The things that matter

Happy birthday to the one who lights up my world and warms my heart.. @angelogon2004 turns 11 today!  My life has never been the same since you came into my life, and I cherish every day that you continue to bless my life with you love.  I love you, Amal.Friday was a momentous occasion.  (Drumroll, please..)  My little tyke turned 11.. can you believe that?  It seems as though it was just yesterday that I was cradling him and complaining he was just sooooo heavy — and yet I couldn’t get enough of kissing him and breathing the air he breathed out.  Everything in my life was colored by his arrival.  It was love at first sight, and I’m still falling in love with him every day.  (Even when he starts rejecting me for a selfie… or when he starts giving me the look telling me he’s upset at Mom for being a mom.. )

Has it been THAT long?  I look at his frame and see him literally growing up.  He will soon be as tall and then taller than me.  His voice has always been low, but even that will become deeper.  I hold his hands in mine and I can’t help but notice how his grasp is filling up my hand even more as the days go by, those times that he STILL lets me hold his hand in mine.
Teaching this #LittleNewYorker, @angelogon2004 , how to ride the #subway on our way to #Manhattan because #ThisIsHowWeDoItInNewYork . #mynewyork #motherhood #motherandson #NYC #publictransportation #mta

It seems like it was only yesterday that he could hardly speak, but he would cling to me with a sense of urgency that made me feel like he was a literal extension of me.  And he started speaking and I heard those three magic words that made everything else matter so little.  As the years passed by, his presence remained constant and kept me anchored to the ground through the worst times and kept me tethered to my humility those times when I was just feeling over the moon.  Through the worst and the best, he was the one whose love mattered the most.

These days I would grab him and hug him as if it were the last time I was going to hold him — remembering that in my lowest of lows, it was his love that kept me going.

Mother’s Day has never been the same for me each year since he was born.  While I had always celebrated it as a daughter, it has taken on a new meaning since I started celebrating it as a mother myself.  Although the day’s focus should be the mother, it plays around motherhood in my eyes.

Today I celebrate it because I hold the heart of my son in my hands and I know it beats a fierce devotion and a tender love that keeps growing each day.  Motherhood, challenging though it may be, is its own reward.  In my heart I know I have done well.  I may not have the riches others possess, but I own something far more priceless.  I look at my son and I am rich beyond measure.  He is the reason today is, indeed, a happy Mother’s Day.
My little guy

Five things to be thankful for.. on a freezing Tuesday

Wouldn't be complete without Maison Kayser's pistachio eclair. Taste of heaven! #maisonkayser #foodporn #foodtrip #foodtreat #pistachioeclair #midtown #mynewyork #manhattan #40thstreet #lunch #withPeterOI am trying to focus on the positive as I just saw that temps outside are in the single digits.  I am already mentally planning my winter attire today, including how many layers I will be wearing top and bottom.   In the meantime, let me get started and hopefully jumpstart my optimism quotient by typing away.  Again, I try to write this as spontaneously as possible to keep it simple and just so it comes from the heart.

1.  Pistachio eclairs from Maison Kayser.  I’m supposed to be on a diet but I did indulge with Peter O last Saturday and am so tempted to go and drop by later today to grab another one.  If you haven’t tried them, they are absolutely to die for.

2.  Warm winter clothes that make me look fab anyway.  (LOL)  I have had a difficult time trying to look fashionable with my one size bigger winter coats which make me look frumpy.  My favorite fuschia pink coat also needs a replacement.. in the right size.  But I am so happy they keep me warm.

3.  Baileys.  I think of Baileys and I think of as close to chocolate heaven as I can get, but I’m resisting the urge to grab a bottle.

4.  Angelo texting me “I like to text.  I love you, Mama.”  He recently got his own iphone and is happily texting away, in COMPLETE sentences, mind you!

5.  Thinking about being in Manila in a couple of weeks time.  Just plain bliss.

Bundle up and hope everyone has a nice day.. I know I will have one..

Five things to be thankful for (at the start of the year)

Work in Progress: my altered bookI try to write these lists as spontaneous as I can — without thinking if I can help it.. I just think they come out more naturally and more honestly that way.

