking boy, with a stereo playing Snoop Dog full blast

5. Listen to me ramble about makeup, the latest "it" bag, wedges vs stilettos and why George Clooney is the sexiest man alive --- senseless drivel in an effort to keep him from falling asleep while driving

6. Walk me through how to read a road map without once calling me stupid

7. Take a 45 minute detour so that we can visit a local ice cream parlor touting "Original, slow-churned, organic ice cream"

8. Watch me consume a bag of Cheetos, a Butterfinger bar, a King Size pack of Reese's peanut butter cups and a Big Gulp of Coke Light in the time it takes to  drive from Chicago to Indianapolis, without making a single comment

9. Not say a word when the "quick side-trip to the outlet mall" turns into an all day excursion

10. Treat me like a queen and the boys like princes even through his stress and exhaustion... Cause if there's one thing Bear Grylls can't do - near perfect specimen of manhood that he is - is take care of me and the boys and love us just right

Happy Anniversary Soccer Dad!  20 years and counting.  Still in love, still friends, still the one!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What's In a Name, II: Why I have a son named "Full Moon Wanton Noodles"

If you think naming your child is hard, try giving him/her a Chinese name. Not only must it be pleasant sounding, it should also evoke strong characteristics - but not so strong that the yin (spirit) world finds it prideful. It should consider the child's elements, bringing him balance. It should honor the family and the times that they live in. Its pictogram must have an ideal number of strokes, which varies from person to person and the last stroke should be a good stroke (i.e. not downward or slashing).  It should... ah.. you get the picture.

We were blessed & honored to have Soccer Dad's paternal grandmother (aka Taima) bestow Sporty and Swimmer Dude's names. She gave Sporty the name "QǏ MǏn"
 which means (trumpets please!) "Golden Open Door Of Knowledge"*.  How wonderfully poetic. And surely, your first born son opens up a world of knowledge - how to change a diaper so that his golden shower won't end up in your hair, for instance.

Swimmer Dude's Chinese name is Wěi Lì

which means "Great Man Who Builds Golden Opportunities".  Indeed he finds many opportunities for self betterment through his diverse interests: the performing arts and diving, to name two.  And said opportunities do involve a lot of gold - gold pouring out of our pockets and into the pockets of drama classes, voice lessons, dive equipment and diving trips, etc

The next two boys were born in Singapore and sadly Taima was no longer around to name them. Kong's oldest sister, Tuaco, (the boys' Grand Aunt) named Soccer Dude  "Ruì Fēngmeaning "Auspicious and Fortunate Bringing Abundant Gold". Another prophetic name. Soccer Dude has been bringing home lots of gold medals. Lest you think I'm bragging, let me explain that every community sports league on this patch of the planet gives gold medals to all participants, regardless of whether their team comes first or last. And since Soccer's been joining sports leagues at the ripe old age of 4, we have enough gold medals in the house to run our own medal shop. Now if only they were solid gold and not gold plate!

By the time Baller came along we had gotten quiet close with our neighbors, a wonderful Singaporean family whose matriarch, Mrs Lim taught Chinese Language and Culture.  We asked Mrs. Lim if she would have the honor of naming Soccer Dude. Naming a child, as I already said, is taken very seriously. At first she was hesitant to accept the responsibility but our persistence paid off and she gave Baller his name.

For many years, I kept the slip of paper on which Mrs. Lim wrote  Baller's name in my wallet. At a recent family reunion in Manila, the clan happened to talk about Chinese names. We rattled off our boys' names then I proudly took out the calligraph of Baller's name. Our family, 99% of whom cannot read Chinese, oohed and ahhhd at my prudence of keeping such a memento, until it reached a cousin who was not only fluent in Mandarin but also a teacher of the language.

"This doesn't make sense," she said. "You named your son 'Full Moon Wanton Noodles '?"


"That's what this paper says. 'Full Moon Wanton Noodles'."


It's not Mrs. Lim's fault!  You see, I would often ask her to recommend hawker food stalls. As many stalls had no English signboard, she would write down the store's name in Chinese characters and we would play Hunt the Hawker by matching the signboards with our slip of paper.   Long story short, the cherished piece of paper that I thought held Baller Dude's name, contained the name of a wanton and noodle shop  that we once enjoyed visiting.

