Wednesday, October 15, 2014

She "ain't no size two" and she's perfect

A couple of weeks ago, Shorty pulled me into her room after getting dressed. She asked me weepily, “Mom, am I fat?” I calmly said, “No. Why do you ask?” That question has never been asked and the issue has never come up before. I thought maybe she was just outgrowing her clothes and needed new ones. After gently prodding her with more questions, very patiently on my part, I finally extricated the truth from her. A little boy, who used to be a good buddy, had called her fat. Hell no. We do not start body image issues in first grade. This was the last straw, the comment that finally made her cry a little, after stories of this kid making fun of her name (it's not really Shorty, by the way), how she does things, and whatever else. They sit close to each other in class so Shorty can only do her best to tolerate him. Then at lunch, he'll choose the seat next to hers and keep at it. He also tells on her, and on anyone and everyone, about anything under the sun. The breeze blows and the boy will tell on it, but I will refrain from using labels because I will not be part of the problem that this blog rant is about in the first place. I took the whole weekend to calm down so I don't do this:(click here), sans pregnancy or menopause. After all, the boy is only six and I didn't want to embarrass Shorty profusely with me being Furious Filipino mom in the hallway. She still has four more years to go.

Shorty is shapely, always has been and I have no problem with that. My beef is with the fact that the boy, in his six short years, has somehow already adopted a standard of what fat is and isn't. Surely he learned that from someone. I am horrified that we have already imposed our preconceptions on our kids at such a young age, albeit unknowingly. What are we teaching them and when? When they watch TV and look at pictures of men and women on magazines, they only see what they think they should look like. When I can't find clothes at Target that fit normally on my daughter because the industry-standard cut is skinny and super skinny, she'll think her body is not the right shape. When we make small, innocent comments on someone else's body size, how their clothes fit, and what we find pleasant to look at, they are listening. Even when we comment on things we don't like about our own bodies, they are listening. If we're not careful, they will start looking for their own flaws, so admire them thighs, moms. Those stretch marks are a badge of honor. Motherhood is damn hard work. And dads, guess what? You get to admire them too. Better believe it; this involves the whole family.

So what to do come Monday and she has to face the boy again? She wasn't looking forward to it, I could tell. Like always, her dad and I tell her not to be afraid to stand up for herself. I went as far as to quote Dumbledore telling Neville Longbottom that it is “even harder to stand up to your friends.” (I hope that Harry Potter reference didn't get lost on you. We've all read it even before we had kids right? No? Just me?) Here's where it got tricky. I told her I punched a boy in first grade for trying to kiss me. I spat on another for who-knows-what offense, I can't remember now. I have to say they were proud moments for me as a kid, but I shouldn't have presented it to my kid as an example or a solution, certainly not one worthy of praise. However, if she does punch a boy for calling her names (that's what this boy did wasn't it?) or if one were to try and kiss her without her permission, I know my husband and I would be high-fiving secretly behind her back, after admonishing her of course. Hands to yourself – it's kindergarten stuff. So here's how it went down with her. She told the boy “I hate you.” Not a good word in a place where the hallways are plastered with posters that declare the school is 'No place for hate.' I think Shorty chose well inspite of this. She kept her hands to herself and after we've told her countless times that 'hate' is a very strong word, I understand why she used it. She used it in hopes that it was strong enough ammo to make
the boy get off her back and mind his own business once and for all. In school, she and the boy were made to apologize to each other and at home, she lost her ipad privileges for a week. The lesson is twofold. She knows that there is a consequence to every action and the other more valuable of the two, is that she knows she is not a pushover. She can be nice, but she knows that she is strong and important. Don't mess with her.

