Saturday, December 31, 2005

Thoughts and Thanks on the New Year

Ever since I could remember, New Years Eve celebrations have always been a big thing in my family, oftentimes bigger then Christmas. There would always be parties, parlor games and lots and lots of food. We would get together with our neighbors, our extended family to celebrate the coming of the new year. During the evening, there would be parlor games for us kids, lots of food and as midnight rolled along, fireworks.

These past few years, my New Year's celebrations have been low key. It's all different now living in another country and having no close family to celebrate New Year's Eve. We'd usually end up watching the fireworks on TV after a quiet ( relatively! ) dinner with the kids. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Sure, it's not as noisy as I am used to but it's still meaningful. The relative quiet gives me time to reflect on the past year and the blessings that we have been given and before 2005 ends, I'd like to put those down.

We're very grateful first and foremost for the good health and well being of the kids. It's not easy raising a family relatively on our own but somehow we manage and dare I say, thrive. Both the boy and girl are growing to be happy, healthy kids and we feel so blessed for that.

Work has been extremely good to me, personally. It's not like I struck it big time but I'm lucky to have a job that affords me the flexibility to be with the family more and to be financially rewarding as well. Meme also has tried working the early part of the year and it's good to know that she can always go back to it if we need to.

I'd to thank my wife for being there for all of us when we need her. For caring of not just the 2 kids but me as well, the biggest kid of all. Thanks mahal!

Beyond that, I'm happy that my own family are mostly together in the US. You guys, I'm glad that you're all together there and supporting each other. It's not easy starting again in a new country but it's good that you have each other to lean on.

Another blessing I shouldn't forget has been my bro becoming a full fledged doctor. He's starting a career ( kuno ) in the Philippines and I wish him all the success in the future.

So, I'll end this last entry for 2005 now. I see the fireworks are about to start on TV and the kids are tearing me away from the computer. Time to focus on what's important.

Happy New Year All!

Christmas All Over Again!

Just a couple of days ago we received a package from the grandparents in the US. It was like Christmas morning again! The kids were eagerly waiting for us to open the big box and they weren't dissapointed. There were a lot of gifts and they just adored the presents they got.

Thanks for the package, we really appreciate it! Click here for more pictures!
Christmas morning again!

You're Number 1!

Learning to share again!

Nice earrings!

Open this now!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

City Sights

It was still a holiday on Tuesday so the family decided to visit the city. Ever since my daughter visited the museum she has been very insistent that the boys ( her brother and I ) go and see it too and we thought this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

Most of the city shops and malls were still closed because of the holiday ( yes, I know, malls closed on a holiday! How quaint! ) but Adelaide's more cultured attractions like the State Library, Art Gallery and Museum were still open.

Adelaide, unlike a lot of cities, was planned from the very beginning. The city itself is laid out in a square a mile wide crossed by neatly laid out streets. It's bounded on all sides by parks and rivers which provide a ring of nature around an otherwise concrete city. The museum and other such buildings are situated in the northern part of Adelaide.

A short drive from our house brought us into Adelaide and after we found parking, we went to have brunch at the pancake house, an Adelaide institution that serves some of the best pancakes around. The kids loved the strawberry milks they served and our daughter enjoyed the chocolate smothered pancake she ordered. Myself, I had a traditional pancake breakfast complete with bacon and eggs and the wife had something with bananas on it. Unfortunately, the boy was a bit restless and didn't want to have any of the pancakes and spent the time just being sulky and crying a bit.

At any rate, we finished up and a short walk later we were at the museum. That area has been recently refurbished so the pedestrian walkways into the museum, library and art gallery were all spruced up and they looked extremely nice.

At the museum, our girl ( who was there before ) was all excited and started telling us where we should go first. She made sure that we got to see dinosaur bones and some of the stuffed animals that the saw the first time. However, she made extremely sure that we skipped the mummy and Egyptian exhibit as she thought that it was too scary for her.

We spent some time just wandering around the place looking at the exhibits and getting the kids to try some of the more hands on displays. It wasn't too long that we thought we'd seen enough and we set for home.

Before going home, though, I went and took them to my comic book shop to collect my order of comics for the month. Which to me, was the highlight of my day!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Looks Familiar

And one more thing...

