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Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Lessons (on Parenting)

Ski Lessons and Lessons from Skiing

My husband and I took a trip down memory lane one night when he found his old iPhone and watched old videos of the kids.  Sam was just around 2, maybe almost 3 then, and Jamie was a newborn.

It was fun to see the girls so young and wide-eyed at the world around them.  There was so much joy with every new adventure.  We had done so much when they were little!  Road trips, beach trips, museums, snow days — and all kinds of stuff.  I was teary-eyed and wished out loud that we do more of those again.  My husband and I had both gotten so busy that most of our travel plans last year had gotten shelved or pushed back.

Much to my bewilderment and surprise, it didn’t take him too long to act on it.  It all happened over lunch and coffee with friends, who were talking about their winter and ski vacations.  In a matter of hours, he had us driving up the mountain to Snow Valley Mountain Resort for our very first family ski trip.

Here we are!

It was such a whirlwind plan (if you can even call it that), and it was a shock to my system.  The careful planner in me needs time to process and work out little details and pack for contingencies.  But this — this was a blur.  My head began to spin because after the holiday bustle, I had imagined a relaxing weekend at home.  Instead, I found myself in a daze scrambling for (ill-fitting) snow pants for myself (I had 5 minutes before the store was going to close), and gloves and helmets for the girls.  They on the other hand were wide-eyed with excitement and squealing with delight.

Skiing was never in my vocabulary to begin with (I was raised in a tropical country, can you blame me?), and growing up I never took ski trips with my family.  My husband on the other hand, had good memories of ski vacations and he’s been wanting the kids to learn.  Plus, we were told it’s best to start them young (which is something I now believe).

Our friends had been inviting us to go with them too, but I’d always been hesitant to thrust my ever-so tentative Jamie in a high adventure, active sport that involved cold and falling.  One bad experience could ruin it for her, so I wanted to wait another year or so.

And yet, there we were — at a ski resort.

I can’t deny it was a beautiful day to be out.

We rented skis and boots and enrolled the kids in ski school, where they spent the whole day with trained instructors.  The fee included meals for them too.  After dropping them off, technically we only saw them again to pick them up at the end of the day.

Days later, sore and still in shock from the flurry of events (pun intended), I am trying to process it all — as I do with most of our new and exciting adventures.

I cannot say that I would spontaneously plan a trip like that in a matter of hours, and while I had many apprehensions, I’m glad I kept them to myself and have learned to just “roll with it.”  Coach Pia once said that kids don’t come with fears and anxieties.  Whether we mean to or not, we pass it on to them and they learn it from us, their parents.

I was very conscious about this and careful about not putting my anxiety out there for my kids to tap into.  Jamie is a very sensitive soul, and like me, stresses about unknown variables and events we can’t control.  Thankfully enough, without much fuss she suited up, walked into ski school, and was fine!  I had to hang around for a little while until she gave me a thumbs up, but I was pleasantly surprised to see she was enjoying herself — and doing well at that.

Jamie learning about “french fries” and “pizza”

By the end of the day, she learned to go through rainbow hoops and swish from side-to-side.  She could dodge snowballs while staying upright too.  She didn’t cry when she fell, and while she was exhausted, she said she definitely wanted to do it again.  I’m very proud of her.

Sam, my adventure-seeking peacock was no surprise.  I knew she’d love it, but I was still pleasantly surprised at how much she picked up in a day.  She was going down the bigger slope with the adults, jumping and twisting from side to side.  My husband took a video of her on her last run down the mountain.  I have to admit I thought she was pretty cool!

My fearless girl zipping down.

I’d definitely recommend ski school, especially for novices like ourselves.  It guarantees they’d have a good time while learning ever so quickly and staying safe.

I was impressed, but as her mother watching Sam go at a speed faster and further beyond my reach, my heart was in my throat the whole time.  My young adventurous scuba-diving, bungee jumping heart is not what it was.

But again I kept it to myself, and rolled with it… literally and figuratively.  I was glad for it too, because the kids had a wonderful first experience and are asking to do it again.

Ironically enough, I on the other hand had a painfully entertaining one.

