Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's keeping us busy these days

I find it hard to blog these days because I've been busy with so many nonsensical (but fun) stuff! 

First off, the husband and I are addicted to television series once again! We had been afflicted with the series-disease back when we were reviewing for the bar. Yeah, what better time! I remember back then, I would promise to watch just two episodes of Friends and then go back to eating books, but we all know that didn't happen. I would end up finishing a full season and cramming to read the next day! After the bar, we've been hooked to Jack Bauer's 24, and now - BReaking BAd!

Photo Source

Breaking Bad is a story of a highschool chemistry teacher, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) who is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He wants to secure his family's financial future before he dies, so he decides to venture on something he's good at - chemistry. He cooks methamphetamine and partners with his former student Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul) as the latter sell their products. It started pretty boring - a science teacher cooking meth to survive, and a drug-junkie taking meth, to survive. But then, Walter White eventually turns to a life of crime until he comes to a point of no return, then it becomes intriguing. 

If you remember the thrill of Prison Break, this is a subtle version of it.  Bun unlike Prison Break which becomes less interesting towards the end, BReaking BAd keeps getting better and more riveting.  But of course, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) definitely outdo the angas-factor of the drug-junk Jesse Pinkman. 

Second, the husband discovers group-buying websites and insists that I go through the nightly browsing with him. Initially, I declined because I promised to myself to stay away from temptation to keep me sane.  But then again, what is a submissive wife to do if the husband insists? Right now, we just enjoy looking at great buys without actually hitting it. 

If I say one more time that we don’t have the money for it, my optimistic husband will remind me (for the nth annoying time!) that it is not the right way to put it. It should be along the lines of “We have money, but we have more important priorities.” So, there. I am slowly learning that shopping is not a priority. And, it is quite surprising that it can still be fun to just look at "deals" without buying. It feels so mature. (But I am seriously eyeing  a deal on photo coverage with free photobook of 20 pages, for P5,000. I'm thinking of getting it for Zohan's birthday. Steal, what do you think?) 

Lastly, I've been obsessing over Zohan's birthday. Nope, it will not be a big children's party like the folks back home are expecting. The husband and I both agreed that at one year old, the little boy cannot appreciate any kind of party. It can be a pansit and orange juice affair and I'm sure Zohan will not mind, as long as I whip out my boobs every five minutes and I allow him to hold dangerous things that are not supposed to be played with. So, we settle on a birthday lunch - with just family and our closest friends. 

The thing is, I have discovered Hostess with the Mostess (and a lot of other party inspiration sites linked to it), and I suddenly want to channel the Martha Stewart hideously resting within me. I am seriously hooked to it but I do not want to change any of our plans for the boy's birthday. So - I'm bookmarking it and promising to get back to it when the right age for a children's party comes. (or not!)

I want to add a fourth, which is to join Real Living magazine's Ultimate Makeover 2012. I feel as if this can be the answer to my prayers for a beautifully-themed home. But then, one of the requirements is a two-year residence in the house that would be made over.  So that's my dream out the window. If you've been living in your current residence for two years, you might want to try your luck! Just invite me to the housewarming!

Oh, and Zohan had been sick. He had fever since Sunday, but he's been well since Wednesday. So, playing with him before bedtime actually takes the fourth spot on what's keeping us busy, and happy, of course!

What have you been up to lately?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Lemon Test

One Tuesday, my friends from the office decided to have lunch outside. We were supposed to eat at Petra and Pilar but when Kat was about to park there, Joyce commented that it's only a few blocks away from Villa Cafe, a Filipino restaurant which was very near our home. I figured we could try out a new place plus I could fetch the little boy and have him join us for lunch, so we headed to Villa Cafe.

Poor boy was asleep when I arrived home, but I just couldn't resist bringing him down and stealing a few moments with him. And while we were having lunch, KQ noticed the sliced lemon on the brim of her glass. That's when she had the idea of baptizing Zohan with the "lemon test". After I watered the lemon down, Zohan took the plunge and had his first taste of lemon. Here's a short video:

Wasn't he a cutie? What was your baby's reaction when he first tasted lemon? The videos on the net are just too funny and cute to pass up! Do check it out here.