When the boy was running along the sand with his towel and hood on, he looked very familiar to us. What do you think? :)

Boxing Day Photos

You can click on photos for larger images.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Boxing Day at the Beach

Here in Australia, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and is also an official holiday. Some say its for 'boxing up' the unwanted gifts you got on Xmas day. Others say its just a day to recover from your Xmas celebrations. Lately, the shops use it as a day of great sales. Therefore, its is now a tradition of shopping for the ladies, men staying home watching TV and the kids playing with their new toys.

However, we chose to start our own tradition on this day. We go to the beach! Its the best time really, not much people around so we can even get really good parking spots. We started going about 3 years ago when Nico was just a baby and we struggled to push the pram into the sand! In hindsight, that was really crazy. Last year we brought along some sand toys so we spent some time playing in the sand. The kids had so much fun playing with the sand that they asked us to bring home a bag full of sand!

This year, we did not have to bring the pram as Nico was big enough to walk with us. It was funny though that we saw another family struggling to push their pram in the sand. Also, we finally braved the cold waters! Bianca was very keen on getting into the water this time. However, Nico was not .... as soon as he saw the waves coming in towards him he pointed towards the shore saying "That Way!". He wanted me to take him back to shore where the waves will not reach him. However, after showing him that he could stomp and splash his way into the water, he stayed a bit longer in the water.

We all splashed around for a while, until we felt a bit cold. At this point, we made sand castles. Bianca made a big sand castle and decorated it with shells that she collected in the beach. She also asked if she could make a sand angel, just like she'd seen on TV. And so she did, and Nico gamely copied her even though the sand was getting into his eyes!

For lunch, we took our picnic rug out of the sand and into the park near the playground. We just ordered some of the traditional aussie summer food - fish and chips. When our food arrived, the kids we so hungry it was not hard to convince them to leave the playground for a while and have their lunch .... that was a pleasant surprise! After lunch, Bianca wanted to go back to the playground to 'make room for dessert. A few minutes later, she was back and we got her a nice cool ice block. Perfect for this nice summer day that we choose to spend at the beach each and every year.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Photography Attempt #2

Nico's Shots
Originally uploaded by chazzvid.
The boy was getting restless during Christmas Eve mass and to quiet him down, one of the things I did was give him the camera, hoping it would distract him. Big mistake! He began taking random shots at the people around him, with the flash going off every few seconds.

He really enjoyed it and the people around him didn't seem to mind judging from the smiles they gave.

I guess we have a budding photographer in our hands.

Merry Christmas 2005

Christmas morning came and went, the kids eagerly opened up their presents and had fun playing for the most part. We got the kids a few presents but our relatives in the Philippines also sent them a lot more, thanks very much!

We were also able to hook up my family in the US with a live webcam feed of the the whole event so it was nice of them to be able to share that little moment of joy with us and the kids.

After that, the whole day was just spent at home, the kids with their toys and gifts ( which they played probably for over 2 hours only! hehhe ) and just us parents chilling out.

The kids are still trying their best to play together. The little boy still hasn't gotten the concept of sharing well. It's a good thing that his big sister knows this and is really very patient with him. But when they do share in things, it's such a nice sight to see. I guess we just have to keep at it and constantly remind and teach them that sharing is always a good thing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

And I'm dead tired. It's been a very very busy day and it's not over yet.

We were having friends over for lunch and we actually started cooking last night so we didn't have to be rushed in the morning. The day started early as I had to get up first thing and pick up some prawns from the seafood market a few minutes across town. I had to get there early because everyone was likely to have prawns or seafood for Christmas. I was there at 7:30 and the parking lot was already packed. Inside, there was already a queue for customers with more people coming in by the minute. It was a good thing that I came when I did as I was served relatively quickly and got home before 8. That was menu item #1 taken care of.

At home, I then got to work to cooking menu item #2, pancit canton. I chopped and prepared the ingredients while the wife finished the chicken pastel we started cooking last night, menu item#$3. She already done her leche flan yesterday so that was dessert already in the bag as well. Before 11AM, we already had lunch ready and waiting, which is quite a record for us considering we don't have guests very often.

The kids were not exactly in the most cooperative of moods all morning, as they constantly quarreled about toys and computer game playing time. Anyway, lunch went off without a hitch and it was nice to meet those friends of ours again. The kids were mostly cooperative but as kids are wont to do during get togethers, they really didn't eat much, preferring to play with our friends' daughter.