Against my friends’ advice to get ski lessons myself, my husband took it upon himself to be my teacher.  That didn’t quite work out.  Remember:  tropical country + no previous ski /skating experience + anxiety over unknown variables + old age = (comedic) disaster.  It’s true, it’s harder to teach an old dog new tricks.

I think I fell more than I skied.  It’s why I’m so sore in places I never expected to be.  And that slope Sam went on five times?  I was only able to go up once.  I barely made it down.

I give props to my husband for being so patient and encouraging (even if he was laughing at my expense), and for attempting to be a good instructor. 😉  Ultimately I think he was just glad that after seventeen years, he was finally able to get me on skis.  

I am still smiling here… and standing. A rare occurrence.

And I must give myself props for trying too, in spite of all my preconceived notions and fears.  There was nothing else to do but laugh at myself and my misfortunes — another skill I’ve developed in my old(er) age.  Man, those ill-fitted snow pants definitely came in handy.

Over all it was not a completely horrible experience.  I may not have had the best time, but I did love that the rest of my family had an awesome one.  If there’s one thing I learned about parenthood, we do things well outside our comfort zone for the benefit of our kids.  And this entire experience was miles beyond my comfort zone!

I find myself thinking that if only for those reasons, I would keep trying until I could ski with them (no matter how slow I may be).  With the proper instruction, and better ski pants, maybe it won’t be so awkward and so hard the next time around.  Hopefully one day, I’d be able to say we learned a new sport as a family and it’s something we can enjoy together as they get older. 🙂

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A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes What's the Difference?

#TrailingSpouseStories: Christmas “Firsts”

Welcome to the second run of the #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl hosted by Tala Ocampo and Didi of D for Delicious.  This December we talk about our Christmases around the World and the similarities and differences the holidays bring.  Please see the end of the post for other #TrailingSpouseStories.

***

My memory of the Holidays and Christmas is marked by the kids.  “BK” (Before Kids), my husband and I would go on a 24-hour food binge with our four Christmases:  His dad’s side for Christmas eve, my mom’s side for Christmas morning, my dad’s side for Christmas lunch, and his mom’s side for a late Christmas lunch all through the evening.  It was like that even when we were still dating.  I don’t know how we managed to keep all that food down.

But after the kids came, suddenly I found something totally different about my Christmas, each and every year.

2008 was our first Christmas as parents, and our first Christmas in Chapel Hill.  Sam was three weeks old, and so we didn’t fly home for the Holidays.  Christmas mass was Sam’s first trip out of the house, and my husband got her a Christmas dress — which she only wore once.

Our first Christmas as a family of three.
Our first Christmas as a family of three.

It was the quietest, simplest Christmas I ever had.

In 2009, we flew back to Manila for the holidays for Sam’s very first Manila Christmas.  And though the 4-Christmas spectacle was in full swing, Sam and I were severely jetlagged, so we slept through most of the festivities.

I didn’t know it then, but it was also my  Mama Mia’s last Christmas on this earth.  Thankfully we got to capture our “four generations of women” in a photo.

Four generations of women in my family. :)
Four generations of women in my family. 🙂  Photo credit: Ku Manahan

2010 was the year of Christmas weddings where Sam was asked to be a flower girl at least five times (Gasp!  Dreams do come true! ;)).  However, we couldn’t make it to any of them!  I was pregnant with Jamie — which also meant, it was my first Christmas pregnant.  Can you imagine the maternity winter clothes I had to buy.  Can you imagine the layers I had to put on when I could barely see my feet on a regular basis!

I was too pregnant to fly, so instead my husband treated us all to the beautifully breathtaking Biltmore estate for Christmas Eve.  This was the first Christmas I spent traveling.

I'd forgotten how pregnant I was!
I’d forgotten how pregnant I was!

The next day we drove up to Virginia to see family, and experienced our first Christmas snow day.  Sam was already two at the time, and was happy to be the recipient of all the presents under the tree.

In 2011 we flew back to Manila once more, this time for Jamie’s first ever Christmas.

Their first Christmas as "sisters"! :)
Their first Christmas as “sisters”! 🙂

As you can see, the photos stopped being photos of us, and more of the two sisters (in matching outfits no less!).

That was quite the stressful holiday too because we rushed Sam to the hospital days before Christmas due to an upper respiratory tract infection.

