Monday, December 26, 2005

A Mother Like No Udder

Breastfeeding is supposed to be best up to two years. But Yosh and I were at it a few more months after his second birthday. Towards the end he’d stop nursing one or two days, but just when I thought he’d forgotten all about it he remembers my breast again and would insist on it and won’t even touch the bottle. But it’s been weeks now, so I guess our breastfeeding days are finally over.

I kind of miss it actually. I never thought I’d say this in the first few months we were at it, when I basically felt like a human pacifier the way my baby’s suckling at my nipple every 30 minutes or so, day and night. You know this image of a mommy gently rocking on a chair while nursing what seems to be a perfectly contented infant? Well, real-life breastfeeding is rarely that peaceful. Half the time you’re wrestling with a squirming baby to try to keep him from tugging oh-so-painfully at your nipple when it’s time to move him to the other side. The other half you’re just dozing off (and trying not to bump against the baby’s head) out of sheer exhaustion.

It got better when he started on solids at around 5 months. I didn’t feel so pressured anymore to produce milk coz he had something else to eat. I could always have turned to formula but I knew that breastmilk was a lot more nutritious for my baby. So, to keep my breast supply up, I went thru the hassle of expressing my milk (using my trusted Medela breast pump) at work or when I was out of town. Expressing milk requires time, patience, very clean hands and lots and lots of love for the baby (the one thing that will keep you going). It’s exasperating enough to have to explain to male, unmarried officemates what goes on in my room when I post the sign on my door that says “Milking in process – sorry for the inconvenience” with a picture of a cow being milked. One of them thought my baby was actually in there with me. As if our house wasn’t more than an hour away from the office. The other guys would tease me about mixing up the bottles of expressed milk I’d store in the ref in their coffee. Aaargh.

You can just imagine how much more complicated it is to explain to people when there’s language barrier involved. Like when I went to Bangkok for a seminar and had to ask someone to come up and get my milk to be put in the hotel freezer so it’ll still be fresh for my baby to drink when I got home. They asked all sorts of baffling questions, like whether it’s a dairy product or a medicine, and how big and heavy it is. I’d end up yelling into the phone “IT’S MILK…FROM MY BREASTS…FOR MY BABY”. And the next night when a new staff is on duty we’d have to go thru the same difficult, tiring process again.

It was liberating when I stopped expressing after Yoshi turned one and would nurse him only when I was around. Then it was no hassle at all for me so I just kept at it till Yosh felt ready to wean himself.

It was all worth it tho. All the pain of engorged breasts and clogged milk ducts, sleepless days and nights, and all the time I could’ve spent doing so many other things. And it’s not just the health benefits for Yosh. It’s the greedy look he gets in his eyes when I get home from work and he can’t wait to nurse already. It’s the smile he gives me when I coo and sing while breastfeeding. It’s his little chubby hands brushing the hair off my face and pinching my cheeks while suckling at my breast. It’s the reassurance I get when he falls off the bed or is otherwise hurt or sick and he feeds from me anyway, to know that at least I’m doing something to ease his pain. It’s the joy of seeing him toss and turn in bed, eyes still closed but mouth already open, rooting for my nipple (and sometimes getting my arms instead). Ok, I admit, it’s also the instant cleavage and temporary big boobs.

We were at it for 27 months and it’s only been weeks since we stopped, but I miss breastfeeding already.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Best Friend Barney


Saw Barney’s Magical Castle concert in Araneta. Barney has been Yoshi’s best friend for almost a year now. It started when his Tito Ryan gave him a Barney CD featuring Mother Goose last Christmas. At one point he became so obsessed that he’d loop like 10 Barney CDs in his chubby little forefinger and go around everywhere the whole day holding on to those darned CDs. He lost interest after a while, when his attention turned to shampoo commercials and jingles (Sandara’s Walang Sabit and the Jaboom Twins’ Sumusunod sa Galaw Mo are among his favorites). And then Jen sent him a big Barney stuffed toy that sings the I Love You theme, so he remembered Barney all over again.

