Making a fuss out of a mess

I consider myself a neat and organized person. My note pads are color coordinated. My closet is stacked up and color coordinated as well. My CDs and DVDs are arranged by genre. Even the folders on my desktop are named in such a way that anyone who looks at it will know how my music is segregated from my movies from my anime series. My wife thinks I have OCD. I just want to see symmetry and order. But that’s just me.

My wife and my son on the other hand, are busy bodies. My wife is disorganzed but she doesn’t make too much of a mess. I find her things on her dressing table (which we used to share) and on the computer desk (which used to be mine). She loses her phone from time to time and she needs to call them (both her mobile and our landline) to find them. But she finds them nonetheless. Yes, she occupies half of everything and I keep on moving out of my space every now and then. My boxes of toys don’t know where to stay put anymore.

Pikachu and his messy desk
Pikachu and his messy desk

My son on the other hand, is a walking mess. He leaves his books everywhere. I find his books in the toilet, on the dining table, on the floor (anywhere in the whole house), on his bed, on my bed, and everywhere else that he walks into. I find his toys in the same places but includes even in the shower and in the refrigerator and sometimes in my underwear drawer. He leaves all the doors that he opens, open and all the drawers that he pulled, pulled. Anything that he drops stays there and he will never pick them up on his own. When you ask him to pick it up, he will only pick up that one thing even though there are others just beside it. I once asked him to pick up his toy cars and put them back in his toy box. He did. But the toy cars were beside a toy plane which should have gone in the box as well. So I had to ask him to pick up the toy plane too. It’s the same for his books and his underwear and his shirt and his phone and the coins that he scatters around the house.

Some people just don’t know what it’s like to constantly be on the edge of wanting to clean every scrap of mess around the house. But I can’t. I can’t because as organized as I want myself to believe, I’m just as forgetful as a goldfish. So if I clean up someone else’s mess apart from my own, I would never remember where I had put them away. And this becomes a problem when that somebody starts looking for something. Technically, it already is a problem in the first place because it was piled up in a mess. But because that person knew where that mess was, they at least had an idea where to look.

Of course, this could just be a mild case of over thinking. Then again, what isn’t a case of over thinking nowadays?

Breaking the Year (Part 1)

School break happens in June for us with kids going to school in Singapore (and some other countries as well). And while it should be a normal break where the kids are taken out on road trips and swimming and horse back riding, this year is different. PSLE.

Of course that shouldn’t really stop us from having a proper holiday. It is a shadow of what is to come in a few months and one has to accept it before one can move on. We did our best to squeeze in extra head banging in the first few weeks of the break. We’re not really sure how much it helped, but it is time to put that behind us for a short while. It is time for a break.

 The Crew

Matthew had always been about family. And the closest that we have are his cousins living on the island next door. We packed our bags and took the ferry to Batam and then a speedboat to Bintan. We drop our bags in our rooms at Nirwana Gardens and put our feet up to chill. It probably won’t be enough to cover the stress coming for us until the end of the year, but some is better than none.

The kids had a game of giant chess before we were up in our rooms. Then we hit the pool with the kids in the middle of a downpour. In the end, we couldn’t decide if we got wet in the rain or in the pool. Luckily it was just rain or else lightning would have put a stop to the fun. Everybody seems to be doing their own thing but everybody was having fun so that wasn’t really an issue. We realised that we weren’t the only crazy people there as there were a handful of us enjoying the rain (It’s not something you see much in Singapore, believe me). When the rain stopped, we stepped out of the pool and back into our rooms. We spent the rest of the night on a game of bowling. Let’s just not talk about who won and how. It was a friendly game after all (and those last two gutter balls were intentional). The boys had a go at shooting using airsoft guns. I heard it didn’t go too well.

Check mate
Check mate

Buffet breakfasts were the norm in hotels and resorts and that meant we had an hour or so to fill up before doing any more activities. The younger kids went on to horse back riding while the boys stayed behind to do their own thing. Andrae pretended that he was a sniper and did target shooting with an airsoft rifle while Matthew pretended that he was as good as Hawkeye and did archery on the field right beside rifle shooting. Neither one of them broke any records. After deciding to forego the ATV and buggy riding, the same boys decided to team up and hit the paintball skirmish course. It was father and son versus father and son. After laughing our heads off because of our ridiculous outfits (seriously, flip-flops with full paintball camo and armor don’t go well together). It was the most fun shooting someone else we had. Some of us died more than the others and we finally proved that paintball hurts. We’ve got the bruises to prove it. Nobody did capture the flag so there was no clear winner. What was clear though, was that the dads weren’t as fit as they thought. We were panting halfway through and judging by the way we couldn’t fully take cover on the low barrels shows just how fit our bodies were. There will be round two. Soon.

Paintball took the wind out of us and that was it for Nirwana. We headed back to Batam soon after checking out. Getting to and from the resort was smooth, but it did take close to an hour (one way) and then there was the speedboat (choppy waters, claustrophobic quarters, no seatbelts, yep, that was fun) that took us between Batam and Bintan. Back in Batam, we shopped and we ate. It was so much fun eating that we probably gained more pounds in the shortest span of a two days. Tired but full, we head back to Singapore to lull the last few days before school starts again.

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.