Our friends left around 4PM and we had to get ready to go to Christmas Eve mass at 6. This time, the kids were already sleepy and cranky and by virtue of that were quite unruly and restless during mass. We had to do our usual distraction techniques to get us through the whole mass with our wits intact. We saw some friends after mass and stopped to chat but by then, it was already 7:30PM and we knew the kids were dying to get home.

When we arrived, we had to quickly feed the kids a little something before bundling them off to bed at 8PM. There was no great fuss to go to bed this time because they knew that when they wake up tomorrow, presents would be waiting.

That is, the presents would be there if we could set them up in time! We have to spend the next few hours assembling some of the gifts we bought for them and probably wrapping up a few as well. After all that, I think Noche Buena is out of the question. :)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

And we've been very busy. School holidays have started and the wife has been trying to kids occupied all day and every day. We're still in the midst of wrapping presents and planning a small pre-Christmas lunch with friends.

Work has been busy of late. With people going on leave, a lot of stuff needed to be finished before the Christmas break. Here in Oz, we've got Christmas and Boxing day holidays so ( with Christmas being on a Sunday ) we've got Monday and Tuesday off.

What I'm trying to say is that we've been too busy to blog this past week! :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kindy Christmas Concert

The end of Bianca's kindergarten (or kindy) year was marked with a Christmas concert for all of us parents, friends and other relatives. The kids have been working on their acts for quite some time now, counting the number of sleeps before the all-important concert. Bianca even revealed a few days ago that she will be playing the part of an angel. This being her first concert, I think I was more excited than she was.

When we got there this morning for the concert, I saw a glimpse of her in the window. She was wearing a while angel's costume, complete with a big white dress, a silver tinsel tiara and wings. She was sooo cute! She saw me and gave me a big wave. Now I was really excited to see the concert.

A few minutes later, all the kids came out in front of this eager and excited audience. When they were in their right positions, the teacher called Bianca over and started whispering something to her. Bianca then said in a loud voice 'Welcome everyone ... we hope you enjoy our concert!'. Now that was a pleasant surprise, for her to be chosen to do that must have made her feel special. I know it made me so proud of her, that I forgot to take photos of that memorable moment!

They kids proceeded to sing 'Three Wise Men" and while other kids dressed appropriately acted it out in front. At the end of that song, they sang 'Jingle Bells' and Santa Claus made an appearance going out of a pretend chimney together with his reindeers and helpers. They sang and danced a couple more Xmas songs until Bianca was taken aside by the teacher again to make one final announcement saying "This will be our last dance, thank you for coming and we hope you enjoyed our concert". Now I did not see that one coming either, so again ... no photos!

Needless to say, we are so proud of our little girl. It gave me a different kind of thrill to see her perform ... I just hope I won't turn out to be one of those stage moms!

Friday, December 16, 2005


One advantage ( or disadvantage ) about working with computers and being with computers in my spare time is that I inevitably pass on my habits to my kids. They are both very proficient with the computer now and are heavier computer users than their mother. To illustrate, our kids were able to use the mouse at age 2 and surf websites six months later. I think they learned how to type their names first on the keyboard before learning to write.

Lately, our son has taken to hogging the computer most days leaving my wife with no recourse sometimes but to lock him out of the room. He generally doesn't like it and throws tantrums if he can't use the computer. Even when his favourite TV shows are on, he'd rather play and surf. When it's meal time or dinner time and he's in front of the computer, we have to carry him out kicking and screaming. Before, he would be satisfied with just sitting on our laps while we use the computer. Now, he just grabs the mouse and takes control whenever he wants.

He surfs like a pro these days. He knows how to navigate the bookmarks to places like Sesame Street, Noggin, The Wiggles or ABC Kids. His sister is also an expert and both of them spend quite a lot time playing the games together, partners in crime! I have to say though that the quality of these kid websites are really good and they do offer a lot of educational material. Stuff like puzzles, reading, counting and number games both entertain and teach them the basics.

Ok, I better finish this quickly cause I can hear the boy coming, I think he wants his time on the computer again!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Originally uploaded by chazzvid.
Here's Nico waiting patiently for Santa to call his name from the "nice" list. Aint that cute?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Kindy Report Card For Posterity

It's the first report card so forgive us if we feel like sharing. :)

The First Report Card

This week is our daughter's last week at kindergarten and her teachers have given us a sort of report card on how she has fared this past four school terms. It was not without a bit of pride and joy that we read through what the teacher had written down about our girl.