Needless to say, I prefer Barney over shampoos any day. Barney is educational and good manners and ABCs and 123s and colors of the rainbow and taking turns and sharing and singing and dancing and all that stuff, while shampoo commercials and jingles have no redeeming value whatsoever. Yoshi is just really lucky that Barney and friends came over for a concert at a time when he was still interested in them. I almost didn’t wanna go anymore and would’ve just let Ches chaperone Yosh. I could’ve spent the money and time shopping in nearby Gateway instead. But then I didn’t wanna miss Yoshi’s reaction when he sees his TV friends come alive before him. And it was well worth it. Yosh was really excited and happy and hyper thru-out the whole show. He sang and danced along with the gang, he climbed up and down the stairs and seats, he called out to Barney and BJ and Baby Bop on the stage. Ches and I had great fun too, just watching the kids being kids, having the time of their young lives and not caring much what the adults around them thought.

And can I just say, I’m probably the only mommy there who knew all the words to The Green Grass Grows All Around and all the steps to Mr. Knickerbocker. Well, okay, so maybe there were other mommies who knew them too but I was the only one who sang and danced as loud and wild as the next kid. And guess who had more fun? Ha.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Maldita Moments

It was one of those lunches in the 17th floor. Rhoel asked where I got the black dress I was wearing, saying I looked nice in it. I told him I bought it at Maldita. Jon stops in mid-bite and solemnly pronounces that if there’s one word he can think of to describe me, that would be it: maldita.

These are the same guys who think I’m the bad side of Hermione, the know-it-all, eager-beaver, self-righteous side. Ches can’t stop laughing when I tell him these things. He says my friends must really love me if they think I’m this evil girl but they put up with me, anyway.

I can count with one hand the people I know who are truly good inside, the kind with no mean bone in their system. But as for the majority of us, like Rommel says, we all get nasty thoughts about other people all the time, and we only differ on whether we verbalize these thoughts or not. I belong to the verbal group. I can bite my tongue about things like an unbelievably tacky fashion statement or horrendous grammar that’s enough to make you cry. But I just have to say something to people who are inefficient in their jobs, or who try to put one over other people. Like when I had my big ballerina poster framed and it was three weeks delayed and we had to keep going there every week bcoz they had no phone. Or when we’ve been going around the parking lot for half an hour and when a space finally frees up some idiot zooms along to claim our blessed spot. I mean, really, the nerve of some people to think that they can get away with these things unscathed. Sometimes, I say more than intended and more than needed to set things right and put some people in their place, and I end up feeling quite bad, actually. And of course Ches always makes sure I feel guilty that I didn’t just keep my mouth shut. I think it’s God’s will that I marry a pacifist.

When it’s just with friends I don’t bother censoring my speech, so I invariably come up with statements that seem to shock them out of their senses. But then I see amused glints in their eyes, so I guess they share some of my sentiments but are just too nice to admit to harboring the same line of thinking. Paula and I are a lot alike in this department, which is probably one reason why we get along so well. We can spend (working) hours after (working) hours trying to come up with the perfect code names for the people we love to diss in the office. We’re not mean girls or anything, we’re very polite and courteous and all that, but we have mean thoughts sometimes and we just share them with each other. And if this makes us bad girls, so what? I have nothing about genuinely nice people, but I can’t stand those who just pretend to be, the kind who put on a big smile while talking to you but you just know in their minds they’re sizing you up and concluding you fall short of whatever stupid standards they have. I can just punch these hypocrites in the face. Give me two or three more sessions with my taebo teacher and I will do just that.

I digress, as usual. So anyway, that’s how I got my reputation. Rhoel sometimes wonders out loud if my name isn’t spelled b-i-t-c-h. In the three or so years we worked together not a week went by that he didn’t ask me, half-pleadingly, “Why can’t you just be normal?” Normal probably meaning tactful and behaved and who can be counted on to keep her wicked thoughts to herself. But I know he loves me. He turns to me for help (“Jo, bigyan mo nga ng isa”) when something brazenly unjust is about to be done to us by some higher-up in the office. And I am always more than willing to oblige.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Maxi


Finally got to see “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros”. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. And it’s proudly Pinoy.