The kids have since been shuffled around (thank you, Teach!) No more “friendship issues” as her teacher called it. Peace has been restored. I told Shorty that we are all built differently: color, shape, and size. Even our ears, eyes, and nose are shaped differently. Body size and shape only become problems if they affect your health. Otherwise, I told her, we should marvel at our own unique shape. It would be a very boring world if we all looked the same. Your jeans will never look the same on anyone else because there's only one you and that's something to celebrate. Meghan Trainor's song “All About that Bass” has long become a favorite. Although, I cringe everytime I hear the line, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” That's IF we let them, I might add, but don't get me started. That's a whole other blog post. She's just happy to sing along and I'm happy to gloss right over that one for now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Bigger Sandbox

Last week, Shorty was just beside herself over her assessment for kindergarten. It was last Thursday afternoon, but on Monday she was already using the word liberally, throwing it out at anybody who would listen. "Have you ever had an assessment?" She asked her thirteen year-old cousin. "I am going to my assessment today," she told grandma, and then her dad, "I will call you as soon as I'm done with my assessment." I, on the other hand, was apprehensive. After all, this was really my assessment, isn't it? Because Shorty didn't go to pre-school as I was home anyway. Naturally, I felt the need to fill up that little brain with information as much as I can. I put her in classes but had to decide which ones, how many, how often and which ones we could afford. Of course, I taught her the practical things she had to learn, but the most recent, and ones of which I'm very proud, are teaching her to read, write, count and do some very light math (because I suck at Math, but that's a dirty, little secret I will keep from her for as long as I can).

So there we were, Thursday morning, greeted by one of the teachers. She instructed me, very nicely, that I was to wait 'here', she gestured at the seats they had lined up for parents at the hallway, while she and Shorty went hand-in-hand into the classroom. I obliged, but as soon as they were out of sight, I dragged the chair just short of parking it in the doorway itself. Sitting in that too-little chair made me feel very large and incompetent, so I pretended to check my email as if I were a very busy mom with other things more important than laundry and dishes, and the kid inside that classroom.

I strained to hear the Q and A. It was punctuated by 'Excellent', and 'Good job!', and 'Beautiful handwriting. You practiced, didn't you?' I glowed and beamed in that hallway until I was invited in. Mama did good.

After a review of what they covered, and the very few things she missed (not sure why she always skips 'fifteen'), the teacher said proudly '"She is definitely, absolutely..." I held my breath, "ready for kindergarten." What? She's not going directly to first grade? Hey, you can't blame me. Every mom would love to hear their kid is brilliant. And maybe a little 'good job' for me. Then again, I was in first grade when I was her age, and look where that got me now. Neither coming up with new scientific theories, nor finding the answer to life (Sorry to disappoint, Mom).

Later that day, I asked a question, but wasn't begging for an answer. "What do I do while you're in school?"(Which is in five days, I might add.) Honestly, I've racked up quite a few ideas since I had to wake up for her 2 am feedings. Shorty replied "Awww. You can get a job that you really like, Mommy." She thought for a moment and said "You can be a scientist. That's fun, making experiments all day." She gave me a smile and a reassuring hug. She's ready for kindergarten. I'm not.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love is a Dog

How do we all cope with the passing of a loved one? In this case, a beloved pet. When my husband (then boyfriend) and I took Chubbs home, I was ecstatic with the little bundle sleeping in a ConAgra box in the backseat of the coupe. Yes, a coupe. Those were pre-Shorty days and we didn't worry about how we were going to get a car seat in and out of a car. I relished the first trip into a pet store shopping for the perfect bed, 2 dog bowls, a kennel, and the collar. Like any mother, I was nesting or denning, since this was a puppy (okay, it's not a word.) Amidst all the warm fuzzies however, I morbidly thought about how I was going to cope once this puppy was old and ready to check out. I wondered what was worse and what was easier for me to handle. Was it finding him somewhere and burying him under a tree in the backyard with a paw print cast on the mound like they always do in the movies? I found that picture to be maudlin. Or would it be taking him to the vet and helping him along in the process, ending his discomfort and pain? The latter was entirely strange and unnatural to me. Growing up in the Philippines, dogs ate our leftovers, there were no trips to the vet, and we certainly let life take its course. Euthanasia seemed too practical and indifferent. So, I decided I was just nuts and I was going to cross that bridge when I get there.