*Our Awesome Planet made a review of Villa Cafe here, and Petra and Pilar here, in case you're interested to know more/try these restaurants. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Of fishballs and caviar

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Have you tasted caviar? Yes, that little devil whose reputation precedes it for being the food of the socialites. I tasted it once, at Spirals in Sofitel, which I was able to afford through Cash Cash Pinoy. Does it taste good? I dunno, I can't recall the taste anymore. At least, if caviar ever comes up in a conversation, I would not pull off a lie by commenting about it. Have you eaten dessert at Slice in Bonifacio High Street? I did, and the dessert was good, but not something I would lay my life for and commend as "t0-die-for". Have you had a sip of anything from Jamba Juice? I had, and it was good. I would gladly push over any sugar-injected frappe from Starbucks for a chocolate moo'd from Jamba Juice. However, between the latter and a Javanilla from Seattle's Best, let me think about it overnight. Are you constantly dining out at any restaurant from the Bistro Group? Italianni's, Friday's, Krazy Garlik, Fish & Co., etc? I've had the chance to try most of them out, and the foods are good. And so are the prices, of course. 

All these food choices are sumptuous, but rather pricey for me. But sometimes, I have no choice but to fix my eyes on the menus without regard to prices - working lunches, dinner with friends, or a happy-food-reward-to-self after a shitty day or a good bonus.  Also, one perquisite of being a lawyer is that I have several opportunities to eat at nice restaurants and know some good food at the clients' costs.  I enjoy it immensely. Who wouldn't, right?  At times, despite the fact that I keep a tight budget,  I let go of other considerations and just lather up my taste bud.  Why not?I work so hard, and I deserve it.

Do you eat street foods? I do. I usually walk (together with the husband) from work to home and there are a number of tuhog-tuhog vendors along the way. Squidballs and kikiams are our staple. They had grown enormous from the time that I was a little kid, and their taste had also grown better. Do you eat at carinderias? I hardly do these days, for lack of opportunity. When I was in college and lawschool, I survived on carinderia food. I stayed in dormitories when I was still a student, and I would prefer uncertainty of cleanliness in my food over death by fastfood. Have you tried banana-que and fruit shake at a stand by the street? Or a bag of junk food with coke in plastic with straw? Lethal combination of comfort food for me!

I remember a friend who once quoted a lawschool professor, "Kapag abogado na kayo, wag na kayong kakain ng mga fishballs! Isipin nyo na lang ang sasabihin ng mga kliyente nyo pag nakita kayo sa daan!" I thought she had a point. In fact, the same goes for the other service-oriented professions who deal with clients. Imagine the hardship of trying to sell yourself as a professional, only to be passed through by your client's car along a street while you're dipping your last fishballs in the asim-tamis sauce. By the time that you open your mouth to savor it's sour-salty combination, your client rolls down his window to say hi. Classic.

There was this one time, I was walking along the street of Pasong Tamo and I passed by McDonald's take-out counter. It was very humid and I kept thinking of having a vanilla ice cream cone. I suddenly remembered the conversation I had with my friend who quoted our lawschool professor. What if a client or a boss saw me, walking on the road, licking an ice cream? 

Well, it turned out to be one of the most liberating walk of my life - yes with a vanilla cone on one hand, and a case folder on the other. I realized that I could dress up real nice, talk to famous personalities at a posh hotel lobby, eat with just knife and fork with a fancy towel on my lap. But at the end of the day, I know I will always be the fishball-kinda-girl. And I will never be apologetic for it. 