My heart stopped beating.
Dec 20:  The day I thought my heart stopped beating.

In 2012, we flew home to Manila “for good” and spent our first Christmas in our new apartment.    Sam and Jamie performed their first Christmas programs in their respective schools, and I learned just what a stage mom I was.

I never thought I'd be such a sap watching their performances.  Now I know.
I never thought I’d be such a sap watching their performances. Now I know.

2013 is what I like to call the “adjustment year”, when things were slowly falling into place here and there.  For the first time in forever (cue Frozen), we were FINALLY adjusting to a Manila routine.  The Christmas programs ran as expected in both schools.  The kids were older so they could better handle the “four Christmases”.  They still got a ton of presents, and were finally able to maximize their Christmas outfits.

Thank you, Ines Moda Infantil (left) and Tita Kisa (right).
Thank you, Ines Moda Infantil (left) and Tita Kisa (right).

The “new” this year was the holiday cheer brought about by Two Tots.   It was crazy fun buried under all those stockings, what can I say.

This 2014, just as I thought I was getting the hang of a Manila Christmas routine, I find myself again with another first:  Christmas in LA.

For someone like me who looks forward to predictability and routine, these last six Christmases have been a lot to take in.  I spent almost three decades of my life with the same kind of Christmas rituals and the same kind of routine.  Then each year after that, something stark and all too new just threw off the balance.  Ninety-seven percent of the time,it was great and wonderful and I’m indeed thankful.  But it doesn’t change the fact that it was all new and unexpected.  So what else is there to do but re-build traditions and holiday preparations, and to learn from each thing every step of the way.

Like getting the kids involved in the Holiday preparations.

As you can see, our tree is bottom heavy.  Take a guess why.
Santa Sacks are ready!  And as you can see, our tree is bottom heavy. Take a guess why.

And bringing something to remind us of home.

All by Two Tots!  How can you not have them for Christmas?!
All by Two Tots! How can you not have them for Christmas?!

And then of course, teaching the girls the true meaning of Christmas.

My beautiful Belen, a gift from my Mom!
My beautiful Belen, a gift from my Mom!

And maybe it’s because the last six years have each been so different that they’ve all stuck to me more than the Christmases of previous decades. It feels like parenting with a holiday flair, where no two days are the same, and no two children are the same!  Each year brings about many surprises that, like children, teach you a life lesson.  Learning to run with the new as well as holding on to a little bit of the old.

Somewhere in all that chaos, there is a certain familiarity and a semblance of knowing that each year will be just the same.  It doesn’t matter how many firsts each year brings your way. 🙂

 ***

Check out the other #TrailingSpousesstories by clicking on the links here:

Didi’s story on D for Delicious :  How Christmas abroad started out tearful, but turned tearless after some time.
Yuliya’s story on Tiny Expats:   Their journey and experience of the winter holidays in 6 countries.
Abigail’s story on Cuddles & Crumbs :  A look back at Christmas and family traditions.
Tala’s story on Tala Ocampo: Their first Christmas abroad in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with the birth of their first child.
Marie’s story on D is for Delicious:  How Christmas celebrations change with the times, and the one thing that keeps it the same.
Glendale’s story on G’s Kandy Krush:  Her first Christmas in Sri Lanka with her husband and 2 sons.
Third’s story on Pinoy in America:  How Pinoys have successfully brought the Philippines’ best-loved Christmas customs and traditions to America.
Marc’s story on Fatherland, explaining how Christmas is different this year compared to past Christmases; and
Kristine’s story on Tala Ocampo where Mac shares her reflections on spending Christmas away from home for 15 years.

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Mommy Discoveries

Groundhog Day 2011: Hello Spring!

My Mommyology Groundhog Day
Happy News Indeed! I hope it's true!

Yesterday was the first time I actually paid any attention to Groundhog Day.  In the Philippines this time of the year it’s Chinese New Year, which is what celebrate given our strong Chinese influences (Kung Hei Fat Choi by the way!)  My only association to Groundhog Day was the  Andie MacDowell- Bill Murray movie ages ago, and I didn’t really understand what it was about.  Oh give me a break, I was 14 years old then!