I love how the film just completely debunks all sorts of stereotypes and prejudices we have against other people. Maxi is not a screaming faggot or a long-suffering closet homosexual. He’s just a prepubescent gay person putting up beauty contests with friends of his own age, and going thru the exhilaration and agony of falling in love for the first time. You think his family of thugs bully him around and maltreat him? They actually treat him like the baby of the family, someone to protect and be grateful to bcoz he cooks and cleans up after them. These small-time criminals also put flowers in the altar and pray before meals. The honest cop is a bit of a stereotype, but even his character is endearing, in the way he accepts Maxi’s friendship notwithstanding the age gap and unabashed adulation from the boy, and how in the end he goes out of his way to regain Maxi’s trust after hurting him.

The movie was brilliantly acted, especially by Nathan Lopez, who plays Maxi. He’s straight and has had a normal childhood, so you just have to wonder where in the world he got all the nuances and emotions he so convincingly effects on screen. This is part of the beauty of indie films. The actors are usually unheard of and are there through sheer talent, and not bcoz they have the faces that fans line up for. (The only actor I recognized was Kuya Bodjie from Batibot.) The script was also crisp, not too movie-ish, just enough drama and humor and expletives to approximate reality. There was a beautiful song towards the end, “Isipin Mo Na Lang”. I’m a sucker for soundtracks. One good song can save an entirely lousy movie for me.

This kind of film enlightens rather than merely entertains, and makes you empathize with the characters so that the tears falling down their cheeks are also your pain, and their redemption is also your triumph. This kind of film makes you realize that you don’t need a beautiful place like Milan or Dubai to tell a good story, that you can shoot an entire movie in the most dingy squatters’ area and still come up with a winner, and you don’t need big events and famous names, that even small, quiet ones that happen everyday to the lowliest of scums will do. This kind of film rubs in the immense pointlessness of movies like Shake Rattle and Roll 60 millionth edition and the like. This kind of film makes you believe that maybe there’s still hope for Philippine movies, after all.

Friday, December 09, 2005

12 Little Things You Can Do for the Country

I was part of a captive audience that listened to Atty. Alex Lacson talk about his book, 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country, a couple of weeks ago. I received a condensed version of the book by e-mail and forwarded it to everyone in my address book. I didn’t realize until I read the note about the author in the book that he’s the husband of my teacher in Insurance Law and Credit Transactions. He was a PMAer. You can tell from the way he carried himself proud and straight. He spoke gently, and often in straight Filipino. He sat right across me after his presentation, and when he opened his wallet I saw - in the space where we usually put the picture of our significant other or our kids - a picture of Ninoy Aquino sprawled dead on the tarmac. It gave me goose bumps.

Here are the 12 little things. Let’s do them the best we can.

1. Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.

Easy enough. As far as I recall, I’ve committed only one legal infraction so far. The really embarrassing crime of jaywalking. But this was way before when I was still a clueless, awkward minor who was just learning to commute and the ways of the world.

2. Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt.

This makes a lot of sense coz then it ensures that the proper taxes are paid to the government. (Now who benefits from these taxes is another issue.) Can be difficult in a place like Greenhills or 168 tho especially during the Christmas rush when everyone is jostling for position to catch the attention of the hapless sales girl who will probably bop you in the head if you ask for an OR. (Gosh, I love 168. It’s like Chatuchak where you can just get blissfully lost amidst the stall after stall of really cheap clothes and shoes and everything. And you don’t even have to pay in baht.)

3. Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino.

I patronize local brands of shoes and clothes and I love Papemelroti and handicrafts from Laguna and Baguio and Bohol peanut kisses and Bicol pili nuts, but I’m sorry, no local chocolate comes close to Symphony or Snickers or Maltesers. The author also suggests using Hapee toothpaste. Hmmm. I wonder where pirated DVDs come in, too. Hmmm.

4. When you talk to others, especially foreigners, speak positively about us and our country.

Ok, so no more Erap and Garci jokes to every foreigner who’s willing to listen. Do not mention the name Mirriam, too. Talk about Boracay instead, and proud moments in our history like the Great Raid and People Power 1, and the Pinoy’s unsinkable spirit and unfailing capacity to find humor in the most miserable situations.

5. Respect your traffic officer, policeman and soldier.

I’m friends even with security guards. No sweat.

6. Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.

I concur. My favorite area of practice is not environment law for nothing.