I am not saying that everybody should eat "street foods". Some people really find them icky, and I don't blame them. I do not judge them either. All I'm saying is, life's too short not to lick a vanilla ice cream when you feel like it. The moment we stop caring about what other people might think of us, that is the moment of liberation. Our happiness should not be defined by who or what we work for, or who we associate ourselves with. While it is true that we should adjust ourselves according to the circumstances - and it is so easy and tempting to just ride the bandwagon - the fact remains that at some point in our lives we should at least have an idea of who we really are. We no longer owe that to our bosses, or to our clients, or to our acquaintances, or to our friends. In fact, we don't owe that to anybody. Happiness is ours. And if it meant licking an ice cream while walking along a busy street - then be my guest and lick away!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What happens when you're left alone with the baby... wake up to the warmest smile. start the day dealing with toys and games and fake cries. Breakfast will come in at a much, much later time.

Somehow, you manage to give him a bath (you carry him on your side-waist as you prepare for his bath because he will not allow you to be out of his sight). You play dress-up even if you're the only one who can see him. It warms your heart to smell his baby scent and to see him all preppy.. 

See those bear socks? He looks so cute on them!

You continue to play with him and give everything that will make him happy -- even if it means making a telephone out of a computer mouse, and secretly hoping the latter will still work.

In less than thirty minutes, the baby scent and the preppy look will be gone.. because poop will take over and mess up the place.

For the faint-hearted, yes that's poop. If you are grossed-out, 
sorry but this is a motherhood blog - deal with it,  sweety =)
You get to bring him to the grocery (When the cat is away, the mouse will play!)

 And pretend he's picking up his own food... But the truth is, he's just throwing it away and now you have a terrible backache from picking up everything from the floor and putting them back on the rack.

You cook dinner, wash the dishes and deal with an upset baby - because you left him alone on the floor. He makes sure you will not leave him again by clinging to your knees and wailing for attention.

You make it up with him and make amends by allowing him to play with whatever suits him You can only pray that he will not stain your precious bag with that orange highlighter. 

After having parented, you retire to bed and capture the last photo of the day. Of course, he will grab your phone as you do that, but you still catch a glimpse of his heartwarming smile..

And your weariness just fades away.. :)

*Independence Day, 2012.
*Yes, chaos and mess is the theme of our household :0

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Half-step to financial freedom

Photo source

As G.I. Joe had put it, Knowing is half the battle. So I would have to say that I am officially a half-step to financial freedom, thanks to a friend by the name John Henry Liquete.

My good friend Joyce organized the coming together of our lawschool friends who had been in touch with each other in the quest for financial freedom. (Yes, ang heavy!) One of our friends, Henry, had been eating all materials relative to financial literacy and had taken the stock market by storm (by our standards, of course!). Realizing that it could be so lonely up there (haha!), Henry thought to himself, why bother getting rich if I couldn't bring along my friends with me? And so, the Lonely Up There club was born and had its first meeting at the Slice in Bonifacio High Street last weekend. (We were also joined by some of Joyce's highschool friends, her sister Chi, and Chi's boyfriend Migs - who, by the way, maintains a very impressive travel-photography blog here.)

We know all too well the familiar story of the two fathers - the poor dad and the rich dad. The poor dad was a very well educated man, and a staunch believer of working hard, saving money and not buying the material things that one could not afford. Like most Filipino household, the poor dad considered education as the ticket to success, and so he hammered his son to do well in school with the end in view of landing a good job in a high-paying company. The rich dad, however, had very little education. He poured efforts and money, not in education per se, but in the knowledge of investing. He did not believe in working for other people, but instead, in working for one's self. Loosely translated, if the poor dad would encourage studying as the way to work in a good company in the future, the rich dad would encourage studying as the way to build his own company. From the rich dad, the son learned not to say, "I can't afford it", but instead ask, "How can I afford it?"

