Two Minutes

Two minutes.

Just what can you do in two minutes (give or take)?

Well, Matthew can turn over a nap in the morning. He can browse the Internet. He cam play a game on the iPad. He can poop. He can run around the house half-naked. He can eat a snack or drink a beverage. For him, two minutes is quite a long time. And that two minutes is simply too long for adults like parents to comprehend. Of course, it is not that two minutes is the only extra time that he consumes when he asks for extra time. That would be one big fallacy. How much extra minutes he takes up is more like five minutes. And it is a bit much when you consider that there are a gazillion things that he needs to be doing. Unfortunately, explaining something like this to someone with no concept of time is practically impossible. I’ve almost given up (my missing hair is proof of this) but sometimes you just have to try again and again. Doing this over and over almost makes me think that I am immortal. Almost.

Two minutes happen every time I ask Matthew for something. Whether it is calling to do his homework or waking him up in the morning for his bath. He would always answer “just a minute” or “two more minutes”. In fact, it has become such a norm that I have had to adjust calling him two minutes earlier just to accommodate his two minutes to be on time. He takes an extra two minutes of sleep before bathing. Another two minutes before breakfast (he takes a nap right after his bath) and another two minutes before getting dressed up for school (he takes another nap after breakfast). Those six extra minutes are enough for us to bike to school. In fact, those two minutes do not include him stretching and slowly crawling out of bed (all that takes another two minutes each). If he loved math as much as he disliked it, he would be having a grand time adding up the extra minutes that he has been using all this time. And then he probably would stop wondering where all his time went, time that he could have used for playing with toys, for playing with the Xbox or for playing on the iPad.

Two more minutes please.
Two more minutes please.

So how much is two minutes exactly? On its own, it doesn’t sound like much. Bit compounded, two minutes add up to a lot of time. Time wasted or time used up productively is very subjective. But Matthew’s morning ritual definitely does not count as productivity in my book. I can’t wait for him to realize that on his own, because explaining it to him has proved futile time and time again.

Pilipinas 2017 (Part 2)

For Matthew, having both pairs of grandparents is a blessing. It means that he gets to share different adventures with both of them. After all, not all grandparents are alike. And naturally, Matthew seems to already have gotten the hang of being around his grandparents. He loves them to bits and he can change his character depending on who is around. He is a sly little monster like that.

Kamay ni Hesus Chapel
Kamay ni Hesus Chapel

We asked Mamu and Papu to come with us to Kamay ni Hesus. A church and healing shrine with a fifty foot statue of the risen Christ on top of a hill. The church is located in Lucban, Quezon. It was about a four hour drive from our place in Laguna. The road trip wasn’t exactly exciting apart from the fact that I was driving and was not too familiar with where we were going. Luckily, Papu still remembers most of the roads going to and fro. We had read and heard about the climb to the top of the hill to get to the statue and we were not initially planning on going up the 200 steps. But since we were already there, we figured there was nothing to loose. Papu and Matthew stayed behind and the rest of us climbed the steps, paid our respects and offered our prayers.

We're going up!
We’re going up!

Our dates with Mamu and Papu consisted mostly of eating out and eating out. Which may explain the pounds that we incurred after our holiday. For example, there was Lydia’s lechon which was still one of the best lechons in the Philippines. And then there’s the Italian fusion at Alleggra’s. And let’s not forget the Lucban longganisa that we had when we were at Quezon. The rest of the time we spent shopping. It was not the most creative past time, but it worked for me.

This is Tuding's!

Then there were the times that it was just me and the wife. Oh yes. Those dates were even better. Tuding’s pork chops, Lotsa Pizza, Sio-meow (you know, the Pao that is rumored to be made of cat meat), fishball, goto and the list goes on. That does not even include the knick knack snacks that we got from the grocery. One of the best things in the Philippines is really the food. It really is good. And if you ever had a craving from when you were a child that you missed, chances are that it still exists somewhere in the archipelago.

Still eating ...

It was a shame that we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked. But it is always good to come home and stay with your loved ones. Your parents, especially, miss you a lot and it is always nice to spend some time with them. In this day and age where everyone is busy and we all have our own lives to live, slowing down and coming home really hits the spot.

