Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Throw a PvZ Party

PvZ is Plants vs. Zombies, a computer game where the goal is to keep the zombies from getting into your house and eating your brains, with the help of all kinds of plants in your garden, from sunflowers to marigolds to something called peashooters. I never played it, but people who do apparently get obsessed. Yoshi included. Hence, he wanted it to be the theme for his 7th birthday party.

He wasn’t supposed to have a party to begin with. Our plan was to go to Singapore for his birthday (his birthday wish was to ride the cable car). But then the earliest promo tickets we could get were for Halloween, and it felt sad letting Yoshi’s seventh pass by without anything special. So Ches reserved UP Balay Kalinaw in late July, and our PvZ party adventure began.

What to do?

1. First, you need truly good friends like Thom and Paula to help you plan and do everything. From the invites to the tarp, name tags, stickers - everything. Thom even burned a CD of PvZ sound effects. Up to the day before the party he was making signages for the venue. Paula had all these grand plans like a photo booth and somebody dressed as a snail giving out gold coins as prizes (from the game, apparently). She was cutting and pasting PvZ icons to the pinata when everyone else was lining up for the buffet. They would call and email me everyday and take it upon themselves to implement their own plans and all I had to do was say ok. If not for Thom and Paula, Yosh would have ended up with the usual Disney party. (Hahaha.)

2. Second, you need many other good friends to help you out. Like Regina who slaved over the AVP for a week (which was also how long it took for him to torment me that he was going to include all our beach pix with me in bikinis – aaarrrgh!). He even brought the finished product to our house at about midnight before the party. (Owww.) Everyone loved the AVP. It was just the right mix of funny and senti. There were also Randy and Phoebe who did the face painting. Phoebe came prepared with colored print-outs of the complete cast of PvZ characters so the kids can choose what they wanted. Randy also helped me set the venue up an hour before the party. I also asked Portia and Jaja to handle the registration, Eycee to take videos, Mark, Aaron and Justin to pop the party poppers. Thom and Jeff took the fabulous photos.

3. Third, you need a reliable party host/magician/all-around entertainer like Bobi The Magicman. He was referred to me by Regie, who was his student in San Beda high school (where he teaches to this day – how cool is that?). I loved that he and his staff were all set up by the time we got to the venue, and how they basically took charge of everything . What makes them special from others I've tried is that they didn’t act like guests at all and instead made the party their own – you could feel it with all the extra efforts they did to make the party as organized as possible (like his male staff working the pabitin and piƱata – and getting mobbed in the process - which I didn’t expect to be part of their job description anymore). Bobi himself was a big hit with both the kids and adults – he was funny, warm, wholesome, and had great rapport with all the game participants and audience alike. Going into any of my kids’ parties, all I ask for is that the host speak in correct English. (Hahaha.) With Bobi, I definitely got more than that.

4. Fourth, you need brilliant ideas to make up for what you can’t get from the mall. I was so proud of the cupcake tower with the PvZ logos (the cupcake stand was a gift from Ches last Christmas). It was an idea that came to me when I was stumped trying to figure out where I could possibly have a PvZ cake done (I mean, I couldn't possibly just walk into Red Ribbon or Goldilocks and expect them to know PvZ, much less to have a cake in this theme). I love that it looked so funky and unique (and the cupcakes were yummy, too), especially in the middle of real, live cactus plants, which we gave away instead of the usual loot bags. How cool is that?

5. Fifth, you need enough crazy guests who come in costume. And I don’t mean substantial compliance costume like my own, which consisted of a floral top and hairband with white flowers (hahaha). But people like Aaron who made a grand entrance with his zombie polo and tie, a pail on his head, and bulging eyes. Robby in his javelin thrower attire – jersey sando, pekpek shorts, sweatbands and javelin. Eycee and Marielle as back-up dancers to Bootsie’s dancing zombie – complete with headbands, gloves, vests and scarves. (They were the coolest girls in the party, but I had to admit I thought they got lost on their way to an 80s party or something. Hahaha. ) Chebu dyed his hair red and wore a pot as cap, too. Ice was also in a polo and tie and with an orange traffic cone on his head. Nico came as a sunflower! I love all of these crazy guys.

