Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Beneath the Veins

Image: Flickr CC

When I was a little girl, I would hold my mother's arm and just stare at it. I was always fascinated with her fair skin and how it showed all the blue-greenish veins underneath. To me they looked pretty. They felt familiar, something I always just associated with Mom. There was even a point when I would refer to my Mom's scent as 'the vein smell'. I honestly thought it was those veins that gave her that signature, comforting smell. 

Now, in my 40's, I look at the back side of my own arms and see similar veins. I now understand what veins are, what they hold and how they run throughout our bodies sustaining us, 'feeding' the heart. I also now understand that even though I saw my mother's veins a lot, I never fully knew the secrets they held. 

As I look at my veins showing, I know that no one else knows what courses through them, especially not my son. He sees me and sees only his mother. He doesn't know what those veins have been through, or the intensity of the blood flowing through. He doesn't see the hidden anger or hurts, regrets, passion; nor for what or for whom those veins have throbbed in the past and why. 

They don't need to know. My son doesn't need to know. The truth is, I think for most of us, there is a resistance to confronting the full humanity of our parents especially our mother's. We see them in a certain light and it is dictated upon by necessity more than reality. The mother-child relationship is one of the most intimate relationships we would ever experience, and yet it doesn't follow that it's necessarily the most transparent. We often see our mothers as mothers, and then as a partner to our fathers. But not many of us are brave enough to peel away the surface layers to see more into who they are, where they've been, who they've loved, hated, disappointed; who have broken them, who they continue to bleed for, what they continue to hope for and what they silently cry for in their sleep. It gives us comfort to simply see our mothers as strong, with veins steady and fortified by contentment and a sense of wholeness. 

I stare at my own veins and marvel at them. I know what lies beneath. I know the depth of what they feel and what every drop of deep red carries with it. I know the essence of the stain they will make if you cut them open. But no other soul fully knows, especially not my child. And perhaps he doesn't need to. Perhaps it's enough for now that he is also fascinated with them and finds them comforting. It's enough he sees the blue-greenish tint and not the deep stained mysteries that flow within. Those are meant to be kept between my veins and my heart. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Parent Sanity Saver Tool

I got the idea from watching this YouTube video and after almost two weeks of using it, I can honestly say I am loving this system! Hopefully, it can save some of you in the same way it has definitely saved, and continues to save me.

It's my Parent School Binder and I honestly don't know where I've been all these years that I never thought of doing this. For an organization freak like myself, it's almost unbelievable that it took me this long to put something like this together. Unlike the system in the above YouTube video though, I can guarantee that my folder is much cheaper. Most of the materials I used are from the Dollar Tree, save for the tabs, labels and sheet protectors. I already had those on hand and didn't need to buy any more. 

So for those who are not familiar with this system, it's a binder that any parent can put together so that all school-related documents are in one easy-to-find place. In past school years, I've either had several folders filed separately somewhere in my office and I've had to go to different locations to locate whatever was needed. Now they're in one centralized location, with this bright-colored, happy lime green binder keeping them together neatly organized. 

You can absolutely tailor this according to your needs and insert additional sections for each additional child. I only have one so let me show you how I've organized mine.

First of all, I was lucky to have found a Dollar Tree pencil case in the same design as the binder. I clipped that in the front. It's convenient to include this especially if you consider bringing this binder to school for Parent Orientation or Parent-Teacher Conferences. 

Now for the main contents, I created 4 Main Sections:


Under CALENDAR, I first inserted a monthly calendar which I also found at the Dollar Tree. It came with a hard plastic folder-like backing (also in green!) and a clear plastic front which makes it really convenient. 

Then I had a sheet protector each for the School District Calendar, as well as the Lunch Menu for the month. Finally, I included a folder and labeled it School Events for whatever flyers we may need to keep for events we're attending. 

The second main section, DOCUMENTS, has 5 tabs under it: Forms, Policies, Report Cards, Permission Slips/ Receipts and Excuse Slips

On our school's website, they have printable forms for notifying the teacher about early dismissal, absences, as well as application for out-of-town trips during the school year. Such documents will be filed under 'Forms'. 

The 'Policies' folder includes both documentation of school-wide (left side of folder, e.g. School Handbook, Illness Policy, log in information for school website, etc.), as well as homeroom-specific  rules and regulations (right side of folder, e.g. Guidelines shared by teacher during parent orientation, etc.). 

The 'Report Cards' and 'Permission Slips' folders are self-explanatory. 

However, I also included 'Receipts' with the 'Permission Slips' section. This refers to any school-related document you want to keep a copy of as proof of payment. Examples of this would be payments made for school portrait packages, receipts from school merchandise bought, or proof of payment to PTO/PTA activities.

Finally, the 'Excuse Slips' folder will contain my personal copy of doctors' notes whenever my child misses school.

The third main section, STUDY MATERIALS, includes any review materials or study guides either sent home by teachers or ones we find or create ourselves. 


The fourth and last main section, BLANK SHEETS, just has a few college ruled sheets of paper (150 sheets for $1 at the Dollar Tree) for whenever I may need them. 