Pilipinas 2017 (Part 1)

Matthew had always been attached to our hometown. Our home. Our family. And while we strive to make a living in our foster home, it would seem that our roots remain in the Philippines. The last time we went to the Philippines, we had a road trip to Ilocos. We enjoyed our stay in Caramoan and the side trips to Vigan and Albay. It was a joy to visit places in the Philippines that you have not been to before. It makes you appreciate that there are far off places that you still needed to explore and places that you will appreciate the beauty of this country that was taken for granted all because you lived near the metropolis. (that is, until you discover that there is no WiFi where you are going to)

 
On this new trip, Judy decided that we should go to Bohol.

The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills

We took a domestic flight from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol. We dropped off our bags at the Henann Hotel resort and proceeded straight to our journey. Yes, it was time to become tourists in our own country again. We managed to get to the Hinagdanan Cave despite coming in late in the afternoon. Hinagdanan Cave is a small cave primarily made of limestone and is surrounded by beautiful rock formations. There is also a lagoon in that seemscto glow green because of the green limestone underneath. Our guide had been a joy to be with managing to explain the history and natural wonders of the cave. It was hot in the cave though, and dark. It was nice to see that cave (would have been better if we had gotten there earlier) in all its wonder. The trip had to be quick as it was getting dark (and the cave entrance was about to be closed for the day). We soon made our way to the Bohol Bee Farm. Since we were late, there were no more tours available as well, but the shop was still open and that was fine with mum and everybody else. It turns out, there was also a restaurant that served mostly organically grown ingredients a few steps below the souvenirs store. Another taste of local cuisine was enough to send our spirits on the way to sleepy town. The food was healthy and good and would be a recommended place to chill in. I would not need to recommend it though as the place was already filled with tourists, both local and foreign.

The Henann
The Henann

The Henann was absolutely great. The room was quite big and the beds were comfortable. The only thing missing was the bath tub (Matthew’s current de rigueur among hotels) although the bathroom itself was big as well. We definitely would spend another night there if we had more time. We woke up to a hearty buffet which was a healthy mix of local and western food. I don’t know about the rest, but they had me at bacon. The beach and the pools provided enough entertainment for the morning before we were back on the road. It was a good thing that breakfast was awesome, because it was going to be a long day.

Vroom!
We headed to Carmen to have ATV rides around the famous Chocolate Hills. It would be Matthew’s first time handling an ATV on his own and we all had a blast. The trail was muddy and it rained along the way, not to mention he crashed into a ditch four times during the hour long ride. It was the most fun we’ve had in a long time. After the ATV ride, we went to see the Tarsiers at the Conservation Area. It was fairly disturbing to be honest at how rowdy some tourists can be at this place. Even when there are signs all around telling people to be quiet. We did have a peek at some of these Tarsiers but something felt odd. It was as if the touring area had specifically placed Tarsiers in designated spots. I later found out that the Tarsier Conservation Area is NOT an official sanctuary and NOT run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation. I found out too late though, otherwise, we would have gone to the Tarsier Research and Development Center in Corella instead. That’s all said and done and dinner needed to arrive. Our last stop for the night was to watch the Fireflies at Abatan river. We never managed to get any good photos as it was dark, but it was one of the most beautiful sights that you would ever see. Imagine a whole tree decked out in blinking Christmas lights, until you realize that those lights are not lights at all, but fireflies. Mind you, it was not an easy trek getting to the fireflies. But when you are out there, you just stare at them in awe.

Sleeping like a monkey
That was it for Bohol. We settled down to a small hotel near Tagbilaran Airport in preparation for our flight back home. It as nowhere near as luxurious as The Henann, but it served its purpose as our hive for the night. The next day, we had breakfast and were on our way back to Manila. No rest for the weary travellers as we only had a little more than a week to spend in the Philippines.

Re-parenting

Late last year, we decided on becoming foster parents. After eleven years with Matthew, we thought that maybe it was time. We started to foster a dog from the shelter in December of 2016.


