Monday, November 28, 2011

Patch, thinking

I've known it for some time now, that the irrefutable moment will come after which I can no longer call Patch a baby.  I may have avoided a few previous indications because it's a little sad when babies truly become thinking little people.  Not overly sad, since they only get more interesting as they can think and talk more.  But, still, more than a smidgen of sadness washed over me when I knew I had just witnessed the tipping point.  Not a baby.  Definitely a little kid.

I was able to put this moment off because Patch started talking a lot later than Wm.  With no verbalization, I found it quite easy to pretend that he still was a baby, using his limited baby sign language and grunting.  Whether from just being part of his own personal development timeline, or being a few months older, or having heard much more English-only for 11 months, or being in his playschool for two months -- his talking has recently skyrocketd.  Case in point: yesterday, Patch said, "Let's go gala!" (gala = go around outside in Tagalog).  Me: "Where should we go gala?"  Patch: "Gala to the playground. Go get shoes!"

You'd think that would have been enough for me, right?  But, no, I still deluded myself into thinking he was still my little baby Patch.  Until this evening.

Wm was experimenting with the AC remote control, and Patch really wanted to try it out, too.  Wm wanted nothing of his little brother interfering with his work, so when he finished setting the AC just so, he put the remote control back on the hook on the wall, which, conveniently, is just outside of Patch's reach.

Patch stomped around pouting for about one second and then ran out of the living room. We barely had time to ask where he went, when he returned from the bathroom carrying his stool.  He promptly placed it under the AC remote, stepped up, and tried to take it down.  At this point, Greg and I were flabbergasted, and Wm, never missing a beat, said: "Good idea, Patch!"  Seems the big bro was so impressed at Patch's resourcefulness, he no longer minded Patch having a turn with the remote.

There you have it.  I can't call a kid that stops pouting and crying and quickly finds a solution to his frustration a baby.  No way.

(Greg's comment on reading this: Now, if only Patch would use the stool to go potty by himself...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Inside and Outside the Gate

Happy Thanksgiving!

Two years ago in HYD, I was super crazy.  With a month old baby, I invited 10 people over - with the extra help of my mom and two helpers, though, Greg and I managed quite fine.  This year it's a bit easier: only 6 extra adults and Patch is two!  Hence, the ability to write a blog post while simultaneously preparing a feast.

With a Butterball turkey and imported fresh cranberries at the store (and fresh pecans sent from Texas and brought by our friend visiting from the US), the meal should be quite traditional.  The only deviation from the usual was having to cause a pumpkin to be roasted and pureed while I was at work yesterday.  The pie looks great, though, so I'm sure it will be fine.

While driving around this morning, the juxtaposition between "inside" and "outside" our compound gate was quite amusing.  Inside is very quiet - everyone is either traveling or cooking!  The offices at Seafront are closed (obviously), so the extra work-related traffic is zero. The inactivity (or invisible activity - probably the kitchens are a hub of activity) feels like Thanksgiving Day.

Outside, though, traffic is raging, and actually a bit heavier than usual.  After all, no Thanksgiving here!  All it takes is crossing through our armed double gate.  Thanksgiving on one side, normal Manila on the other.  Greg and our visitor ventured into Intramuros this morning, so I'm sure the difference will be even more pronounced for them.


I run across some interesting words, living in countries where English is widely spoken and often used as the "link language" where so many dialects persist.  Filipino English and American English are, of course, mutually intelligible, but every now and then a word pops out that takes me some time to fully understand.

William's school uses the word "co-parent" in most of its communication home.  Today's letter was addressed in the singular, inviting the reader to attend a workshop on Friday morning with a visiting American Montessori consultant.  It concluded by encouraging the reader to bring along his or her co-parent.

As background, family here is much more fluid than in the U.S.  With so many OFW (overseas Filipino workers), it is not uncommon for children grow up with only one biological parent at home, or, if both parents are OFWs, with grandparents or aunts or uncles as the primary caregivers.  In addition, at the visa window, I observe all kinds of family situations.  Divorce is illegal in the Philippines, and many don't seek or can't obtain an annulment.  So, a separated person might meet another partner, have children with the new partner in addition to children from the legal marriage, and all live together as a family - except the parents in the new family aren't technically married.  So the new partner can't technically be a parent of the child from the first (still legal) marriage.

Over the last few months, I've gotten the sense that "co-parent" helps out in these situations, referring to whomever the parent thinks of as his or her primary support in the act of parenting - it is a broader term than spouse, doesn't have the sometimes negative association that comes with "stepparent," and acknowledges the nurturing role a live-in partner plays even if that relationship is not legal.

I'm curious if it also applies to the extended parenting roles that are necessitated by OFW parents.  For instance, consider this highly unlikely (but theoretically possible) situation.  I go on an unaccompanied assignment, leaving Greg and the boys (not my plan, but just for instance).  Greg's sister ends up working at a school in the same city as his assignment.  Feeling pity on him, she moves in to help with the boys.  Would she, then, be considered a "co-parent" for that short period of time?  Or does it have to be longer?