Fifteen and a half years later, I still didn't have the answer as I struggled with vet costs, doggie diapers more expensive than Shorty's, and the messy job of mopping floors clean of dog urine. Pretty soon, Chubbs hung out in the backyard. I think those last days helped his snuggle-hog of a brother Deuce, a 9 year-old Boston Terrier, detach from the pug's company. So did Shorty, but not me. Not yet.

When we picked him out from the litter of puppies, we kept losing him in a pack of ten pot-bellied puglets. He would crawl into the extra large kibble bag and eat to his heart's content. Years later, no matter how old and slow he was, he promptly and faithfully came to his bowl (a white one, so he could see it on the dark patio floor) for his senior-grade kibble.
He would do anything for that kibble. He sat, shook your hand, rolled over, and played dead (Pretend to shoot him with your forefinger and say 'Bang!', he'll wail and fall on his side and lay still.) All that for kibble, not even a treat, just plain old kibble. Silly dog.

Chubbs hated the leash. Years of pulling away made him walk sideways, even off-leash. We added 'Hey Sidewinder!' to his many nicknames. He also made it his life goal to catch that curled-up tail and yes, he did catch that tail. Once. Then, he made it his next life goal to catch it twice. Life goals are for humans aren't they? But then the pug thought he was human, taking up a spot on the bed and insisting (with seemingly pointless barking), to be on the same side of the door as you were. Let him out and he'll yelp to come inside with you. Leave him inside while you're out, and he'll whine to come outdoors with you. He also did the mother of all doggie don'ts. He ate a whole bar of Toblerone - box, foil and all. The only telltale sign we found was the little triangle piece at the end of the box. He lived through it and just passed something that very much resembled chocolate. Stubborn dog.

Chubbs was now completely blind, deaf, and very slow to walk as his spine was contorted to a drastic curve, raising his hip. He and I would "walk" the yard together and he would navigate by keeping his side against my leg. Where I went, he went. He sure knew how to communicate. Ever since a pup, he would bark at a faucet, any faucet, when his water bowl was empty. Smart dog.

When he stopped doing all of the above, the hubby and Shorty were ready to let him go, but I wasn't. Not the way they were thinking anyway. We had family talks and it still ended in a stale mate, even when I was outnumbered. So I told Chubbs, "Buddy, I'm ready, but you decide when you want to go because I sure as hell am not going to make that decision for you." So he did. He turned up his nose on his kibble for four days (that was shocking) and on the last day, he stopped drinking, settling down in spots in the yard that were not his favorite. I lifted him up to wash him and he was light as a feather. I took it as a sign he was checking out. I had a decision. We took him to the vet where we properly said our goodbyes, got a paw print cast (which I did not request, but ended up appreciating), and we took him home in a little cardboard box and buried him under a flowering tree in the backyard. I got both scenarios. I am content, but sad. How do we cope? With time. That's all.

The family was sad and asked how Shorty was taking it. Ask her and she'll tell you, "Time to get a new puppy!" She was however, overly emotional that week and would burst into tears because of a hangnail or because I separated her twin cherry popsicle. She has since claimed Deuce as her own. 'MY dog,' she'll tell me. One of my nieces cried when she heard about the sad news, meanwhile I am still crying at random points of the day (and as we speak.) The Boston Terrier has taken to looking and waiting at doors that lead outside. Once, I asked him lightly, "Deuce, you waiting for Chubbs?" He perked up and promptly ran towards the backyard staring out for a minute. I think we all miss him. Chubbs was a fixture in the family, having been around for fifteen years. He predated all the kids and family pets combined.