At the shelter, the dogs were (most of them anyway) trying to get the attention of practically anybody that is a potential adopter. In our case, we were already contacted by SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs) before we went to the shelter. So our re-homer already knew what type of puppy we were looking for and proceeded to show us a litter of pups. The siblings were quite big for puppies, but it didn’t take long for two of them to catch our eye. One was a feisty little girl but was really keen on being with people. The other one was a bit shy and timid but looked to be okay around people as well. Of the three of us, Matthew was the one with the least experience with dogs so my wife and I decided on the puppy based on what we thought would be good in our first meeting with the puppies. We took home a timid little girl named Kuching. Yes, we know. It was odd to name a dog a cat, but we didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

In the first few days, we had to get comfortable with having a canine in the house. She had to get comfortable living with us instead of her siblings and she had to start learning a few things. We were either lucky or I was a very good trainer because we managed to teach her to poo and pee outside in the grass. She had only had one accident peeing in the house and that was only because we were out for too long and we didn’t get her cue that she needed to go out urgently. We also managed to stop her from chewing on everything in sight in the house. It hasn’t been smooth nor perfect in that regard. She still chews on new things that she sees from time to time. And these are only items that we leave (accidentally, or not) on the living room table. So far she stays away from shoes and slippers which is good. We also managed to stop her from sleeping in the couch (that was a pain and it took as a while to do). The only real problem we have right now is that she tries to nibble on our living room carpet and turn it into spaghetti.

Coming to terms that we now have a puppy, our lifestyle did change quite a bit. The biggest change was that we could no longer stay out late or be out of the house for too long because there was a puppy waiting for us to let her out. And she needs to be let out to relieve herself. She has also been added to our budget as we no longer share our leftovers with her like we did with our dogs in the Philippines. She now has her own budget for food. Matthew also had us buy toys for her (and she now has a lot). And a bed too. At the moment, we seem to have covered the basic necessities in keeping the whole family satisfied. The puppy is happy, Matthew is happy and we don’t really have any major problems with the puppy. She has been an ideal companion for us and Matthew had repeatedly spoken out how good it was for us to have a dog in the house.

Which now begs the question. How long should we be fostering this girl before we decide on fully adopting her. It goes without saying, adopting a dog here in Singapore is no short feat. The cost alone is not something that you can consider in a whim (unless you have money sprouting from a tree). And taking care of one requires patience and dedication to make it work. We are in a happy relationship right now, and we are leaning more and more towards fully adopting her. We’ll probably decide on it soon. But right now, I’m satisfied with how both Matthew and Kuching have grown to be great friends.

One December in Singapore

December has almost always been associated with Christmas. In fact, for the most part, the whole of December is Christmas. Or at least it feels like it. We had quite a good adventure this December. We may not have left the country for a big holiday escapade, but we did try and make the most of what was here in Singapore.

It is Christmas
It is Christmas

There was the customary stroll to get re-acquainted with Orchard Road and its Christmas lit streets. You know it has not been the best year when there are hardly any lights on Orchard Road, and this year seems to be that year. It had only been as bright as any normal night. The only real Christmas display was at the Centrepoint mall with it’s sweet Gingerbread theme. The bakery and the sweets shop at Centrepoint was very nicely done. It was a picture perfect little corner that occupied quite a bit of sidewalk. And, of course, Matthew being Matthew, he didn’t want any photos taken (at first). Which meant that quite a few grumpy moments were there.

Pokemon Christmas at Changi Airport
Pokemon Christmas at Changi Airport

We went to Changi airport to experience a Pokemon Christmas at one point. And since the Pokemon GO fever has not completely died down just yet, the Pokemon theme was still a welcome attraction in Changi airport. We didn’t get to meet any of the Pokemon mascots, nor did we chance upon the fleet of Pikachus. We did get some pretty postcard pictures with the Pokemon that were around the airport public areas though. Yes, Matthew was still being all moody like someone being chased around by a paparazzi, but maybe I did get a shot or two that made the trip worth it.

