My Birthday Boy!

kbday2The melted butter schmalz blends in perfectly with rich, dark cacao powder. I stir carefully before adding in the condensed milk, vanilla-butter extract, and beating it to a glossy shine.

Then, with the joy of smearing acrylic paint all over a new canvas, I excitedly frost this homemade two-layered cake. It’s shaped like a number 5, of course–for my son’s fifth birthday today.

kbday4It’s only a couple of days before Christmas, so celebrating his birth is like adding an extra punctuation mark into the already colorful paragraph that reads as the story of our festive Christmas in Saxony.

We’d baked the chocolate cake (his request) together last night—it turned out heavier and denser than I’d expected—nothing that a topping of gooey, chocolatey frosting covered in colored crispy sprinkles won’t fix!

And while he’s in Kita (German Kindergarten) now, I take the opportunity to blow up balloons, arrange the gifts on the kitchen table, and add the final touches to this cake.

Opa and Oma arrive with more giant presents, a bouquet of flowers “Für Geburtstags Kind!”, and I take a moment to contemplate my son’s life so far.

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k6…Where does time go?

Five years ago today, the end of an excruciatingly painful 48 hours had finally come. After unsuccessful trying for a natural delivery, I was ready and nearly begging for the doctors to operate—and “get that giant baby out!”

It’s not true, as some say, that you forget the pain of labor once you see your child. And five years on, the memory of that intense experience is still there.

But what does happen, is that the new life, which now has grown, grown up, and become an individual—the new love that you now have—all of that covers the pains of the past. All of that makes it worth it. And maybe that’s the biggest magic of it all—the miracle that life can be.

italy3Since my son was born on 22nd of December, Christmastime always has a deeper meaning. I do get all nostalgic, my heart swells with pride as I look upon my son…

Contemplating the life I lived before and after becoming a mother, makes me grateful for every experience.

When you’ve been through a painful birth, you hold that child closer. When your children get sick or are hospitalized, you know just how wonderful all the days of being well truly are. When there are obstacles to overcome, long journeys to make, things to give up just to do the best and be the best for your children, love becomes greater, deeper, forever.

K3With joy, I sing Happy Birthday to my son today, showering him with gifts and love…but he’ll never really comprehend that the painful experience it was for me, 5 years ago!

No matter. To him, it is a joyous occasion, and for all of us, too.

The challenges of parenting, the hurdles, the costs…everything is worth it when you look at your child and know that (for those who make the choice to become parents) there is hardly anything greater, no deeper love.

monteIt’s a journey on its own, to bring a child into the world, the “trials and tribulations”, the sleepless nights, the excessive worrying, the plain hard work it is, this parenting business, endless movement, constant growth and change.

Yet what a fantastic adventure! One that keeps on going, a thrill that never stops; joy that is replenished and renewed (just as a parent’s patience must be) every day.

kbday13Happy Birthday, to my 5-year-old Superhero!

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Birthday Notes and Memories

Last Tuesday, I woke up 32 years old.

In those early morning hours, I wrote a little, reflecting on my past, present, and future. And I started counting the birthday gifts I have been given:

I am most thankful for MY CHILDREN. Seeing them every day, watching them grow, teaching them, and having all the time in the world to love them.

TIME is on my side. That is a huge gift. Time is at my disposal. Time to work; time to play; time to love; time to feel; time to create.

FREEDOM is mine. Another gift. No oppression; no riots, no civil or world wars where I live. Freedom to connect through the internet—something not possible years ago. Freedom to live life how I choose to create it.

…my son peeks over my shoulder as he wakes and sits up in bed with me. “Whoa,” he says, “That is a lot of words!”

WORDS. Another gift. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of words which you have given me. You have enabled me to speak, to write, to communicate with words. This gift is mine; let me use it for good.

HEALTH. I have never been hospitalized for an illness, nor have my children. No accidents, through all those years. And every day, I am given another 24 hours to enjoy living with a healthy, breathing body.

After these, there are others; the list could go on… TRAVEL…FRIENDS…A JOB…MONEY TO PAY THE GROWING BILLS…A HOUSE TO LIVE IN.

Lord, I thank you for all these birthday gifts, and ask you to guide me through another year. Keep me challenged, changing, growing, accepting of all that life has still to give.

Last year's birthday celebrations, I pigged out on German food with my boys!
Last year’s birthday celebrations, I pigged out on German food with my boys!

Year Highlights:

14 May—On my 31st birthday (after an early celebration in Stuttgart, Germany, we drove to Italy and arrived in our new home on Lake Como, possibly one of the prettiest places on earth.

The winding, still snowy road through the Alpine border into Northern Italy--our car was packed gypsy-style!
The winding, still snowy road through the Alpine border into Northern Italy–our car was packed gypsy-style!

In Italy, life was simple and good (Read about it here.) I got back into painting and even sold some of my work in this amazing, picture-perfect place. Every artist’s dream.