Later, Chubbs. You silly dog, stubborn dog, smart dog. Good dog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In dog years

I thought my diapering days were over until my 15 year-old pug started peeing and pooping in the house at night. The old man, er dog, has been relegated to the backyard during the day and the laundry room at night. Thank God winters in Austin are mild.
Never had the house smelled like Pine Sol than ever before. The first day of mopping the floors and washing the pug was an act of love. My first baby needs me. As I mopped the floor, scrubbed the stuff off him, then off my bathtub, I swore the mother of all motherhood promises that if I had to, I will do this daily. Yes, I swore like a sailor too. By the third day, that sappy feeling wore off and the chore warranted a rant on Facebook. The outpouring of empathy and suggestions from friends was comforting. So, I broke down and bought doggie diapers. They worked so well, I bought in bulk the second time around. It's now a part of our bedtime routine. Shorty: potty, jammies, brush teeth. Chubbs: laundry room, baby gate, diapers. Neither one fights it.
The pug, whose name is Chubbs, has been given many endearments through the years: Puglet, Chublet, Chubby, Chubbster, Chubbywubby, Chubbyloopee, Chubbyroo, all coined by friends and family. Really, he didn't seem to mind. Shorty came up with the most recent one due to Chubb's new accessory. 'Huggie Puggy.' That has to be my favorite, so far; I'm sure it's not the pug's.
The now near-blind, half-deaf, greying pug in diapers walking into corners and standing there because he can't back up has been a usual sight in our household. And that's ok. It's not funny, just normal, and it's comforting to me to still have my pug around even if he sleeps all day. Well, he's always done that.
I know this blog is about motherhood, but after all, I was a pet-mom first. I think caring for Chubbs, although nowhere near taking care of my Shorty, has taught me about nurturing, caring, and patience -- and poop. All very important things in mothering. Especially the last two. There's also one more lesson I have learned and it's the least glamorous of all. Across species, we all start out and end in diapers. Or not, but that's just awkward and very, very messy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Leaving Las Vegas (when all you want is to get there.)

An already-planned trip to Vegas with childhood girlfriends was looming, but I had to tell them that I had to sit this one out.
We were ecstatic about our recent move to Texas to be closer to family. We found a lovely home right away, but it hailed from the seventies and the kitchen screamed ABBA. We decided that it needed a nudge into the current decade. In this case however, the nudge meant gutting out the whole damn thing and knocking down a wall. No kitchen for two, almost three months, Vegas trip. So here I was the weekend of said trip and my girlfriends' hootin' and hollerin' on the other end of the line made me resent the seventies just a little bit. Ironic, since that's when I was born. I fought the strong urge to have a bottle of wine with me, myself and I, and decided I will not sit at home. I will be out there. I will show up. I will four-year- old and I.
So instead of looking so glum on a Friday, I heard about the chicken joint that had an unofficial holiday for bovine appreciation day. Free eats if you dress up like a cow. (Mooing doesn't get you anything but funny looks.) That's it! That's where Shorty and I were going to paint the town red, or black and white, actually. I grabbed two shirts, one white, one black. I cut up the black one into random kidney shapes and contemplated sewing them on to the white one, until I decided glue does wonders. An oval of pink fabric on the chest then, Shorty pulled out two small, pink pompoms.
"For nickels, Mom," she offered.
"You need two more. I think you mean udders," I said (now you know what she meant.)
Those were glued on just like everything else. More glue for small black fabric onto a pair of barettes for ears, and we were ready. No, I did not don a costume for free lunch. Since I received photo updates of the girls all dolled up without kids glued to their legs, the last thing I wanted to do was to feel and look like a cow. I've never felt so domesticated in all my life.
We hit the restaurant and when we walked in, Shorty got so many compliments (from other cows) on her costume that made this mama cow feel proud. She had fun. I had fun, not Vegas fun, but the promise of a shiny, new kitchen was well worth it. I think cocktail glasses, filled to the brim, should be the first to go on those countertops. Make mine a Margarita.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One of these things is not like the others

I’ve been coasting along the motherhood path content and, relieved mostly, that Shorty has yet to start bringing up big life-issues – until this past Wednesday.