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A Christmas Wonderland

Gardens by the Bay brought about its own Christmas Wonderland to town as well. Meeting up with Matthew’s cousins, we took in the lights and sounds of the Gardens. There was a carnival that featured kiddie rides and some games. The games were pretty generous, considering you do win. The so-called Luminarie was all over the Super Trees and so was the Festive Market. It was at the Luminarie gazebo that people flocked at the scheduled “snow” times. Yes, they made it snow in Singapore. Okay, no, they didn’t. It was just suds. But heck, if you lived in the moment, you can pretty much imagine sweating as snow fell. Our night was practically filled with food from the Festive Market, which wasn’t such a bad thing. It did leave a hole in my wallet, but the grub was definitely worth it.

Out of curiosity, we decided on having a Cheese Board Christmas dinner. Since I can’t drink alcoholic beverages anymore, we got non-alcoholic sparkling whites to go with our cheeses. We had water crackers and some ham to liven up the table as well. Matthew and mummy exerted some effort in fixing up the dining table with a white Christmas theme which worked rather well with our dinner.

When the clock struck twelve, the three of took our places at the table. We poured our sparkling white wine and set the cheeses with the ham and crackers. We sat down and prayed. We sent out thank yous and our wishes and wished Jesus Christ a happy birthday. We had a good time exploring the possibilities of cheese and wine and how the combination made us all fart. And we had a good time. A simple, quiet dinner surrounded by family sharing our love with one another. We couldn’t have asked for more.

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Bringing the cousins home

We have been celebrating our Christmases in Singapore since eight years ago. Most of the time, it was Matthew, mummy and me. That is unless we have visitors or we went back to the Philippines to spend Christmas there. It would be fair to say that we are already used to spending small family Christmas dinners. It didn’t look like this year was going to be any different, yet somehow it felt different. And we had a good family Christmas, just like always.

A Bouncy Birthday Party

Matthew has just passed the decade mark by a year. Yes, he is now eleven and things have been awesome so far. Awesomeness aside, one birthday wish that was granted was for a party to be held with select friends. Once that was decided, it was off to Bounce.

Bounce off!
Bounce off!

It turns out that birthday parties at Bounce were quite easy to pull off. We chose the date, we chose how many were going to be involved and we paid our dues. When we arrived at Bounce, all we had to do was wait for the guests to arrive. When everyone was there, the people from Bounce handled the rest. Which was pretty cool and we were quite happy with how they handled everything. From keeping up with the kids to bringing them around and giving them ample time to enjoy the venue. Not surprising, the kids had a good time.

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More bounce, more fun!

After bouncing around for a good hour or so, we gathered the kids (and their parents) to the birthday room for refreshments. Food and drinks for the party were served and it was pretty good. The portions were generous enough that there were even leftovers. The cake at the end of the party was good as well. It looked simple enough but tasted rich and creamy. With the happy faces of the kids after bouncing and eating, we were happy to rate the birthday party a success. We thank everyone who came and celebrated Matthew’s birthday with us. Hopefully you went home with fond and fun memories just like we did.

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!

A Junior Spartan

While I was browsing the Internet, there was this ad that caught my eye. it was loud and orange and it was Reebok’s Spartan Race. Well, it wasn’t really the Spartan Race but rather the Junior Spartan Race that caught my attention. The Cold Storage Kid’s Run seem to have grown out of Matthew and he needed something new. This was going to be it.
After getting Matthew’s consent, it was a go. And that was nearly a month before the actual race.
Sizing up the competition.
Sizing up the competition.
Race day. We were ready. Well, mostly. Matthew had been throwing fits of rage every now and then, probably because we all had to wake up early on a Saturday. Apart from being difficult to talk to, everything seemed to look like it was going to be a good race. Until the skies opened up and a bit of rain came down. Our heat was delayed for a few minutes for something that resembled a drizzle. but kudos to the organizers because precautions were in place for such things to keep the kids safe.
Run, Matthew, Run!
Run, Matthew, Run!
And then it was time. Matthew lined up at the start line and I looked for a place where I can watch and hopefully take good photos. I was probably about 500 meters up front along with a hundred other spectators (who are obstructing my view). But that was the best seat in the house at that time. I mean, we were in a sports complex where the seats are too far out from the field and there are no bleachers to speak of. I was going after Matthew with my eyes and then it hit me.
Up, Down, Left, Right
Up, Down, Left, Right
Matthew was running with all his might, being serious about the fight. He wasn’t in the competitive race because we didn’t know what we would be expecting on race day. But boy, did he run. I was happy. I was proud. There was a Junior Spartan attacking the course on his own. Not alone, but fighting the good fight all on his own. There was an air of independence in him that I rarely see (because he has always been clingy). And that was enough for a father.
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Finished. Tired. Rewarded.
One other thing that I have noticed was how big Matthew had already grown. From the days that we were running the Cold Storage Kid’s Run, to this Junior Spartan race. In his first ever race, I was running beside him from the start line to the finish line. Now, he is his own man. Running like real pro. And while this isn’t really our passion, taking part in it broadens our perspective. We are not just spectators or critics after all. We are participants in a game called life.