Bianca has had a busy time at Pre-school. She has accessed a wide variety of activities, particularly enjoying the Art/Craft activities. She is able to follow through simple instructions and work on a task independently. Her happy, friendly nature has endeared her to many of her peers during her time at kindy.

Bianca has advanced literacy skills. She can recognise all the letters of the alphabet as well as a large number of sight words, and has developed excellent word attack skills. She is an articulate child who enjoys conversing with others. Bianca is and attentive listener who is able to contribute confidently and appropriately to our group discussions.

Bianca is able write her own name and can trace, colour and cut neatly. She applies herself well to set tasks and is always keen to share her work with others. Bianca has accessed the outdoor environment with enthusiasm and imagination. Her gross motor skills are developing well.

Bianca is a responsible, co-operative child. She is always willing to help others and has been a good role model for her peers. She is looking forward to school and we know she will make a valuable class member. Bianca has been an absolute pleasure to teach and we wish her all the very best as she begins her new adventure at school.

I'd like to think we had a little something to do with that. :)

We're so very proud of her and what she has accomplished so far. It may not be much and the assesment may be the same for most of her class but I do hope this sets her up to do well in school next year.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Salvation Army Christmas

We got invited to go to our local Salvation Army's kids Christmas celebration today. My wife brings our kids to the Salvos playgroup regularly these past few years and we never fail to go to these Christmas celebrations. It was nothing fancy, just merely a chance for us to join in the kids songs and watch them perform. There was a nativity scene presentation as well as visit from Santa Claus. I guess it's merely a way for the Salvos to show appreciation to all the kids and families that join in their fellowship this past year.

The kids had fun getting pressies from Santa and playing with some of their friends. Bianca got a set of ballerina stationery which she really liked because she said that Santa knew she wanted to be a ballerina. Nico got a book which I know he'll learn to read someday. In the meantime, he was just happy to run around with the children.

As kids, even the littlest things really are well appreciated.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reading Excellence

Bianca's teacher at kindergarten came up to me today to tell me that Bianca is doing very well with her reading skills. She mentioned that one time Bianca even read out a book to her classmates. Bianca came home with a 'WOW' sticker on her hand that day for this worthy achievement.

Her teacher was so amazed at this that she mentioned this to another teacher in the reception level (or grade 1) and said they were very also impressed. Apparently there are kids much older than her cannot even read that much. She's quite sure that she will be in the advanced level of reading and that the teachers in her next school will be able to pick that up and be able to give her reading materials that will continue challenge her.

My thoughts .... I guess all those nights of reading books to her paid off. So much so that she's reading books like Dr. Seuss' books to me now, and most especially to little brother Nico. Its also rubbing off on Nico who loves to copy her, so now I find him reading books on his own now. Having a love for books and reading is something I've always wanted my kids to have. It feels great to be validated and acknowledged as a good parent and that we are doing right by our kids.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Surviving A Wiggles Concert

The family just came back from a very much awaited Wiggles concert. By way of a quick introduction, The Wiggles are a group of four middle aged guys in skivvies who are the most popular children's act that Australia has ever produced. Their simple songs and dances have spawned countless TV shows, videos, DVD's, CD's and books. They started out as musicians with degrees in early childhood education and they've been able to turn their hobby and passion into something that's endearing not just to Aussie kids but to kids around the globe. They've been at it so successfully for over 13 years that they were listed last year as the Australia's richest entertainers and biggest export to the world.

I don't know what it is about these Wiggles but the first time my kids have heard their songs and watched their videos, they were hooked. I mean, hooked! They would stop whatever they were doing, whether playing with toys or eating their food and just watched these 4 guys on the TV doing a simple song about Hot Potatoes or Fruit Salad! It was like my kids were hypnotised or something. We find that a sure fire way of keeping our kids quiet and entertained for a while was always to put on a Wiggles video. We've done this so often all of us now know all the words and actions to all sorts of songs the Wiggles have ever sung!

So, naturally, when we found out that the Wiggles were having a concert here in Adelaide, we figured that now was the best time to go. The boy was already old enough to understand what was going on and the girl would be simply thrilled. After buying the tickets a month ago, and counting down the days till the big event, the day arrived and we finally found ourselves right smack in the amidst hundreds of screaming fans. I tell you, those Wiggles are like the Beatles for the kindergarten set.