IMG_1279
Summer on Lake Como when my mermaid friend came for a visit 🙂

Even though my hands were full with a toddler, and I got pregnant (yes, Alexandra was made in Italy!), the desire of my heart to get back to paid-writing in some form was granted through work-from-home jobs for Philippine Airlines Inflight magazine and the Department of Tourism’s new website.

Growing belly in September
Growing belly in September

At this time, we also launched Lifestyle Planet, a start-up website magazine now growing rapidly! I’m so excited for the future of this 3rd baby of mine! (Go to the link now!)

My little man, always in awe
My little man, always in awe

By the time we got back to Saxony, vibrant Autumn colors had arrived—my absolute favorite European season. And then, we even got some early snow!

Snow in Sachsen
Snow in Sachsen

…but I’m really not a deep-in-winter kind of girl…thankfully, we made it back to sunny Southeast Asia in time to have a tropical Christmas. Reunited with my one dozen brothers and sisters, Karsten got to meet his very young aunties and uncles, and experience again the fun chaos that is Manila.

7 months pregnant in December--Karsten turned 3 on December 22!
7 months pregnant in December–Karsten turned 3 on December 22!

We kicked off 2013 outside the metro, where we now stay (again, temporarily), just a few minutes’ drive from the beach and bay. We came here to have the baby in a more tranquil place, and to ensure that our kids had clean, fresh air to breathe.

Boys at play
Boys at play

Alexandra was born on the 1st of March, 2013, by scheduled C-section, even heavier than her brother. Even though it was a surprise getting her, and not in any of our plans, I’m glad for our beautiful girl.

Picture taken at less than two months old
Picture taken at less than two months old

I don’t know now where the footprints in the sand will lead.

It seems that change is coming very soon again. Story of our life.

But as another year says hello, I am just thankful to have made it this far. I’m setting new goals, dreaming new dreams, but also trying to cherish the everyday simple. The 5pm walks through nature; the crazy screaming (newborns!) nights; the children; more time.

boat

Last year was not without its trials, tears and challenges. The roads were many, both literal and in my mind. And as my family grows, so do the daily obstacles. I’m hoping to keep taking this one day at a time, while still setting long term goals and reaching them. And I’m grateful for everyone who has been a part of this journey.

Sunsets by the bay
Sunsets by the bay

I can’t believe it’s been more than three decades! Can’t wait to see what’s around the corner. Cheers to new beginnings! New life, new love, new adventures!

Beer, anyone??
Beer, anyone??

Sometimes, Moms Wish They Were Einstein

Last night, as I sat in the living room watching Masterchef, my son was sorting his Bob the Builder ABC flashcards on the carpet, and found one that particularly interested him.

He examined it for a few minutes silently, staring and staring—before I noticed what he was doing.

“What’s this, mom?”

“It’s X, for X-ray.”

“But what’s this part?”

“Bones, those are bones. Your body is full of bones.”

“Do dogs have bones?”

“Yes. Most living things have bones.”

“Do chairs have bones?”

“No, chairs are not alive.”

He kept staring at the picture.

I turned off the TV.

“Read this one, mom!”

“I just read it, it’s X for X-ray. Remember, when you go to the doctor, he sometimes takes pictures of your body? That picture is called an X-ray. He checks you to see if all your bones are okay.”

“You mean, like not broken?”

“Yes, not broken.”

We packed up the mess in the living room and headed upstairs, where I decided to show him some kid-friendly anatomy pictures on the Internet.

And the questions kept coming…

“Is that a toten-kopf?”

“Yes, toten-kopf in German. In English, it’s called a skull.”

“And is that a zipper?”

“Hmmm, it does look like a zipper. It’s called your spine. It’s the bones that go all the way down your back.”

“Mom, how does poop get in my body?”

…as we talked for the next hour, I felt just as in awe. Here was my child, turned three years old just a week ago, and here was the great big world of knowledge he was so eager to learn about.

“E-ner-gy…small intestine…large intestine…” he repeated all the words that interested him, as we found some educational videos on Youtube, he took charge of my laptop for the next hour, begging me to watch the next one, and the next, to learn about digestion, and body organs, and heart-beats, and zipper-bones.

And how I wished I were Einstein! So I could properly explain all those thousands of legitimate questions.

I love three-year-olds, this delicate yet strong age of innocence; curiosity; development. I love waking up every morning with my boy, knowing that it is a brand new day of learning, loving, and life.

Today is the last day of 2012…cheers to a new year of discovery!

chess

“Play with Me, Mommy!”

live love adventure
We’re great at social networks, but how are we connecting with our kids?

“Play with me, mommy!”

My toddler said these words about five times today, and he says it just about every day.

“I’m baking you a playmate here inside my tummy!” is my immediate reaction—together with a sigh to myself that maybe when the second child really is big enough to play with him, they’ll both leave me alone to do my work in peace.