What is it really like to ask for donations?

Volunteer work is fun. Really.

That’s what we found out when we signed up as volunteers for Causes for Animals, a non-profit, non-government organization that is helping with the management and care of homeless animals. If you have ever wondered why there aren’t so many stray dogs or why stray cats are all so fat, then one way or another, CAS may have been involved.

Of course there are regulations followed with respect on handling stray animals. The best place to look these up is actually through their (or other partners) websites. The links would be at the end of this post.

There were several types of volunteer work. The one that we got ourselves into is getting monetary donations for the care of fostered animals. You see, while stray animals are caught and housed in a safe shelter, the running costs of these shelters aren’t free. Add on veterinary care and the roof will cave in on you. Those who have their own pets know just how expensive it is to care for our furry friends.

Volunteer work is fun. Really.
Volunteer work is fun. Really.

So we came. We got our cans. And we already knew where we were going to go. It was a Sunday, and church lets out a whole lot of people every hour. Luckily for us, the church is merely a few meters away from the mall, the MRT and the bus interchange. So we bravely stood alongside the brick road that connects the two areas and ask strangers if they would like to donate for a good cause.

It turns out, people are quite willing to help. Especially if they see younger people volunteer for these types of activities. Matthew probably collected three times more than what I did. In fact, he didn’t even have to say anything, people who saw him holding out the can just came by and dropped their donations in his can.

It may have been easy getting people to donate for the cause, but it wasn’t all that easy. Standing there under the heat (even if you were in the shade) is no joke. We finished our bottled water halfway through our shift. And then the people started winding down. And it became more difficult to ask people. The fatigue from the heat hit us. We couldn’t even stay in our place for very long. Other volunteers have stepped around the area we were at and it became saturated very fast. And then we got hungry. And thirsty. On a personal note, the volunteer guide clearly states that the volunteers’ well being is a priority. So keeping your hunger and thirst quenched is not only recommended but encouraged.

We had lunch when the time hit 12 noon. We had ice cream too in order to cool off. That was it though. After lunch, we both felt very tired and decided together that we need to turn in our cans. We did so, happily. Not because it was over, but because we managed to do our work and helped out in a way that we have not done so before.

Volunteer work is not easy. You need to have dedication and the will to see it through. It was a great experience for both of us, and we definitely would think about it again when the opportunity comes.

If you would like to help Causes for Animals, please visit their website for information on volunteer work. Believe me, there’s actually a lot to do.

http://www.causesforanimals.com/

A Trip to Playeum and Gillman Barracks

Gillman Barracks

I am a guy. And it is a guy thing to not ask for directions even if we are completely lost. It just so happened that we weren’t very lost. Just a little bit lost because we were still just at the MRT station. While we had planned on going to Labrador Nature Reserve that day, it seems that fate had other plans. We never did find our way to Labrador Nature Reserve and actually headed in the opposite direction where the signage pointed to Gillman Barracks. I had no idea what Gillman Barracks was but it sounded cool and we didn’t really have a plan B for that outing. So we trotted along, Matthew and I, and found our way to a rather long covered walkway with the words Gillman Barracks tacked on the ceiling (of sorts).

Gillman Barracks
Gillman Barracks

Luckily we are now in the Internet age and information is easy enough to get as long as you are connected. A little bit of Googling told us that apart from food, we might find ourselves a little place called Playeum over at Gillman Barracks. Again, that sounded cool. So we went.