7. Support your church.

Yup. The author makes this beautiful point when he said that God did not impose any conditions when he gave his life for us, so what right do we have to impose any conditions before we give alms to the church or to beggars.

8. During elections, do your solemn duty.

Even if it means choosing the lesser of two (or usually more) evils? Hmmm.

9. Pay your employees well.

I only have one employee and I treat her like family. Honest.

10. Pay your taxes.

Like I have a choice. It’s automatically withheld from my salary every month. We had to cough up like half a million for taxes when we bought a house and lot. We could have gone to Europe for that amount. Groan. I just wish no government official enjoyed a Europe trip using our money. Aaargh.

11. Adopt a scholar or a poor child.

One of my things to do before I die. Or as soon as my kids finish college and I can do whatever I want with my money.

12. Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.

The easiest of the lot. Goes without saying.

Monday, December 05, 2005

One Fine Night


I came home late a couple of nights ago and missed Yoshi completely. Some of the bosses and I had dinner with some government officers about this project that we were working on, and the stories went on and on that I got home almost at 10 already and my baby was fast asleep. The fact that I’m even writing about this means that it is not a regular thing for me, I’m usually an 8 to 5 kind of girl. Well, to be more accurate, I try to stay in the office until 5:30ish since I’m never in earlier than 9. Unless I have my aero/taebo/Pilates classes in which case I leave at 5, finished or not finished. (I consider gym as work-related coz it’s an office facility and within office premises, anyway.)

The 8 to 5 factor is what I gave up my previous job for. It was a job that came with like the highest salary among all law offices in the Philippines, thousand-dollar tax-free bonuses, all-expense paid junkets all over the country and abroad, P10 million life insurance (I’m not kidding), and non-legal staff who would look up all the legal authority you need for an advice or even buy your groceries for you. And that was the easy part to give up. The hard part was my friends, some of whom I’ve known for more than a decade, and my colleagues and bosses who respected my work and liked me (I’d like to believe) without me having to suck up to anyone, and all the other people in the office who saw me grow up from a skinny underbar to a smug married to a breastmilk-expressing mommy. These people have been my family for five years, the only officemates I’ve ever known.

It was heartbreaking to leave everyone but there were also the endless hours, the work that had to be done even on weekends and holidays, clients and bosses who called in the wee hours, and the most complicated, unsolvable legal issues on earth. I could handle it when I was still single and even after I got married and pregnant, but it had to stop when I had my baby. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of my decision. This happens when I just feel so new at my present job and have to exert an effort to explain who I am to those who don’t know me yet, or when this person in my office (who shall not be named) says something unbelievable and I’m just so convinced that I’ll never get properly appreciated (not to mention compensated) around here, or when I get busy too and do not even have the time to blog except if I do it at lunch or after 5 (and how fun is that if you have to blog on your free time?). I also worry whether I semi-retired too early at the expense of being able to provide to my baby and my future kids all that they need and most of what they want in this world.

But that night that I came home late, I realized that, if I was still in my former law office, that’d be my daily life. I’d be able to go home from work only when the entire neighborhood is dead to the world already. And if Yoshi was always asleep already when I got home, how could I ever find the time to savor the grin that slowly spreads across his face as I bring out my pasalubong of shampoo sachets? How will we be able to enjoy dancing to Gasolina and Bop It and Follow the Leader? How can we play hide and seek and jump on the bed and collapse into giggles? How can we go to Lolo’s house for ice cream after dinner? Ches and I just know that if we haven’t been spending all these time with Yosh, he wouldn’t turn out to be the healthy and happy boy that he is, who just spreads boundless love and joy to everyone. If we weren’t around all the time to talk to him abut anything and everything, and smother him with hugs and kisses, and be silly and serious with him, then maybe he wouldn’t be funny enough to say that Baby Bop is in the office when I ask him why she’s not in one of his Barney movies, and maybe he wouldn’t be so willing to give free hugs to everyone who asks, and maybe he wouldn’t be so hyper and destructive and sweet. And we like him just fine, thank you.

So next time I feel bad about my present job for any reason, I’ll look back on that night when I got home late and Yosh was already asleep, and be reassured that I made the right choice.