Excluding the sheet protectors and post-it tabs that I already had, I only spent a total of $8 at the Dollar Tree for the rest of the supplies I needed to put together this Parent School Binder. The cost will of course depend on how detailed you want your folder to be, as well as the number of students you have in your family. 

To sum it up, here's an outline of the different sections of my binder: 

     -monthly calendar for the year
     -school district calendar
     -lunch menu
     -school events folder

     -forms folder 
     -policies folder
     -report cards
     -permission slips/receipts
     -excuse slips / doctors' notes



I hope this helps! Here's to a great, more organized school year ahead!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Lies Beyond the Impatience

"So, did you work before being a stay at home mom?"

"Yes, I had an office job at an online university, but in the Philippines I actually used to teach!"

Every time I have such a conversation with acquaintances or new friends, there's a part of me that always wants to rush through the answer so that I can further qualify. Actually, whenever I answer in that way, I always want to kick myself for not coming up with a clearer response. It's because a lot of the times when people hear the words "I used to teach", they respond with "Oh! So you must be really good with kids!" My candid response is always an uncomfortable, "Umm, no, not really. I taught in university, college kids, not little ones. I just don't have the patience for teaching young kids."

To be really honest, I feel like my son is the only child who can stand me. If we break that down, it's easy to see that that's only true because (A) he doesn't have a choice, and (B) he's had rigorous training since birth. 

I'm not exactly a tiger mom in the strictest sense but I will never deny that I have really high expectations of my son. I believe in structure, strict enforcement of rules and discipline. I am very affectionate with him, undeniably protective, but can also be quite harsh and short-tempered. There are days when I wonder if I should seriously consider attending anger-management programs. 

Just the other night, after the second day of school, I snapped. It wasn't exactly a zero to sixty situation although I can tell that it shocked my son when I blew up. I even shocked myself but he had it coming. 

We've long established that he needs to go upstairs by 8 p.m. This has been our routine for at least 5 years now. He also knows that he needs to put in at least 30 minutes of reading time before bedtime which is at 9 p.m. Between going upstairs and reading, he's expected to shower, brush his teeth and just settle down.

While eating dinner he asked if he'd have time to play on the Xbox. I said I very much doubt it and explained to him why. I went over our routine and clarified how each block of time will be spent before bedtime comes and that he needs ample sleep so he can wake up rested at 7 am and not be late for the bus. Besides, I added, he has consumed all his electronics allowance for that day. 

While having dessert he asked the same thing again. I answered and gave him the same information but this time even more thoroughly than the first time.

After dinner, at around 7:55 p.m., as we were both cleaning up in the kitchen he asked me...AGAIN...this time even saying, "Are you SURE I don't have time to play on the Xbox?". That was the final straw.

I screamed!

I don't remember word per word what I said but I remember feeling as if my head was going to explode. I remember my chest tightening until all the frustration got spewed through my mouth. I also remember the rage when I shouted, "DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THAT ASKING ME THE SAME QUESTION A HUNDRED TIMES WILL CHANGE MY ANSWER?! NO IS NO!!"

He froze in front of me, only for a short while but long enough for me to see his shock and fear. I was probably just as surprised as he was, surprised at how sudden my tone and demeanor changed just like that. It was faster than any of Bruce Banner's transformations that we've ever seen.

I hate repeating myself. If there is anything I absolutely loathe, despise, abhor with a passion, it's when I have to repeat myself because I'm not being heard. It's one thing to keep explaining to someone who simply does not have the mental capacity to fully understand, but it's another when I'm left saying the same thing over and over simply because either my response is being rejected or just not heard. 


This is a part of me I'm not proud of. Some of you might try to make me feel better by saying that perhaps I was having a bad day; or it happens even to the best parents among us. But I'll tell it like it is...

It's an adult meltdown. And there are days when I'm humble enough to admit that I'm having too much of it. 

And just like any toddler who screams, cries or throws a tantrum, it's not as simple as just being overly tired but also a deep hunger to be heard. It's my need to be validated. When I'm doing my best to explain something, searching for the most appropriate words in a language that is not even my first, not my native tongue, I expect full attention and expect to be understood. When I feel that I'm already sacrificing so much, doing my best to adapt and accommodate, the least one can do is to make me feel seen and treat me like I do matter. As it is, I feel that I speak excellent English and definitely don't speak with an accent that my American born and raised son struggles with. I don't think some people realize that sometimes I still translate in my head from Filipino to English. It's not always easy, especially when I'm tired or highly emotional. But I still do my best. I really don't have much choice if I want to be understood by others, especially by my family. I do my best with them, hence I expect the most validation from them, especially from my son. 

We associate Patience with the ability to wait. But more importantly, it speaks of having tolerance, and exhibiting self-restraint and a sense of equanimity. Patience is to have the capacity to graciously wait for others to catch up to our expectations.

Tweet: Patience is to have the capacity to graciously wait for others to catch up to our expectations.
"Patience is to have the capacity to graciously wait for others
to catch up to our expectations."

I am not the most patient person. When it comes to my parenting, I would say that I repeatedly fail at it. I just hope that more than my family simply being patient with me and my failings, they will also have the tenacity to try to see beyond the surface and hear beyond the angry cries.