We didn’t really know what to expect since it was our first time at Playeum, so we asked. The theme for the month was Hideaways; Creating with Nature. The lady (and practically everyone) gave us a quick tour of the facilities and the exhibit which piqued Matthew’s curiosity and interest immediately. It was a no-brainer then that we were going in. It wasn’t such a bad idea since I couldn’t see much more that we could do in the area. They charged a reasonable amount for entry that included access to the exhibit for parent and child plus a discount on food and drinks at the nearby café. Not a bad deal at all.

Through the Looking Glass
Through the Looking Glass

At Playeum, play is encouraged and parent-child bonding is enforced. So if you do pay them a visit, please play-it-forward.

We had a go at the Creature Cave which turned out to be too kiddy for Matthew (who is ten by the way). Reading about its description, it was designed with younger kids in mind. So is the Dark Space which was right beside the cave. We had a good time inside a pitch black room that were littered with motion sensors that activated sounds and lights to show young ones the different animals that they might encounter in the dark. Matthew had me crawl across the floor just so I don’t trigger any of the sensors and keep things quiet. With my bulk and girth, it isn’t a wonder that I failed. Miserably. Not that he did much better.

The next exhibit featured a micro-projector. Okay, I made that one up, but it’s a cross between a microscope and a projector so I do make some sense. The exhibit was called “Knock, Knock; Who Lives There?”. It showcases some of the insects and their habitat that can be seen in and around Gillman Barracks if you were adventurous enough to wander through the foliage surrounding the area. We recognised most of the fossilised insects (Yey!) but not so much the flats that they lived in. So it was cool to learn about these. And you can even make your own habitat using recycled materials over at the crafting section of Playeum.

The other exhibits are more for expressing one’s creativity using natural materials and being inspired by natural habitats. The Welcome to My World exhibit gives kids a variety of materials that they can use to build their own habitats as if they were one of the insects that were presented cleverly in Knock Knock. There were bamboo shoots, bamboo sticks, string, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, flower petals, dried leaves and then some. While our tent-like contraption did not quite become habitable, it was a decent creation nonetheless. Our moth habitat was better decorated with flowers and leaves. There were better examples, but hey, we all have our good building days. This was Matthew’s first encounter with a glue gun by the way, and they bonded with each other like … err … glue. Which brings us to his masterpiece, a spiderweb. It was just cool to play around with the glue although you have to remember that melting glue from a glue gun is quite hot.

Hot Glue! Yipee!
Hot Glue! Yipee!

On the other side of the crafting area is Sounds of the Earth. Again prompting the use of natural recycled materials, one is expected to make a musical instrument of some sort. While not exactly orchestra material, Matthew and I managed to build up a few things that make music. Okay, maybe not so much music but they do make sound. Matthew made one he called The Snapper. It was basically a frame made of popsicle sticks with rubber bands that made a snapping sound when you flicked them. I made something similar that was made with cardboard instead. Then there’s the Tie-Fighter-esque seed shaker that was made out of egg cartons and bamboo sticks. The creme de la crop I would say was the bamboo pole that I filled with seeds and more bamboo and the ends were then covered with cloth. It was a decent instrument if I do say so myself.

On to the clay moulding area then. Make-Believe Hideaway they called it. One was meant to create a creature hideout with the clay. It would then be attached to the already growing nest of hideouts on the nearby table. It was like build-your-own apartment that would then be stuck onto a bigger apartment building. Matthew being free to create, he made an Onyx instead (yes, the rock Pokemon). Naturally, he made me create a matching creation which yielded a Geodude (yes, the other rock Pokemon). We then looked for suitable apartments in the habitat area to put our creations to be immortalised in clay.

It's Geodude!
It’s Geodude!

Through all the artsy fartsy stuff that we were doing, friendly staff were around helping, cleaning, creating and just being friendly. At the end of the day (quite a long day in fact) we left the place happy and stamped our own creations into the exhibit. We even found someone who watches One Punch Man and this made Matthew really happy. We took home his Saitama and Genos action figures that he made from toilet paper rolls. And we’re hoping to go back before the exhibit ends this October. You can still make it before it ends.