They had an exercise in school called “If you can be whatever you want to be, what would it be?” The teacher wrote the kids’ answers on a poster-sized sheet and hung it up in the hallway. Answers ranged from the expected, “I want to be a princess,” to the daring, “I want to be a green dragon.” There were also some realistic ones “I want to be a mom with five kids and live in a big house in the desert,” and then some odd ones like “I want to be a fruit snack.”

We were so amused with the list that Shorty and I rehashed her classmates’ answers on our drive home. One of her little friends said she wanted to be a princess like Jasmine (from Disney’s Aladdin) and among a whole list of dragons and superheroes one boy said he wanted to be the prince who marries Jasmine (the same one.) So how did Shorty react? “Eeew. He wants to marry a little girl with white skin.” My face burned. You see, ours is a ‘blue’ family in a very ‘red’ state, so when we found a preschool not more than 15 minutes away from our house that was surprisingly racially diverse, we couldn’t believe our luck (never mind that it costs us an arm and a leg, weekly.) So imagine my surprise when my daughter made this comment. I calmly asked, “Why is that eeew?” “Because he needs to marry someone with the same color skin.” I was convinced someone put it in her head, and it sure as hell wasn’t me. “Who told you this?” I asked trying to sound like I was just curious, not seething. “Nobody, Mom. I made it up myself.”
Her little friend who wanted to be Jasmine happens to be Caucasian, which up until now, I didn’t think mattered to Shorty. It obviously didn’t matter to her little friend who, out of all the Disney princesses, wanted to be one of the dark-skinned ones.

I have friends from different cultures, countries, and races, some in interracial marriages and some in same-sex relationships. So, it was a promise, no, a pact between my husband and I that if we had a child he or she will experience and thrive in a culturally diverse environment. I want my child to value diversity, practice tolerance, make and form well-informed choices and opinions, and be slow to judge. The best I can do is to teach her to always look at both sides of the coin.

I continued, “Your daddy and I don’t have the same color skin.” “Yes you do,” she said. Fine. I guess we do, but technically we are an interracial couple; my husband is Hispanic and I’m Filipino. Let’s see…Aha! I thought of my sister who is married to a man of Finnish descent. “What about your Tita T and Uncle E?” She smiled. Eureka. The light bulb went on. “See?” I said, quite pleased with myself. “What’s important Sweetie, is that you marry someone you like to hang out with, someone who makes you laugh, someone who hugs you when you’re sad or scared, someone who makes soup for you when you’re sick, someone who makes you feel like you’re the prettiest girl in the world.” Shorty was wide-eyed in my rear view mirror. Her wheels were obviously spinning. “Ok,” she said, “I’ll marry you and Daddy.”

I’m starting to think sorting exercises is the culprit. Tsk, tsk, Big Bird.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Someone Moved My Cheese

I recently went back to work, and Shorty went to preschool for the first time. Big step. Needless to say it was quite an adjustment for all three of us, including my husband. Now we do the get up, get washed, get dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed then shuttle-the-kid-to-school-and-get-to-work-on-time bit.

On Shorty's first day of school both my husband and I dropped her off, like a rite of passage I guess. As expected, she went off and played with other kids right away and had to be called back so we can get a goodbye kiss. Shorty made it easy for me. No tears there, no tears here. I have such a cool little kid; I am the world's greatest mother.

By the second week however, the novelty had faded. She realized it wasn't a field trip. Shorty had resorted to bringing her bed buddy, a now not-so-white and black panda, to school with her. Upon drop-off, she would just stand there holding Happy Pandy.(I did not name said panda.)

Come third week, Shorty would not unclick her seat belt and had to be carried in. "Why do I have to go to school?" she asked. "So you can go to college and get a job like me," I answered cheerily. I wanted to add, 'and leave your child at daycare, so you can earn money, so you can pay for daycare and buy work clothes, both of which you wouldn't need if you weren't working,' but I didn't. She was, by then, full-on bawling and clung to me like a monkey to its hairy mother's chest, not that I'm hairy, especially in the chest.