1.  Caramel — my favorite confection of all..

2.  Warm hugs from my little guy who rushes down the stairs to open the door for me every time I arrive, giving me a hug and helping me with my bags, and making sure my slippers are all set on the floor — needing only for me to literally slip my feet into them.

3.  Laughter and swollen noodles..

4.  A large cafe au lait in lieu of lunch..

5.  Friends who will bop me in the head when I need a good smacking, and who will pat me on the back when I deserve it.

Holiday reboot

I’ve been using the word “reboot” quite a lot lately.  Literally to refer to restarting things, do-overs, waking up.  Not too sure the latter works, but then it’s close enough.

Can you believe it’s 9 days to Christmas?  I haven’t quite finished my holiday shopping but the good thing is that I know what I want. Plus, there’s Amazon.  Can’t go wrong with that, more so if you have a 10-year-old who knows what a wishlist on the site is and how to browse for the toys he wants.  Who am I to refuse the little tyke who knows which buttons to push when he needs something from (gullible) Mama, more so when it’s an app upgrade — he calls me and asks me in the sweetest voice, “How’s my deeeeelight?”

To which I reply, “Which app is it this time and how much?”  And he would break into naughty laughter.  That laughter and voice which are music to my ears.  And I melt and relent.. always.  No matter how I try to hold out, I end up giving in.  I’m trying to practice saying no, though.

I’ve always believed that Christmas is about children, and being that I only have one, it’s all about him.  I try to be reasonable about how much I give him, though.  Fortunately, he has a sense of moderation which helps keep us both from going over the edge with these purchases.  Where other children would grab all four choices when you ask them to pick, he would thoughtfully decide and choose only one.  Picking more than that would need a lot of convincing and will again be met with much deliberation, making sure he makes the better choice.

I’m lucky in that regard.

I’m pulling a few surprises for him this Christmas, and I’m hoping I can get those presents he didn’t ask for but which I know will make his eyes light up when he unwraps it come Christmas eve.

Thinking of his excitement about the holiday keeps me on my toes and inspires me all the more to make this holiday special for him.  And making it special for him is not all that difficult, because he is so easy to please.

Last year’s holidays were saved by his cheer and his innocent joy.  I looked at him and everything was okay again, at least in that moment when I held him in my gaze, and I was reminded about how he means the world to me.  No one could ever touch me more, as the song goes.

This year, I’m doing a holiday reboot.  I didn’t come around as quickly as I had hoped to — part of me is still hung over from the darkness of 2013.  Part of me is wary to put too much effort on our celebration this year.  But it’s hard not to be affected by his cheer and enthusiasm.

I’m trying to look at the holidays with happier eyes — his eyes.  I’m trying to bring the cheer back, finding things to be merry about this holiday season.  I put up the artificial tree we’ve had from around the time he was born, and he gamely decorated it with his Dad.  He wants to put up the Christmas cards we receive on our top stairwell as we had done in previous years.  I’m trying to make it special again so I can help him make happy memories.  I want him to open his presents, and look at me with eyes beaming, and I would know I have done right by him as his “delight”, his one true love, forever his “light” and never his “dark”. I should be so lucky — but no, it isn’t luck.. the truth of it is, I have been truly blessed.

Blog graphics - my little guy and I for "Holiday Reboot"
 

A love like no other

Everyone who knows me knows my world revolves around this little guy who has been the love of my life for the last 10 years. From the moment he came out into this world, my life was changed forever. Although I would discover later that it had changed even more than I had perceived, and it appears that his entry into my life had caused a drastic change in other parts of my world I didn’t even see, I would not trade his being a part of my life for anything else. No matter what challenges I have faced or am facing, knowing I have him in my life changes the face of the game.  I look at him and I know I’m in a good place.

I pride myself in teaching him to be outwardly affectionate and expressive of what he feels.  It’s not always easy and he is not the same way with everyone else, but that has given me precious rewards like a poster with scribblings of various declarations of love for his Mommy.
Love like no other

So forget that he missed out on a word or two — I get the point.  Unfortunately, my son didn’t inherit my penmanship but I’m not complaining.  And for my son to know my birth date and birth year shows my History professor-to-be has a knack for dates like I used to at his age.  (Dates and phone numbers were easy for me, just don’t make me do Math please.)
Love like no other

Naturally, the Dad was jealous as can be, but the boy told him there was only one poster board.  (We shall scramble for another.)

