Tuesday, September 29, 2009

After the Rain

Last Saturday started out as a regular day. Since the Philippines has only two seasons, wet (June to November) and dry, (December to May) rain at this time of the year is not unusual.

By midday though, it was clear that this wasn't your average rainy day. It had been pouring steadily since Friday night, and at noon of Saturday, the area around the corner from our apartment building was cordoned off because the reservoir underneath had overflowed, causing waist-high flooding on the street and submerging the cars parked in the basement of the nearby buildings.

When Big A went online and turned on the tv to a news channel, we saw the flooding was widespread. In two more hours, water engulfed the metropolis, leaving thousands stranded in traffic, at work or home or on their rooftops. Tropical storm Ketsana, named Ondoy in the Philippines, was larger than 2005's Hurricane Katrina and left just as much devastation in its wake, albeit on the other side of the world and in a country with nowhere near as much resources as the mighty USA.

For the past three days, people have volunteered their time, SUVs, boats and personal services to rescue those still stranded. Centers have sprouted up in each city to collect and distribute relief goods to those in need. Stories of modern-day heroes are being published, along with images of despicable politicians and next year's political hopefuls using the tragedy for their own publicity purposes.

It is a sad, sad thing to think of, and see, so many people who have lost their homes, their belongings and worst of all, their loved ones. Let us do all we can to help.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guides to (Parenting) Life

While I love to read, as any one who knows me will agree, I am not much of a how-to book fan. I prefer to get such information online, where it is usually more current and contains helpful testimonials of other people's real-life experiences, not to mention the opportunity to communicate with them. I am also an avid researcher, usually reading reviews of a product or book before purchasing it.

When I was pregnant, I was the only person I knew who did not buy or read what is recently considered the ultimate pregnancy bible. Reviews of this book said it was too technical and tended to scare parents-to-be by detailing all the possible ailments and problems that could crop up in the course of a pregnancy. I signed up for an online weekly pregnancy newsletter towards the end of my first trimester, and this combined with my prenatal checkups seemed to be enough.

A friend gifted me with a slim volume on pregnancy and the homeopathic alternatives for dealing things like morning sickness and the like, and I found it very informative, especially since I firmly believe in natural medicine, particularly when one is pregnant. I also found a book on breast-feeding at a used bookshop, and purchased this as I hoped to do what my two sisters had failed to with their eldest children and breastfeed purely for at least six months. This book contained plenty of testimonials, but in the end I found that real-life experience was my best teacher.

At a baby shower, another book was given to me, and I read this anxiously as my due date drew near and I realized I did not know how to deal with crying, burping, bathing and all the rest of it.

Once Little A was born, I found little time for reading between monthly visits to the pediatrician, endless nappy changing, colic, crawling, walking and feeding. We had one book, given as a present at Little A's christening, and I did refer to it from time to time to be sure he was on track in terms of growth and development. Lately, I've acquired a couple more books to help get him sleeping through the night and toilet trained. This small collection completes our baby and toddler reference guides.

However, as with all things baby-related, the books will be outgrown as Little A gets older. I've already passed on the natural pregnancy and breast-feeding books to one mum-to-be and the book covering baby basics to another new mum friend. The sleep book will soon be mailed out to another parent in need, and the toilet training book still has to prove its worth. As every mum and dad discovers, the art of parenting cannot be learned from a book but must be experienced in the light of each parent and child's uniqueness.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Walking Down the Aisle

In one of my earlier lives, (or so it seems as the me-of-now is so unbelievably different to the me-of-two-and-a-half-years-ago) I was a wedding planner. On weekends, while Big A played golf, I would put on a dress and heels and assist a friend who was a full-time wedding coordinator. She did the phone calls, follow-ups and all the rest of it, and I served as the much-needed second body on the day of the actual event. It paid good money to supplement my day job and I enjoyed it, despite the aching feet that inevitably came at the end of the 8-12 hour day.

One of my duties was to make sure everyone got down the aisle. My partner stood at one end, cueing each person on when to start walking, and I stood at the other, making sure they smiled, knew where to sit and, in the case of the children, walked sedately without any major meltdowns. I saw many a tot and toddler all dressed up, and in my memory of four years' worth of weddings, there were no tantrums, refusals or other like incidents.

Then I became mother to a small boy and realized how truly amazing this phenomenon actually was.

A few days ago, I found out one of my younger cousins will soon be getting married. My aunt called to ask if Little A would be the ring bearer. I was flattered and thrilled, but wondered secretly if I could manage to train my son within 3 months to a) follow instructions, b) walk while holding on to a pillow containing two of the most important items needed for a wedding without throwing it in the air or on the ground, and c) actually walk down the aisle of what will certainly be a crowded (by Little A's standards, seeing as there will be more than 10 people present) church.

Unlike his 18 month old cousin who is as obedient as they come and performs on cue, clapping, smiling, scowling and reciting things, 26 month old Little A only follows instructions if he feels like it, which is when his father shouts or when I lose my temper. He has yet to talk properly as he babbles constantly but still doesn't form proper words. Instead of pointing to objects when asked, he takes the asker's finger and places it on the objects he wants named. He still does not like loud, tight or crowded places and always makes a fuss until we leave when we are in one.

Our pediatrician is giving him a couple more months before having him evaluated for Early Intervention. A lot can happen in a couple of months, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's all the "right" things that do.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Great Escape

Two days ago, the au pair had the day off. It was errand-running day, so after breakfast the family got ready to leave. Big A was doing some last minute work at his laptop, so I alternated between brushing my teeth, putting my clothes on, packing Little A's bag and checking up on him as he watched tv and played in the living room.

We live in a first-floor flat with two terraces that open out into the building's swimming pool and playground area. On windy days, we open the French doors to let the breeze blow through the house. The living room doors are blocked by heavy blinds, and Little A knows that when he wants to get out, the blinds need to be lifted by a grownup first. Not that that stops him trying to do it himself. It was a windy morning, so one of the glass doors was open.

During my fourth spot check in five minutes, Little A was gone. I called out to Big A while checking the other rooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Big A ran outside to look there. Little A was nowhere we could immediately see, and I heard Big A asking the gardeners and maintenance men nearby if they'd seen him anywhere.

One of the men on a gondola halfway up the side of the building shouted down, "There's a child over there, by the swimming pool!" When Big A turned the corner, he saw our son walking along the edge of the pool the way he usually does while holding on to one of our hands. When Little A reached the shallow part at the corner, he heard his father calling out to him. As soon as Little A saw his beloved swimming companion approaching, he sat down at the edge and lowered himself into the water.

I know the statistics, about children drowning in less than two minutes in less than an inch of water, and I thanked Little A's guardian angel for keeping him from falling into the deep end without anyone to see it happen. What did amaze us though was how he managed this escape.

Besides getting past the window blinds, Little A scaled a fence that was taller than himself for the first time on his own. He'd previously tried climbing this fence but always made sure someone was nearby to help him, and he never climbed up to the top and down the other side, even with assistance. Clearly, not doing does not mean being unable to in this case.

Big A and I didn't know whether to scold or praise our son. I told him that what he had done was never to be repeated without a grownup present, but I know he knows that when grownups are present he would never need to scale a fence because they would always help him over it. Still, he is at the stage where climbing anything is a must-do, and his amazing balance allows him to do this at lightning speed. In two steps he is atop a table that is nearly twice his height. This means he needs to be constantly watched, not just from minute to minute but every single waking second.

Errand-running was then delayed by an hour, as Big A was forced to join his son in the swimming pool while I wondered how on earth Martha Kent survived raising a toddler who must have been quicker and more daring (though also more indestructible) than mine.