One crazy morning, Shorty threw a tantrum the size of Texas because she didn't like her outfit. I finally got her and myself ready, threw our stuff in the car then went back in to corral the dogs into the laundry where they usually stay while we're out. I had to search for the Pug who wouldn't come when called because he is fourteen and deaf as a door knob. Then the Boston Terrier was nowhere to be found. Did he get left out in the hot sun? Did he fall in the pool? I was a ball of nerves. I hooted and hollered, searched in closets, under beds, in laundry baskets, and every corner of the backyard. I even checked the car. Surprise, surprise; there he was. He had slipped in while I loaded our stuff in the car and was now looking at me like I was nuts for leaving him in that laundry room all day long.

At school, Shorty refused to get out and said, "My teacher said when I'm big, big girl I don't have to come to this school. I'm big, big now, see?" she said stretching up to touch the car's ceiling. I told her some lie about her having to wait in the car for eight hours if she came to work with me. She hopped to, but cried all the way to her classroom saying, "I'm ready for college now." Well, I'm not. Mom and Dad need to get your 529 started which won't happen if I showed up late for work, then I'll get written up, then I'll get fired so I really need to leave in five minutes. As soon as I pried her off me outside the classroom door, she bolted back down the hall toward the exit. Try running after a toddler when you haven't worn heels in three years. Those shoes look great, but they don't corner well. Anyway, I left her crying while her teacher had her in a bear hug. Breaks my heart every time, but when I go to pick her up, she's having so much fun she doesn't want to leave.

Week 4. She's getting better. Each morning though, I still have to lie through my teeth, "School is so much fun," when all I really want to say is "Sorry Shorty, school's going to suck for a while," And she's barely started.

*The title is inspired by Dr. Spencer Johnson's book "Who Moved My Cheese?"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The seasonal vegetarian

I recently enforced, on my little family, meatless Fridays for 40 days this past Lent. Then, for 6 holy days leading up to Easter Sunday, we were vegetarians. Prior to the Lenten season, my husband decided to give up the occasional alcoholic beverage. He asked me what I was giving up. Before I could reply, he offered, "You should give up steamed white rice." I smirked. Was he nuts? You see, I grew up with the stuff. I'm wired to like it, it's practically part of my DNA. On occasion, my husband would wake up to me sitting in bed beside him, watching TV, chowing down a bowl of hot, white rice. I am to white rice as Peggy Bundy is to bonbons. "Facebook," I declared. Well, he's woken up to me, in bed staring at the bright screen of my laptop like a moth to a flame, checking out Facebook. That went out the window by the time Ash Wednesday came around.

So, meatless Fridays it was which he insisted, Shorty, who's 3, should observe it as well. I agreed. We take her to church, perhaps she should experience this too. We planned meatless options: salads, spaghetti marinara, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, egg sandwiches, and rice in various shapes or forms. I don't know how vegetarians and vegans do it.

One Friday evening, Shorty was jonesing for a hotdog and I told her, "We can't eat meat." "Why not?" Not wanting to have to explain Lent, I said "Do it for Jesus." "Okaaay," she said with resignation. I was surprised at her willingness to participate. By Holy Week, Shorty seemed to look forward to having meat more than the scavenger hunt. To distract her, we made our own pizza which was a favorite activity of hers. When all the toppings were on and I was about to put it in the oven, "Wait," Shorty stopped me. "We forgot the pepperoni," she said with clear panic in her voice. "It's holy week," I said flatly. I tried to say it sweetly like a patient mother would, but I was having withdrawals myself. She hung her head, arms limp at her sides. "But mommy," she whined, "I love meat."

When Easter Sunday finally came, we went to Mimi's Cafe after church and had omelets with the most anticipated, most beloved bacon. Sigh. Oh for the love of all pigs crispy. Then, in sheer joy, arms in the air (and strip of bacon in hand,) Shorty exclaimed with a greasy grin, "Thank you, Easter time."