Love like no other

I like these little surprises he springs on me — for no reason at all, except that he thought of it one afternoon.  I wish I could frame the entire poster but it was half a sheet.  So I took snapshots instead and might frame one of these.  I have a knack for keeping his scribblings and projects — and even at just 10, he marvels at my memory box which contains a lock of his hair, his belly button stump, his first onesie, and all that stuff.   When I can, I incorporate his works into my art journal.

Precious words from the 10-year-old who lights up my world and warms my heart.  Forever, son. #motherhood #motherandson #dinnagon #angelogon #love #anak

A friend on Facebook commented the above was so eloquently said.  I couldn’t have phrased it better.  I am proud that my son’s heart has the eloquence to show what it feels — and I am heartened as that bodes well for him when he grows up.  That’s a precious gift that I hope I can continue to nurture.  One day, he will love others — and I want him to be able to express that love the same way he has expressed his love for his current “love of his life — his Mommy.”

Children come into our lives and we are never the same again.  After two miscarriages, I was almost ready to accept that I would not be given that precious gift until he came.  My pregnancy was very challenging with gestational diabetes and all, but when he came out into this world, I forgot about all those challenges and focused on this new life I gave birth to.

He is the reason I am still around, and hope to be around for years to come.  I look at him and I see that I have been blessed.  Forget about the heartaches and the disappointments — he makes it all worth it.  He alone makes the negative seem trivial compared to all the joy he exudes and the love he gives.  I reach out to touch him and I feel an overwhelming reassurance that everything will be okay.  I know his love is like no other.

 

Life Lessons

My little guyI took Monday morning off from work to join my 10-year-old in school because it was Student Organization elections.  He was running for Vice President which was one of the two positions alotted to fifth graders like him.  He had run for Secretary last year but had not made it past the class eliminations, and he took that loss with a grain of salt and said it was okay.

This year, he made it past the class eliminations and was one of 4 candidates (2 from each fifth grade class) vying for the position.  Of course, I was the proud mom.  I created flyers and posters which, unfortunately, we were not allowed to use.  (” Mrs. G, it’s not fair for us to allow your son to use professionally made posters — it puts the other kids to a disadvantage, ” I was told… no flyers either, because the other kids didn’t have any of them.)    The father was up in arms arguing that his son was ‘thinking out of the box’.  Me, I just stood back and enjoyed their enthusiasm for the school elections.  I’ve been through a couple of those in my day, and I was just the one pulling the outfit and the props together.  Father and son worked on the speech.

Election day was Monday, the 3rd.  Unfortunately for the Dad, he had to fly off to a conference in Vegas.  I hied down to the school, took my seat, whipped out my iPhone when his turn came and shot the video.  He was one of only 2 male candidates in a total slate of 16, looking dapper in his suit jacket.  I warned him not to flip his hair for the girls, something I was told elicits some giggles when he does.  (My son, the heart throb.)

When I came in, his buddies all waved at me and assured me they were voting for him.  Even the girls from the class.  Our biggest stumbling block is that one of the three girls he was competing against was one of the popular girls.  (Who, incidentally, was “his first” — girlfriend, that is — in kindergarten, until she smacked him in the face. LOL)  Well, popular girl won.

I got a call at the usual hour when he gets home, and my first mistake, I think, was that I asked, “Do I have a Vice President?”  Then silence.  And there was silence and sniffling for maybe the next 3 minutes.  I put on my mommy hat and went on to try and comfort my little guy.  I reminded him I had warned him about the possibility of losing, to which he always said he was finewith.  Disappointment can be such a heavy burden to bear, more so in a competitive exercise like an election.  Winning can be euphoric and intoxicating — I’ve been there.  But losing can cut through the heart, and I’ve been there, too.