Things weren't quite as peachy in the beginning though. Unfortunately, one of the Wiggles, Greg, couldn't make it to the Adelaide show because of illness and a replacement had to be brought in. Now, Greg has always been our daughter's favourite. Even before the show, she was telling us that she was excited to see Greg because he was the singer of the group and she like him because she sang songs as well.

When the announcement came over the loudspeakers that Greg was not going to be appearing, our poor little girl was crushed. She was so looking forward to seeing Greg that she seemed almost heartbroken when he didn't show. We tried our best to cheer her up, telling her that we'd be writing to Greg to get well soon and all that but she was on the verge of tears for almost thirty minutes. She refused even to watch the show at one point. It took some time but the Wiggles songs and the dances slowly wove their magic on her and soon enough, she was clapping and laughing and stomping her feet with the rest of them. It was a big relief for us because we didn't want her first Wiggles concert experience to be a big disappointment.

The boy, on the other hand, was not disappointed in the least. From start to finish, he was waving and dancing and singing to almost every one of the songs they sung. He was thrilled and enthralled by everything. From the Wiggle's Big Red Car, to the big balloon of Murray Wiggle, to the dancing and the obligatory Santa Claus appearance. He was fun to watch considering a few kids around us were already getting antsy halfway through the concert.

Overall, the concert was great, but a few things we should remember next time we decide to watch another Wiggles concert.

1. Book tickets early. Tickets were on sale since July 1 this year. When I booked the tickets a month ago, all they had available were seats in the nosebleed section. It wasn't too bad, but you do want better seats so your kids can at least see their idols up close. ( ok, ok, our idols too ! ). Ticket prices are surprisingly affordable and all tickets are priced the same no matter where you are seated. So, it's just a matter of getting in early.

2. Bring cash. And lots of it. The stuff that your kids ( and yourself ) would like to get after the show cost a mint. T-shirts, balloons, Wiggles toys etc. are available before and after the concert. If you want to get in and out of the ever lengthening queue, bring cash.

3. Go to the toilets before the show starts. 'nuff said.

4. Bring snacks and drinks. The kids get tired after all that wiggling.

5. Handle disappointments. That thing with Greg threw us for a loop. Just be prepared for extra cuddles and to do everything you can to keep your kid from bawling their eyes out.

6. Prepare to get up and dance. I admit that the Wiggles are infectious and you do would want to stand and get into the act with your kids now and again. Keeps us parents young.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hey Diddle Diddle

Our daughter is quite the craft person. She takes empty boxes, cardboard tubes, egg cartons and lots and lots of paper and makes them into trees, cars, flowers and anything she can think of. Of course, she quite a mess but the creations she comes up with are quite amazing works of art ( at least to us her parents! )

She also loves making puppets and puts on shows for us and her brother. It's not much but for a kid of nearly 5, it speaks volumes about her creativity and imagination.

One time, she made up a whole cast of characters for the nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle". She made egg carton cat, with blue ears and tail and a star fiddle. She made a cow made up of two old boxes, and a paper cutout of a moon she stuck on the wall. She took an old puppy dog toy, and dressed up a wooden spoon and a paper plate.

We were quite impressed by her show, and I hurriedly took pictures of it. I hope we can keep on encouraging her imagination to grow. Who knows, we might have an budding artist on our hands.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Curioser and Curioser

We were eating today and the daughter started asking a lot of big questions. She first asked where do men come from. At first, we didn't understand the question and I asked her what she meant. She started telling us some men came from mud and that God made men. I agreed with her and said some people say that God made man from mud and shaped them like clay and breath life into them. She was happy with the story for a little while.

Then, out of nowhere came the follow up question. She asked "How do men die?" We were stunned for a second or two as we didn't expect it from the 4 year old. At any rate, we said that some people grow old and some got into accidents. She then said, "We're not old! Then we won't die!" I assured her that we won't die soon and that if we're careful we won't be in any accidents.

She cheerfully accept this and went back to her dinner. My wife and I looked at each other and let out a big sigh and a smile. :)

Gee, we didn't see that one coming!


Do kids just mature faster nowadays? Our daughter is not five yet and the questions she throws at us sometimes leaves me a little flatfooted. I have to think about how to answer them in a way that's easy to grasp for a child. Personally, I feel that the best way is to really talk to her in simple terms and not to sugar coat some of the harder concepts, like death and the uhmm "birds and the bees". I'm not looking forward to the talk but at the rate she's going with her questions we might have to prepare for it sooner rather than later.