Well 19 years later, surviving a cold winter (and pregnant no less), it’s all changed for me, and while I am still smitten by snow in general, right now I’m willing to believe any tradition that will tell me that Spring is a-comin’.  One can only take too much cold!  Thankfully, as the Washington Post relates, Punxsutawney Phil did not see a shadow, which means — we get an early spring!  Oh happy day!

It’s just as well since our drawers and cabinets are starting to overflow with the mix of cold and semi-warm clothing and there’s literally no more space for anything else.  Suddenly I can’t wait to pack all the winter clothes away.   Seriously though, if they said that we’d have 6 more weeks of winter, I don’t know what I’d do!

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Mommy Discoveries

Bouncing Around in the Winter

My Mommyology Sam in the Snow
Buried in 4" of snow.

Normally during winter I prefer to stay indoors and under the blankets.  I understand why bears hibernate; it is the best way to go!  Sadly I am not a bear (even if by now I probably approximate the size of one), and I have a toddler who cannot be contained in a 2-bedroom apartment for over 24-hour time periods.  We both end up stir crazy, and in front of the TV all day. Not good.

Occasionally when there is snow, we go outside, layers and all.  Sam loves it, and I suppose she doesn’t mind the fact that she can’t feel her fingers or her nose turns as red as Rudolph’s.  I of course I mind — because it means runny noses, petroleum jelly, and more laundry after.  Plus, a pregnant woman can only stand the freezing air for so long before she needs a bathroom, and getting in and out of those layers… have mercy!

So the goal was to find new indoor play areas for her to pass the winter.  Apart from school and the staple visits to Gymboree and Southpoint Mall’s Kidzone, we discovered two Bounce House outfits a couple of miles from Chapel Hill (thank you Helene and Groupon).  It was perfect because Sam talks about the small set-up in her school all the time, and what better way to expend all that pent up energy than to bounce it out!

Here are my findings and thoughts about each one.

My Mommyology Monkey Joe's
Huge huge huge slides. Sam had no fear.

Bouncy House #1:  Monkey Joe’s. We felt we entered a jungle. It was so overwhelming, Sam took a good 30-minutes before choosing a piece of equipment she wanted to crawl into; and because of my very pregnant state, Dad had to crawl in with her each time.  Even in the smallest of bounce castles, I was too paranoid to let her go in by herself, because every other larger child’s jump sent her flying (to her delight).  She had absolutely no fear in joining the bigger kids climbing up the slides too (except she wouldn’t slide down alone or would only make it so far that she’d come tumbling down the marshmallow-like stairs).

While it really felt like a party place, as they had at least 10 different bounce set-ups to explore, it may have been better if specific times for play were set for kids 5 and below only (7 is also still too old). When you’re above 5, you already play differently and there is a higher risk that a younger child will get hurt.

We did like several things about the place though:  all units had a sign about being properly disinfected, and they were particular about grown-ups being allowed on the equipment, but not being allowed to bounce.  I suppose it preserves the equipment a lot longer if there is less weight bouncing on it.  There were also vigilant referees who would call the attention of overly excited older kids and keep them in check.

My Mommyology Bounce-U
She had the bouncy tunnel all to herself.

Bouncy House #2: Bounce-U. We felt that the atmosphere here was tamer than that of the previous jungle.  There were more control protocols in place.  You had to reserve a slot for a specific time period so that they could count the children coming in each time.  Then, their entire set-up was divided into 2 rooms; and everyone was limited to room #1 for the first half, and moved to room #2 altogether after an hour.  Each room had only about 5 set-ups, so Sam tired of them much quicker than when we were at Monkey Joe’s.  Maybe they looked too similar to one another?

In the end both bounce houses made for a hungry and an exhausted toddler.  I don’t think I’ve had an easier time feeding her and getting her to bed when the day was over.  So all in all, they were good finds, for as long as you’re aware of the precautionary measures that need to be taken for younger children.

Since I had 2 hours to myself each time as father and daughter bounced away, I was also thinking about how such outfits would survive in Manila.  A lot of malls could profit from having set-ups like this for children!  For the right hourly price, and for as long as security, safety, proper maintenance, storage and hygiene standards are set in place, it might actually be something worth having, don’t you think?