6. Sixth, you need competitive stage mom types who kill each other just so their kids win in the games (I am admittedly one of these, but in my kids’ parties I’m too busy being a social butterfly and just let my kids lose all over the place). Ann said Loudette’s yaya came with a bag containing all kinds of stuff for the bring-me game. (I think it was also Polo’s yaya who was teased by Bobi to stay away from the pabitin, that it was no longer part of her job description to get candies for her ward. Hahaha.) Loudette also confessed to lying about her (or Polo’s) birth date just to score a point in one game. Dendee said Donemark told Kirsten to bring home at least four prizes from the games. Paula and Phoebe told me they know each other now bcoz at my kids’ parties they keep being placed in the same team and they win all the time. Hahaha. I love my mommy friends.

7. Finally, you need the birthday boy, who is so well-loved all around, and who (like I said in my speech) has been making our lives so happy for seven years now and has been such a good kuya to Bootsie and has never given us any ‘major, major’ problems. He’s grown up to be such a good boy that I feel compelled to teach him a little evilness sometimes. All he asked from me for his 7th birthday is that I get bangs; hence, my new look. (How crazy is that?) He even prepared his own thank-you speech and told me after the party, “Thank you, Mom. This is the best party ever”. And he deserved no less.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

For Yoshi

(When friends ask me what's the most difficult part of motherhood, I have one answer: the first day back at work after your maternity leave. If you can live thru that, everything else is chicken feed, I think. This is for Yoshi, who turns seven today, and who has taught me all I needed to know about motherhood. Thank you, Yosh, for changing our lives in ways we never would've thought possible.)

I go back to work in a week, and I miss you already. I miss how you’d wake up every morning with a smile or squeal of delight, and how you’d just stay in bed for a while, content and happy looking at the blowing curtains or singing along with The Little Mermaid songs. I miss the way you’d play in the bathtub and look like you could stay there forever, screaming your little lungs out the minute Daddy takes you out after your bath. I miss your coos and baby talk, your smiles and giggles, the clucking sounds you’d make when I feed you, and how you’d sing along when I put you to sleep with lullabies.

I’ve known you barely three months, and already I am madly, passionately in love with you. Now I know what unconditional love means. It means carrying you around (water bag and placenta and all) in my tummy for nine whole months as my nose gets bigger and bigger and my nape gets darker and darker. It means pushing you out into this world with all the strength God can give me after 14 hours of labor and no anesthesia. It means waking up every two hours or so at night to feed you and help Daddy change your diaper and put you back to sleep, and repeat the same pattern throughout the day, at a time when my episiotomy is still so raw and my breasts so sore, and you can’t even see much less smile, and all you seem to do is pee and poop all over the place.

Having you has changed everything. Before you came, I could spend the whole day shopping, but now I’m in the grocery barely an hour and am already rushing home, worried that you’ve woken up or been throwing your infamous tantrum or have finished the breast milk I expressed. I used to carry eensy–weensy purses that carry my money, cellphone and glasses, which I now put in the pockets of your mammoth baby bag filled with a dozen diapers and everything from a Winnie the Pooh sweater to a plastic changing mat. When it was just your Daddy and me, we would spend our weekends out of the house, sometimes out of town, and planning to travel to farther places, but now we’re happy just being with you, just being a family together. Before, no work meant sleeping uninterrupted till noon, but now, work or no work, I seem to sleep with only one eye closed, with the other eye looking out for your every little stir and grimace as you sleep. Before, my life was all about Oprah’s Book Club novels, HBO movies, eating out and going to the gym; now it’s all about immunization schedules, Osh Kosh baby shirts, educational toys and monitoring your weight gain.

It breaks my heart just thinking of being away from you. Who will pick you up from your hammock and hug you tight when you wake up from a bad dream? Who will wipe your little eyebrows with baby oil so they don’t dry up? Who will make sure that you are smothered with love and care and lots of kisses? God knows, I’d rather change your stinky diaper than draft a stupid legal advice to some foreigner who wants to buy land in the Philippines or something. I hope that in your little heart you know that this is all for you, so I can give you the best that the world can offer you, even a Harvard education, if that’s what you want. I pray that God watch over you when I’m not looking and that He make you feel safe and comfortable while I’m away. And I wish, as you grow up, you will always feel how I love you so, and no matter how old you get, you will be always be my little baby.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Epic Struggle

Ches and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary this week. That's eight years, plus the seven years we went out together before we got married, plus three more years as friends before we started going out. A grand total of 18 years. More than half our lives. Not bad, huh.

Even I am amazed that we've come this far. Ours was not really what you would call a case of love at first sight. He was just one of the boys in my freshman class in UP, and then we became buddies, and then best friends. Even when he became my boyfriend I wasn't really thinking about serious stuff like marriage or family or whatever; I was just enjoying the moment. Of course, after we had been together for five years or so, and we had already graduated from school and started working, then I began dropping subtle hints/blatant threats that he better marry me soon or else ...Hahaha. What's that cheesy line in which movie? 'When you find someone whom you know you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to begin as soon as possible'. Something like that.

