Tag Archives: family matters

A new beginning.

Two weeks after the beginning of a new year, and everything is already very different… and yet completely the same. I’m sitting in the bedroom, watching mosquitoes hover in front of my cat-eye frames, and blaming myself for not remembering to close the window screen after Riley opened it to make sure I heard him yell, “Mama! Mama! Mamaaaaa!!”

That was his greeting when I got home from school. 

I’d come home early because of a headache and my body’s need to relax, and there he was, happy to see me, positively radiant and beaming in his I-LOVE-my-mommy!-ness. Micah was in the bath, and when he saw me, he lit up like a firecracker and I swore I saw heaven. 

And then I remembered that Rob’s mom had passed away from lung cancer and that she’d never see my babies’ smiles, and I wanted to smoke and eat and shop and act out every other vice I have. 

It’s been a hard year so far.

I miss Rob’s mom. There are money issues plaguing me. My extended family is showing itself to be more and more bat-shit crazy. Rob and I are having a hard time being Rob and I. And in the midst of all this, I’m tentatively putting one foot in front of the other, making my way towards something better than what I’ve got, and mindful that everything could blow up in my face at any moment.



March 11th was supposed to be a day of celebration, when I’d walk down an aisle, light a candle, and be fitted with a nurse’s cap. It was the day I was supposed to don white stockings under my school uniform, wear white shoes, and be officially anointed as a student nurse.

In the Philippines, only after being enrolled as a full-time student for a minimum of one year and passing a number of prerequisites do you qualify to be called a student nurse. Before that, you were just dipping your toe in the water. After capping, you dive in, head-first, and tackle the burn patients, cases of poisoning, labor and deliveries, gunshot wounds, et al., that come at you while you’re on duty. Make no mistake: Being a nursing student in the Philippines is like being a full-on nurse, but without the pay, the glory, or the credentials. We’re all faking it until we make it to graduation.

Instead of a happy capping ceremony, though, I brought Rob to the airport and struggled with my emotions, and eventually spent a week feeling sad and craving privacy.

Now, here I am, 21-weeks pregnant, strangely bored with life, and feeling like something’s definitely missing. (That would be Rob.) I’m in the midst of taking final exams, struggling to hi-jack my brother’s computer so that I can finish my editing projects, and STILL on the phone with my bank because all of my accounts have been hacked into. I somehow managed to lose my cell phone charger, so that I can’t talk to Rob. And, really? I know that I’m doing all I can to handle all of this crap as responsibly and resourcefully as possible, so I’m kind of bored with it. Yeah, I said it. I’m kind of bored with my own problems. I know they’ll eventually work themselves out, so instead of focusing on them, I focus on my family.

I know that I won’t be able to see Rob in person for at least another year and a half, but I’m thankful to have Riley around. Riley, whose smile can light up the darkest of caves. Riley, who brings his bowl and spoon to the kitchen sink when he’s done eating. Riley, who strums on his uncle’s guitar and composes songs on the piano that really sound like songs. Riley is my golden child, and when we’re together I swear there are no problems in the world. I just see him and hold him and kiss him and know that everything is right. Now that the semester is drawing to a close and I can focus on all of these “problems” that will work themselves out within the next week or so, I’m also spending as much quality time with Baby #1 as possible. I know that his whole world will be different when Baby #2 makes an appearance, and I want to make sure he knows how much he’s loved and cherished and adored. I want to make sure he knows just how immensely beautiful and special he is. I want him to know how grateful we are for him, and how much he’s fixed every single one of us.

Once my two-weeks vacation is over, I go in for my first summer semester of classes. I hear it’s a doozy since the school crams 10 credits’ of classes into 6 weeks. Then there’s another two week break, and I’ll be 30 weeks pregnant.

Gripes about God, and the many questions they raise.

Okay, so I wrote this and immediately realized that there are MANY talking points contained herein. Like the issue of control and how much of it a parent should exert on their children…

For all the love I have for my life and everyone/everything in it, there are a few complaints that I can’t help but have. My brother and his insistence on coveting the sin of sloth, for example. The fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day. My apparent amnesia concerning the how-to’s of swimming. But the one that’s currently messing with me is being overwhelmed with… religious…ness? Religiosity? Yeah, I’ll go with that. Religiosity. I’m overwhelmed by religiosity.

EVERY DAY, I witness people giving up their goals with a shrug and a “Whatever God wants will happen.” And it pisses me off. So. Much. That. It. Hurts.

So you’re unhappy at your job, in your marriage, with your grades, et al. Why not make a change? Why just accept your circumstances and say that it’s God’s will? The line of thinking seems to be “This is so because God wants it to be so. Therefore, I’ll just bend over and take it in the ass.” And I just don’t get it.

Being here, in this super-crazy Catholic country, where bishops and clergy are spouting off about how birth control is bad because taking control of you’re reproductive health means you’re denying God His choice of how many kids you’re going to have and when you’re going to have them, is driving me cah-razy. There are never any protests or marches or any form of civil disobedience when it comes to the issues that are important to me, and without an outlet, I’m grasping at straws. These are beliefs that speak to who I am as an individual, how I live my life, and how I see the world.