I was at work, and he was home.  I didn’t know how to comfort this young heart as I heard it breaking.  He called again a few minutes later, and there was 5 minutes of silence — tears were flowing on the other end.  Nothing I said seemed to make a difference.  So I just let him cry.  It’s one of those moments when you wish you could whip out something from your magic hat and make everything alright.  I asked him if he wanted something special for dinner, but he just said he didn’t even have an appetite.  (Mom’s heart breaking again.)

I reminded him he had said he would be fine if he lost — but he told me between sobs that he thought there was a chance he would win, and he really thought he could.  In all honesty, I did, too.  But I’m the eternal optimist.  Hearing him crying on the other end of the line made me wonder, though, if I should have tempered my optimism with a little more caution against losing to help him deal with that possibility when it happened.

Sigh.

For all the tears shed, I am grateful for the lesson this whole exercise has taught him.  Sometimes we try to protect and shield our children from the evils and pains of the world — but there are lessons that they must learn on their own if they are to make it in the dog-eat-dog world out there.  Disappointment and loss are two things that are very hard to deal with even for us, grown ups.  Even in small doses, they can be tough on a 10-year-old’s heart.  But they must be dealt with, they must be experienced.  They have to be faced head on, because in life, there will be bigger disappointments and losses.

He’s okay now.  We even shot a video of him “serenading” me with Minnie Ripperton’s “Never Existed Before”.  He gamely sang falsetto (!) and danced as he performed knowing he was being filmed.  I was so surprised he knew most of the lyrics, but then, I shouldn’t be given I play that song over and over again as a pick-me-up song in the morning.

Another life lesson learned.  Taking off my mommy hat now to get to the city and go into my “other” job.

When a young heart grieves

My 10-year-old is grappling with a very personal loss. A house fire had claimed the lives of two young children, one aged 11 and another aged 5, and the older one had been a very close friend of his. They had known each other since kindergarten and had been classmates throughout except for 2nd and 5th grade. Last year, they proclaimed each other as best friends. My son has a very wide circle of friends, but his friend John was sometimes made fun of for being bigger and a year older than most of the kids.

I liked John. He was always nice and was courteous. I knew his mother, too, having seen her in many of the school events when both Angelo and John were in the same class.  In the coterie of wannabe friends of my little boy, he was one I didn’t mind having around him.

I came home to a letter from the school giving instructions on discussing the topic with the children, assuring me that they, too, were dealing with it in crisis mode. Angelo looked fine for the most part. He told me had cried when they broke the news to the class – and that he had refused to make something for John’s mom, as that was probably too emotional for him. The Dad finally arrived from a business trip and had started to ask him about it but he turned to me and started to tear up, shaking his head, telling us he didn’t want to talk about it. I quietly signalled the Dad that Angelo was not up to talking just yet. 

How does a 10-year-old deal with such a loss?

He woke up this morning looking okay. There was still something about the fire in the news, but he nonchalantly just mentioned to me that it had been mentioned in passing. I look at him and I wonder what’s going on in his mind and his heart.

I have been fortunate to have raised a sensitive and compassionate boy. Easy to laugh and carefree, very sociable and at times shy. He has my heart, I think. (And I don’t know if that’s good or bad. =) I never lost a bestfriend who was in my life at the time of her passing. Once, Lilay went to heaven, but at that time, we had long been out of touch because she started a family and I was in college. Still, I felt that loss very deeply and it brought tears to my eyes. (And I don’t cry very easily.)

I’m trying to see if we can go to John’s wake so that they can say a proper goodbye. I just think that would be important for Angelo given the loss of such a close friend.

The thought of losing my child is heart-wrenching even in the hypothetical sense. Imagine losing the two most precious boys in yours. I pray that their mother finds strength to overcome and deal with the grief of losing her babies. How do you deal with such a loss? I am at a loss for words.

Grieving, they say, never really ends. You just learn to cope with it better.  I still grieve for my Dad who passed many years ago.  When I “talk” to him, I find myself lost in an emotional pool that usually ends up with me crying.

It’s still too early to tell how good my son is coping with his grief.  I just know it’s best to let him be and let him process his emotions.  If he needs help, he’ll call me and then we will talk.

Last night as we lay in bed, I told him to say a prayer for John — he is now with Jesus, I told him.