(At a party in Manila where the host rented a bouncy house, a friend said her daughter came back smelling quite different after only an hour of playing on the equipment!  So of course, after each adventure, I would take a moment to smell my Sam.  No issues there thankfully, but I did give her a good scrub-down when we got home.  Which leads me to conclude that cleaning and caring for the equipment is really REALLY a must!)

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For Expectant Mommies Mommy Anecdotes

Winter with a Belly and a Toddler

My Mommyology Winter with a Belly and a Toddler
"If all the snowflakes were candy bars and milkshakes..."

January 20, 2008.  That was my first winter, and the first time I actually experienced fresh, falling snow.  Prior to that my image of snow was what they create for you in movies and TV shows — a wonderfully romantic winter wonderland (complete with the appropriate soundtrack playing in your head).  Kids are making snowmen, and snow angels, and laughing while tossing snow balls here and there.  ‘Tis the season for making fireplaces, drinking hot cups of coffee and toasting marshmallows — ahhhh yes. All the warm fuzzy feelings (sigh!).

However, after a total of 6 snowfalls all at most an inch-thick, I’d have to say — the movies are quite far from the actual reality!  I never really pictured all that “loveliness” with a big round belly on me, and an active toddler by my side.  Oh boy.

Yes, laugh if you must.  It gets better.

No one told me snow was cold!  (Uh, duh.  I mean of course it is; but keep in mind, in my romanticized fantasies, snow outside was equated to warm and toasty inside!) It’s so cold (and so thin) you really wouldn’t want to make snowmen and snow angels!  For one, it’s not quite that easy to get into my warm winter clothing because of all the layers and layers that come on.  It’s not very easy you see, when you cannot reach your toes, much less see them.  In my first pregnancy I used to be able to balance on one leg while putting on my UGGs, one at a time.  Now, I have to balance AND avoid being run into by an excited child who can’t wait to go outdoors into the freezing air (Why don’t I sit down to put them on?  Remember, I already strain to reach my toes).  So by the time I’m dressed, I’m almost out of breath.

And that’s only me and the boots.  When I layer Sam’s clothing, at the end of it all she looks like a marshmallow Michelin child, where her arms don’t drop down to her sides anymore.  That’s not all.  Try getting her into her car seat dressed that way.  Add gloves to my hand and the struggle escalates (Then again, either way with or without gloves, I can’t feel my fingers, so why do I even bother?)

Now who says that once you get all these lovely winter accessories on her, that they will stay on?  Of course at one point in time she is uncomfortable and will start to pull off her gloves, or her UGGs, or her beanie, and so the process of chasing her around in the cold winter-y air begins.  That’s not to mention my constant fear of her catching a bad cold and cough or worse because let’s face it, this weather and a toddler — all new to me.  I am still in winter-learning-mode.

My Mommyology Winter
Marshmallow Michelin Child Running Away from Marshmallow Michelin Mom

It is quite a sight to see me with the big belly (even with less layers I already look like a marshmallow Michelin mom) bouncing involuntarily after a child who thinks it is a fun game to run away.  I do presume that to her, the entire sight of me in pursuit is quite hilarious.

What can I say, it is an experience.  I’m not complaining; I am in fact quite amazed at the opportunity to live in sub-zero temperatures, and to experience what an actual winter would be like (albeit pregnant through two of them).  The cold, the layers and the freezing air, I’ll admit it takes a little getting used to.  The toddler and the, err, bouncing — well — isn’t that a part of it all.  But I can’t say it isn’t fun to watch her squeal in delight.  And besides, she does look cute in all those wintery clothes, even if they are hard to put on.

I think ahead to next winter when it will be yet a different winter-learning-mode.  Hopefully there will be no belly of any kind (post-pregnancy flab included), so that it will be relatively easier to chase after a toddler AND lug around a baby, all in our marshmallow Michelin outfits.  I wonder what hilarious misadventures we will have then.

You want to know another story?  Over the Thanksgiving weekend we rented a cabin at Smoky Mountain, bought firewood and prepared to make a fire (and toast marshmallows too!  or Smores!  Just like in the movies!).  Of course, Daddy’s first attempt set off the fire alarms and filled the cabin with smoke.  Ah yes, the romantic visions of my winter wonderland, all up in smoke.  Literally speaking.