But today, reading HandsFreeMama’s blog got me thinking. And thinking. And realizing.

My son is nearly three years old. That’s not quite a toddler anymore. Before I know it, he really won’t be saying those words anymore. I’m also aware that the day will come, when I will want to play with him, and I won’t be “fun” or “cool” anymore.

Time flies too fast; you suddenly understand that when you’re a parent.

There’s a reason I opted for being a work-from-home mom, and only taking job offers which allowed for that. Essentially, it was so that I could be there for my child. When I had a 10-6 job in a cozy air-con office, it sure was nice getting a bigger salary. But I’d leave the house early morning, and then at the end of the day, when I came home to my kid, he was nearly asleep. I felt like I was missing out on his life. I wanted to take more charge of my parenting.

Problem is, now that I have plenty of time to spend with him, the opposite happens. He brings me joy and aggravation. I send him off to kindergarten so that I can have a few hours to do the work I need to do. And when he comes home, I am happy that my husband is here to take him outside and play, and do all those rowdy boy things.

I need to stop.

Stop trying to be properly productive, to have things to show for, to stop saying to my son, “Go play by yourself for a bit.”

Because these days will never come again.

Of course, we also need to be realistic as parents. It’s my choice to send him to Kindergarten, because we moms DO need time for ourselves (I was homeschooled, and have nothing against it, if a mom is 100 per cent focused on homeschooling and has the energy for it—like my mom was), and so that time is allotted to work on what I need to do.

But I also need to LOVE.

playing together
Autumn in Germany

Love him during this time when he still hugs me back, no matter what. Love him through each stage of growth, firmly.

I need to SPEND MORE TIME.

Time when he is around, to get down on his level and see things from his perspective.

I need to DANCE.

Like today, when we played kiddy music and spun around and around the room, holding hands and giggling, dancing like silly clowns and having the time of our lives being dizzy.

I need to BE MORE CONNECTED.

We talk about striving for better connectivity in our social networks; we put effort into cultivating adult relationships for career and profit; but how do we connect with our kids as parents? How aware are we of their feelings, their needs, or their dreams?

I just need to BE THERE.

Sometimes, when we wake up in the morning, my son, husband and I just lie in bed and HUG and CUDDLE. We often fall asleep again for a few more minutes, in each others’ arms and warmth. We just spend those moments being there, together.

In those moments, I can feel like nothing else matters—not the worries of last night, not all the going-ons in my head, not the trivial problems and challenges of life. It’s just peaceful. These are the moments I want to remember, and want my children to remember.

I want them to remember that their mom was there, and always had TIME to play with them.

Travels with My Toddler and New Philippine Tourism Website!

What’s happening now, mommy?

What’s that over there?

Where’s Opa’s house now?

You’re hungry now!

Daddy, the Polizei are behind us!

I knew all along, that the day would come, and now it finally has. Our little smiling, sometimes crying, always pooping baby has grown up and become a toddler-talking-machine.

Finding his way in-between adjectives, mixing up pronouns, and the complication of both languages, he is just as fluent in English as he is in German, and just as inquisitive.

You can imagine that this makes for very interesting road trip conversations—many of which, he is having with himself. Whether narrating what’s going on outside, or pestering us with questions, or singing to himself, there’s always something going on in that head of his.

And I’m glad for that. Since Karsten was three months old—no, since he was in my tummy—we have been on the road, in the air, in nearly every kind of public transportation mode possible in all (last count was seven countries), and he has fallen in love with traveling. (Read my article on What To Pack for Travel with a Baby, in Smart Parenting Online.)

This makes long journeys like the 28 hour drive we just did yesterday (Italy to Germany), so much more bearable. He sits comfortably in his car seat, with hardly a wiggle, enjoying the great outdoors, the highway trucks, the zooming along the autobahn, all the while counting every clock-tower in Tuscany.

I’ve also been reminiscing my own travels, not only here in Europe, but back in my country of birth, the Philippines. Fresh on assignment for the Philippine Tourism website, I’ve been time-traveling back to when I first got better acquainted with the islands, and garnered some pride in being from an amazing part of the world.

Wanna know what it’s like in my islands? Check out More Fun in the Philippines, which launched just a few days ago!

Achtung! Kid in the Kitchen

Perhaps it should be the other way around, but ever since I kicked off this year with eating healthier, it’s been making me more conscious of what I’m feeding my son. And the biggest thing I’ve learned is that healthy eating takes planning.

The problem with planning is that we always think we don’t have time. I used to cook a lot, before I gave birth. Now, with a mixing spoon in one hand, and my boy in the other, it just means going at a slower pace, and turning cooking into an activity that he can get involved with, too.

Yesterday I snuck a cup of carrots into this cake, which used also freshly sliced apples, olive oil and brown sugar. Will post more recipes as our experiments grow–and, if they’re successful! 😉