Americans, at least in my experience, have a very set and comparatively narrow definition of "parent."  In my opinion, it doesn't seem to extend beyond the bio-parent, step-parent, or adoptive-parent.  The idea of a "co-parent," though, intrigues me, especially in light of the extended absence of an OFW parent.  Greg's TDY really made me appreciate having two parents - as a single parent, I had to be "on" all the time.  Were he gone for three years, I might appreciate my sister or brother or own parent filling in as a co-parent.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baby Shower!

When I was pregnant with Patch, the Americans at the consulate all got together for a potluck lunch and baby shower.  We had only 18 American employees at the time (two of whom were me and Greg!), and a baby was a big deal!  Patch would increase the total number of dependent children at post from four to five - 25%!

Embassy Manila seems to have an explosion of pregnant women and small babies.  I have no idea if it's always like this or if something funny is going on at the embassy water purifier plant.  For instance, at Seafront alone, we have four pregnant moms and at least six kids two or under.  Baby central!

Remembering how happy I was to have someone offer to throw me a baby shower (people sometimes forget for second pregnancies), I offered to host for my pregnant neighbor-coworker.  Well, actually, I asked a friend if she could host at her townhouse, since Patch still needs a nap.  So, one friend opened her home and cooked, I did games/prizes/party favors, and everyone else came along for the fun (and brought a small dish to share).

Comparing with my shower in HYD, today's party was a very normal American baby shower.  All the baby clothes and toys - even those locally purchased - looked like they could have come from any baby store in the U.S.  I remembered my most-used gift from Patch's shower: a small carry along bassinet. My friends scoured the city looking for what I described and eventually found one made in China with undecipherable English letters on it.  We used it daily, but always wondered what exactly was written above the embroidered bear.

I could find all the materials I needed for my games at one department store and one drugstore - as I was shopping, I was very much appreciating the convenience of this; in HYD, I probably would have had to visit at least four stores in at least two different sections of town and definitely could not have left the shopping to the night before.

I try to appreciate Manila for itself, but I still can't help but see it through HYD-colored-glasses.  I laugh that I compare it to HYD instead of TX or DC.  And wonder - when we move to the next city in a year and a half, where ever that may be - will I compare that new place to Manila? Or HYD? Or by then will I be so confused will I be able to experience it without comparison.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Good morning orangutan!

We took a family outing one morning to the Arc Avilon Zoo, where the animals are up close and personal. Patch was brave enough to shake hands with the orangutan, but Wm stayed as far away as he could. The birds of prey just hanging out on their perches also kind of freaked him out.

The petting zoo on the second floor offered a chance to feed carrots to bunnies and greens to the goats.  We both assumed the boys would be entranced by the farm animals - Wm used to love the petting zoo at the National Zoo - but the playground ended up winning the award for where we spent the most time.  Not even a glance at the peacocks or guinea fowl.

All in all, not a bad small zoo.  The cages were small and looked boring for the animals, but well maintained and the animals appeared healthy, pretty good for a private zoo in Manila.  I'm not sure if we'll go back, since we ended up only spending about 1.5 hours there, but the diversion from our usual home-bound-with-one-trip-to-MOA weekend routine was welcome

Watching, unobserved

Last Sunday, the children's Sunday school teacher commented, as we were dropping them off, how good Wm was watching out for Patch.  Normal mode of operation in our house is for Greg or me to be playing referee to unending games of tackle or chase, so this side of Wm I had not yet observed.

Interesting, that Sunday, the Sunday school room had just been painted the day before and the fumes were still too strong (we didn't bother asking why a church decided to paint on a Saturday and not a Monday).  Thus, Sunday school was moved to the veranda, across the courtyard from the sanctuary.  Our church was built in 1958, probably pre-air conditioning, so the sanctuary "walls" are actually floor to ceiling sliding class doors - now, of course, closed with modern central air - but providing a clear (and distracting) view from the sanctuary across the courtyard, to the Sunday school veranda.

Throughout the service, I kept sneaking peaks out to watch the kids and see how their mornings proceeded.  First, as their class was starting, I saw Patch run away from the tables to the fountain in the courtyard.  After all, at 90 degrees with 80% humidity, wouldn't you want to play in the fountain.  Then Wm, watching from the edge of the veranda paving stones, looked concerned.  Teacher was calling both of them back to worship, but Patch obviously wasn't interested.  I couldn't hear, but I watched the big brother gesture emphatically, and Patch finally run across the grass to his kuya.

A little while later I checked how their kids service was progressing.  At some point in the intervening 10 minutes, Wm had pulled Patch's chair right in front of his own, so that he sat with his legs straddling  Patch's chair and both hands on Patch's shoulders.  I guess he didn't want to take any chances of the fountain luring the small brother away.

Perhaps I should have been focusing more on our service, but I don't usually have a chance to watch the boys with my presence unobserved.  Of course, the usual mayhem broke out an hour later at home.