I usually try to be self-deprecating (that is, if I'm not in my usual bragging, bumubuhat ng sariling bangko mode), but our marriage is something I am truly proud of. It's not perfect (I mean, Ches could've been a little bit taller so I wouldn't feel off standing beside him in my usual heels or wedges) and it's not always easy (especially when it's way past midnight and we have to get up early for work the following day but the boys are still jumping on the bed and no form of child abuse is capable of ever stopping them). But for the most part, it has been the epitome of wedded bliss.

Most everybody says so, modesty aside. They ask, what's your secret? And I usually give a flippant answer like, It's the sex. Or something along those lines. But seriously, I think the secret is that we are both so easy to please. It was never really part of our plans to get filthy rich or move up to the highest rung of the corporate ladder or raise super achiever kids. We are both already overjoyed that our kids are healthy and happy and we have food on the table and decent clothes to wear and a home to call our own. That we have extra left over to eat out and travel and buy books and stuff are big bonuses. I guess we both realize how blessed we have been in the things that really matter. Which is why we hardly fight anymore. I mean, to still be fighting it up despite all that we have would be downright ungrateful and tempting fate.

It's also a major factor that we have the same priorities. One word: family. Hence, he left his beloved job of 7 years in PMS for a job that's higher paying and doesn't require him to work nights and weekends. Hence, I am in my second job in just a little over a year (not to mention the second major paycut in my career), because it's a lot closer to home and promised an 8 to 5 working hour. Hence, we don't do the night life except on some Fridays or so, and mostly that's spent hanging out at home with friends. Hence, our weekends are strictly for the boys. Hence, Beijing was our first trip with just each other after all these years of being together.

Oh but we do invest in our marriage and find the time to just be with each other. And when there's just no time – what with our full-time jobs and the boys' perennial craving for attention and in my case running a household – well, we just have to make the time. It doesn't have to be anything grand. A quiet dinner always does the trick, or watching some silly movie after the boys fall asleep. It could be something truly exciting like me bitching about something or someone while he sits there trying to nod in all the right places. Or something as simple as holding hands in the car going somewhere.

While we essentially have the same values and passions and interests, we are also opposites in many ways. I think this makes our relationship so much more exciting. He is peace-loving, forgiving, and patient – I am admittedly maaway and vindictive and I don't believe that patience should even be considered a virtue. He is simple and practical and is just forever happy with his old shirts and shoes and whatever until I get him new ones – I am shallow and materialistic and have this pathological disability where I pass by shops and the clothes and stuff call my name out and I just can't resist and end up buying them all. He keeps quiet when he has nothing nice to say about something – I lose sleep until I can give someone a piece of my mind and derive perverse pleasure out of being brutal. There has never been any question of who the better person is between us. It's no wonder Nico proclaimed way back in college that if Ches and I ever break up, it will without a doubt be my fault. And when I was pregnant with Yoshi, Rhoel said he can take after me in everything 'basta kay Ches lang yung ugali'. (Groan. I have such good friends, I know.)

A friend asked us if we were still each other's crushes. Ches and I had the same answer: we were never each other's crushes bcoz we were friends to begin with. But the beauty of being married is, you find new things to love in each other all the time, things you would never have expected before you get married or have a family. For example, I fall in love with Ches all over again every time I see him being so hands-on and patient and over all so good with the boys. I'd like to believe he has also found some new things to fall in love with me for. Even if it's only the Captiva that I got him from out of my new job. Ha ha ha.

For me, our greatest luck lies in being able to remain best friends after all these years. Ches is still the one person I can't wait to talk to when something happy or sad or crazy happens in my life. It's like any idea I get is not even an idea until I share it with him. Ches is still the one person I look forward to seeing every morning and at the end of every day. Ches will always be that one person who I know will kill tigers for me and give me long, tight hugs no matter how old or ugly or heinously bitchy I get.

I liked this cartoon in the Inquirer sometime back. Megan the whale was helping a shrimp get out of a net it got caught in. Her hubby Sherman asked her why she was doing that when they eat these shrimps. And Megan answered something like, In the epic struggle between marine life and man, we side with our own kind. Sherman says, You've always been a sucker for epic struggles. And she retorts, Hence, I married you.

I tell Ches about it and joke that I can so relate. But the truth of the matter is, he's the epic minus all the struggles.