I was raised in a poor dad's household.  Neither my family nor my close relatives had been introduced to business. Most of my relatives attempted to get a shot at an improved life by working abroad, and thank God we were relatively getting there, but only after devoting  lives and efforts and energy to scamper in the rat race. My cousins and I had been instilled the importance of education - getting a degree and becoming professionals - but most of us had taken a chance at working overseas. Indeed, we were a classic example of the poor dad mentality. I didn't mean to say that we had no chance to succeed; we would succeed. But it would be a longer route, and a much more difficult one at that. (I hope that one day, our family would come to know that there is another scheme to do things - the rich dad's way.) That was the reason why I attended Henry's financial literacy seminar, in the hope that I could help educate the younger generation in my family.

Insofar as the  husband and I were concerned, we were not totally naive about financial wellness. He introduced me to Robert Kiyosaki (the author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad) way before, and I had read other books like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.   Those books propelled us to attempt a franchising business before we got married. We also hoarded a lot of Entrepreneur magazines, if that could count. He also invested in some mutual funds and an insurance policy coupled with  investment, but these were just small amounts, to test the water, so to speak. The returns were minimal, but I was happier with just being financially literate (somehow) than gaining an enormous amount right away. We also attended a seminar about stocks before, but to be totally candid, I could not remember a thing about it now. So while we were not totally naive, there were still a LOT that we needed to learn about the ropes of the game. So Henry's nod of approval to give a talk about the stock market was very much welcome.

Most people get easily intimidated when they hear the word "stocks" or "stock market".  I, for one, was disinterested the first time the husband introduced it to me. Filipinos had the notion that it was risky, likened to a gamble actually. It was true, the stock market could be risky. But one thing that I learned about the seminar, there were actually two ways to utilize the stock market: 1) as an investment; and 2) as a trading vehicle. As aptly put by Henry, whenever people say, "The stock market is dangerous!", they're referring to trading at the stock market, not investing in the stock market. And there was a plethora of difference. Trading in the stock market would be buying and selling day in and day out and without regard to the background of the company one was purchasing. Investing, on the other hand, would be buying shares after a thorough analysis of the company's background, without withdrawing/selling shares after a long haul, or until one was already satisfied with its earnings.

Investing in the stock market would be the better option if you had long-term savings in the bank. Henry's example was enlightening. If you park your P1 million in a time deposit account of 36 years, your P1million could become more or less P4million.  But if you park your money in the stock market, your P1 million will become, *drumroll please* at the very least P64 million! I know, I know - it would be difficult to convince people to part with the money borne out of their sweat and blood. However, it would pay to be literate and aware of one's options, so that one could make an informed decision. Besides, there were strategies which we could take advantage of to minimize, if not altogether eliminate, risks. He thoroughly explained cost averaging method, which no book could adequately explain to me. 

There were so many things to learn about the stock market, I could go on and on and on. But then, I would rather leave the talking to the expert because it's money we're talking and I would not want that high a stake to be lost in translation. Henry was so accommodating to answer all our queries. To him, there were no stupid questions! He even provided us with reading materials which discussed everything from understanding the stock market for beginners to what stocks he would recommend buying. He even taught us how to open our own stock market account (through COL Financial). All that, in exchange for his intangible altruistic feeling of helping others + 100 pesos for the printing expense of our materials + we foot the bill! We urged him to consider giving similar talks as an alternative earning career, and he agreed! So if you are interested to be financially literate but are intimidated by the big names of financial advisors out there, you can email me here  and let's see what I can do. If we can come up with a good number of participants and Henry's calendar is clean, we can probably organize another seminar, whatchathink? 

*Credit goes to Henry's materials and to Wikipedia for the information on Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What it takes to be a good candidate for VBAC (VBAC Post II)

Photo source

I shared in my previous post how I ended up gaving birth via C-section despite my strong conviction to do a vaginal birth. Months later, I showed up in the doorstep of a VBAC practitioner's clinic, asking my chances of having a VBAC for my second baby (which is in the works, by the way.) It was a good thing to finally talk to someone who could answer my queries and correct my misconception.

Case in point 1: I thought birth spacing was one of the considerations before one could do a VBAC, so I went to see the doctor prior to conception, just to be sure. Apparently, birth gaps did not really determine a VBAC's success. According to my OB, she had patients who successfully had a vaginal birth less than a year after their CS operation. 