So what about Baller's name?  The original one is lost forever. (I blame my breastfeeding hormones). Luckily, our cousin, who discovered the fiasco, offered to rename Baller. From the phonetics of Baller's name, she came up with a list of possible characters and we have chosen:

which means "Brilliant Intelligent Man Gifted with Gold."  May it prove prophetic so that he may he not be like his mother, who has been renamed "Woman Born With No Brain"

PS.  If ever you're in Singapore, go look up the Full Wanton Noodle  stall at Empress Market.  I guarantee their food is awesome.  I don't need brains to tell me that!

*In case those of you can read Chinese are wondering why all the boys' names have references to gold but there is no pictogram for it, their family name means "gold". I didn't write it down because this is a public blog and it feels weird to have full names, Chinese or otherwise, so out there.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Warning Wednesday (DNTTAH): Sundaze - A Letter To My Boys

Dear Boys,

I've been a regular church goer all my life.  Granny and an army of aunties (aka The Birds) made sure of that. Up until I was 13, every Sunday I had to wear a dress, patent leather shoes (white) and ruffled socks, so if you don't quit complaining about having to wear jeans and a polo shirt to church, I will make you wear a dress and ruffled socks too.

Granny had it good. I was well behaved, stood, sat and knelt at the proper times. Unlike one of you, I did not routinely fall asleep during the sermon and then stretch and maneuver my legs and torso onto my family's laps. True I once dozed off, jolted awake and  stood to recite the Our Father in the middle of the homily because in my dream we were already at that part of the mass but at that time I was a sleep-deprived nursing mother. What's your excuse?  And while we're on the subject of sleep,  you do not yawn loudly at the sermon's 20-minute mark. Yes, I know yawning is a reflex but learn to stifle it like I - and the hundred other church-goers around us - have.

Growing up, I saw a lot of little children in church get pinched into submission by their parents. Granny was not a pincher. She was a starer. One fiery look from her and I'd stop whatever naughtiness I was doing, whether it was braiding together the song books' ribbon tags or folding the missalette into a paper airplane.  I try to be a starer too but there are times I can barely resist pinching your cute little backsides. Such as when you start your little finger flicking games in church. You think you're being subtle but you're not. You start out subtle but you soon get into full-on combat mode. Or when you exchange the greeting of peace not with a warm handshake but with exuberant chest bumps. Save the team spirit for the next family reunion, okay guys?

A lot can be said about your behavior in church but the fun really starts when you start interacting with the Good Fathers. Remember when Father M asked one of you boys if he wanted to be a priest?

Father M:  Young man, how would you like to be a priest?
Boy Who Shall Not Be Named:  No
Father M:  Why not?
Boy:  Because I don't want to get nailed to the cross.
Father M:  Oh no.  Jesus did that for us. Priests don't get nailed to the cross.
Boy:  I still don't want to be a priest.
Father M:  Why?
Boy:  Because I don't want to be very, very old like you.

What can the Good Father say to that? Fortunately he had a sense of humor and laughed it off. And fortunately the Boy was only 4 years old at that time so he still had the cuteness card. Don't try that now. Please.

Pop quiz sons -  tell me if this scenario will make you more or less endearing to the Good Fathers:

As a Boy Who Shall Not Be Named (not same as above) approaches the priest for communion, he looks up at the big crucifix then loudly observes:  "If Jesus was starving and tortured and then hung on cross then he shouldn't have a six pack."

The correct answer is:  Neither more nor less endearing. At this point this comment is exactly what The Good Fathers would expect from you.

And lastly, remember when one of you asked the priest "Why do you have a statue of Uncle Fester in church?"  The Good Father was rightfully confused but I wasn't. Son, bless your heart, that's not Uncle Fester, it's the Pope!

So, boys, I make the following resolutions:  we will spend more time learning about the church, including about our priests and our pope, and less about the Kardashians. You will all be allowed to drink coffee on Sunday mornings.  And I reserve the right to switch from starer to pincher as and when the need arises.

Looking forward to your first ever duty as altar boys on Sunday.  (I'm sure it will give this blog fuel for years to come!)



ps.  Thanks for not using your phones/ipods in church. And boys, really, thanks for just showing up for church. Your presence, despite the whinging and the dallying and the antics, is enough. That means a lot and I  (and The Good Fathers) appreciate it.