Every day, I’m confronted with religious talk. Prayers are conducted in class. Teachers give sermons about how people should live. Even on Facebook, certain family members can’t help but be all “Let go. Let God.” And it scares me. My world is full of people who carry opinions that are contrary to my own, and when I realize this the first thought in my head is Riley. What if he gets brain-washed by their thinking? What if he spends too much time with our uber-Catholic family members and gives up the values I’ve instilled in him? What then?

I know I have to trust Riley. I know that he’ll be a wonderful, strong, beautiful person no matter what beliefs he accepts about God and religion. I also know that one of the other values I’m ingraining in him is the ability and the will to think for himself. I want him to question everything, and to learn as much as he can, and to make up his own mind about who he is and what he’s about. I can’t help but wonder if and when that value may clash with the atheism that’s in full-effect in our household.

For now, at least, I can still control Riley’s influences and social circle. I’m trusting and keeping faith in my ability to shape a healthy and happy little person. And we’re safe in our tiny corner of the world.

That’s all that really matters.

Riley’s 1st Birthday, Part I

Riley’s birthday party was yesterday, and in the wake of all the hectic excitement, I can’t help but feel a deep appreciation for people who throw parties in the Philippines. I add in the Philippines because I’ve thrown many, many parties in the States, and I don’t remember any of them being half as chaotic as Riley’s first birthday party. Maybe I’m wrong, and the nervous energy was all in my head (though it’s not new to my Philippines experience, thus making me doubtful that it’s all in my head). Or maybe I take this particular party more seriously because it’s my son’s first birthday party (though the ideas of serious and party just don’t mix in my mind). All I know is, if you asked how the party went, I’d probably smile and shrug. “How’d the party go?” I’d likely parrot. “I guess it depends on who you ask.”


We were an hour late to our son’s birthday party.

Even though it was at our house.

And the celebrant was with us.

There we were in bumper to bumper traffic, clouds of brown dust being kicked up by hiccuping jeepney engines and lines of pedestrians weaving through traffic like schools of  fish. I sat next to Riley in the second row of our SUV, feeling my anxiety exponentially multiply by the second. A canker sore had developed on my inner bottom lip, and the single meal I’d consumed seemed to have been quickly burned up by my adrenaline. The hole being made in my stomach was quickly being filled by anxiety and adrenaline. Not a good mix.

The day was supposed to have been simple: Pick up lechon (in our case, a 100-lb. whole roasted pig); pick up the cake; take Riley for a haircut; pick up my grandma; pick up the balloons. We woke up at 6 a.m. to complete everything and the party started at 2, so really, this should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, it was anything but a piece of cake.

First off: Should it really take half an hour to claim food? Nope. But when your mom insists on holding all of the receipts and then loses them, that’s how long it takes to pick up a cake or 100-lb. hunk of pork. Apparently. Not that that’s a bad thing per se, because it would royally suck to pay for all that food and then have someone else haul all of it home. But shouldn’t two forms of government ID and a signature check be enough to secure the food? I’ll let you guess on the answer to that one…

Also? Nobody ever told me that a kid’s first haircut could take up to an hour. This is something that I probably should have guessed since my kid in particular is a bundle of activity, but it still surprised me. I figured, 20 or 30 minutes tops, and we’d stroll out of the kiddie barber shop with a cute head of hair on my little boy’s head. I didn’t count on the jumping and jerking and spinning and turning taking a total of 68 minutes. My bad.

And the balloons? Well, by the time we’d gotten around to them, I’d had enough and decided to send my brother to collect them on his own. What I didn’t count on was that he had to pick up the clowns as well. I thought they’d show up at any minute, and three hours after they were supposed to be here, they finally arrived (after my brother picked them up). Why they couldn’t just commute over here is beyond me. We would have gladly reimbursed their fare.

Once the clowns finally arrived, they were unprepared. They weren’t wearing their make-up or costumes, they didn’t bring a mic or a kid’s music cd, and they weren’t in the least bit jolly. We had to force the clowns to smile. Read that again then tell me it wasn’t fucked up. I dare you.

While the clowns ate their fill of food and got ready, we gathered the guests, cut the cake, gave goody bags to the kids, played some party games, and took pictures. Just as things started to get really good, it started raining. We realized then that the pinata and the pabitin couldn’t be played outside even though we’d rented a tent for the express purpose of battling inclement weather. The thought behind renting the tent was that the kids wouldn’t get rained on. We’d totally neglected the possibility that they’d drown in a sea of dirty rainwater.

Luckily, the rain thinned out the guests dramatically. The neighbors went home, the people who showed up for food and to check out our house went home, and the only people left were good friends and family aka The People Who Really Matter. They all fit into our house, but the adults made their way outside to drink their fill of liquor while the kids were being entertained. They made due under the tent while the clowns did their thing in the downstairs living room.

Meanwhile, the clowns found their groove. They improvised with Riley’s kid’s cd’s and our videoke sound system, did magic tricks, played games with the kids, and hung up the pabitin and pinata. All you could hear within a 1-mile radius of the house was the laughter and cheering of three dozen kids as they enjoyed themselves. That’s how bananas our surround system is. I’m still hearing only half of what people are saying.

Riley was a pure ball of Happy. He cheered and clapped for the magic tricks, ate his fill of cake, pancit, and other Filipino yumminess, and played with all the kids. Everyone admired his new haircut, his sweet and easy-going nature, and his dimples. The birthday boy fell asleep around 8 o’clock, just as the last of his pint-sized guests made their home.

And just as the trouble started brewing.