Case in point 2: I thought there had to be a perfect proportion between the head of the baby and the pelvic bone of the one giving birth. Well, not entirely true. She mentioned that doctors usually order a pelvic x-ray to rule out cephalopelvic disproportion. But then again,  she had patients with wide pelvic bones but weren't able to push the baby out. In the same manner, she had patients with narrow pelvic bones who were able to do a vaginal birth. So, I guessed VBAC could still be possible, cephalopelvic disproportion notwithstanding. 

According to her, the more important considerations could be summed up into three. I tried to discussed them below, based on my own understanding. I also added other information based on my own personal research. If I happened to get anything wrong, please be kind enough to point it out by commenting. But if you are kinder, you could just discreetly correct me by sending me an e-mail and I will do my best to retract my mistake. 

1. Non-recurrent cause of the previous CS operation.

There could be several medical reasons for a CS operation which may include failure to progress during the first stage of labor, abruption of the placenta, fetal distress, pre-eclamptic toxaemia or commonly called as pregnancy-induced hypertension, to name a few. To be a candidate for VBAC, the cause for the CS operation must be non-recurrent -- meaning the reason for the previous Caesarian has a chance of not recurring during the second pregnancy. A previous CS due to, say, gestational diabetes, could possibly recur compared to a primary CS due to a heavy birth weight of the baby. 

In my case, if I would want the reason for my primary CS not to recur, I would have to observe what I eat and wage war against pan de sal.

2. Low-segment or low-vertical uterine incision

When I heard the type of incision mentioned by my OB, I swear I could hear the angels singing behind my head. I vividly recalled that in the Operative Medical Report which I submitted in support of my PhilHealth benefits, the incision indicated began with the word "Low". I thought to myself, well, the choices mentioned by my OB were both low, so mine had to be either of the two.

Upon arriving home after the check-up, I rummaged our cabinet to search for the darn medical record, which apparently had been submitted to the HR of our office without me making an extra copy. I couldn't sleep that night as I wracked my brains out to remember what kind of "low" I had, but to no avail. 

The following day, my superhero secretary pulled out my records from personnel and happily showed me an extra copy of the medical report, which stated that I had a primary low transverse incision. How many lows could there be, for crying out loud?!

Well, I could be really impatient at times, so I texted my OB-gyne that what I had was a different kind of low from her choices, and asked her if my low transverse was synonymous with low segment/low vertical. Guess what? Of course, she said “yes”, otherwise, this post would be pointless.

3. Presentation of the baby in the uterus

Before becoming a mother, I thought presentation of baby in the uterus was either cephalic, meaning head first, or breech, meaning buttocks first. I was wrong. In fact, there were different types of breech - there's complete breech, incomplete breech and Frank breech. (But we need not know the difference because once the baby's presentation is breech, the OB-gyne will more likely rule out a VBAC. ) To be a good candidate for VBAC, the baby must be in a cephalic position. While there were ways to effectively change a baby's presentation through certain types of massages, my OB said she would not recommend undergoing a massage if the pregnant woman previously had a CS operation. For this part, I could only hope that baby #2 will conspire with me and present herself properly. 


Having said all these, it appears that I am a good VBAC candidate. But I do not want to get my hopes too high. I've been burned the first time by being too bent on having a vaginal birth, only to be disappointed in the end. As I see it now, a lot of my chances are left to the will of the Universe. I can religiously observe an OB-prescribed diet but still end up with a gestational diabetes. Nothing is certain, really. The only thing I'm sure of is that I will definitely try. If all else fails again, I'll be more than happy to just have a safe delivery and another baby! Besides, delivery is just a tiny spec on the tip of the motherhood iceberg. In the meantime, in order that all these blah-blah will make sense, I have to go and make a baby! :)

*It is always best to talk to a doctor. For those interested to get the contact details of my OB-gyne, you can send me an email here

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