Tuesday, December 30, 2014

NYT NYT, MATEY!

I wish I could say that our journey to sleeping through the night was a walk in the park, but it definitely wasn't. Vince and I had more than our fair share of first-time parents sleepless nights. Vonn Kaleb was a very fussy baby and a light sleeper like his father. For the longest time, we went nights after nights of waking up just a couple of hours into sleep with Vonn Kaleb crying and fussing, wanting to be comforted, and taking forever to go back to sleep, only to wake up again after a short while, and the viscious cycle repeats again. Vince and I were like zombies walking dead during the day. We were the epitome of sleep-deprived parents. Vonn Kaleb was the poster child for colic babies.

Vonn Kaleb was around 9 months old when we moved to our current house. That was when I told Vince that I'm putting Vonn Kaleb in his own room. He slept in his crib in the same room with us up until that time. Since then, he has been sleeping in his own room. It helped us to finally get more sleep at night but it wasn't an easy transition either. He really didn't sleep through the night until probably around 14 months but even still there are times when he still cries and calls for attention in unholy hours of the night. After we came back from our recent Caribbean vacation, we noticed a big improvement in his bedtime routine, in that it's now a lot easier to put him to bed. Less resistance, less rocking, less "sleep fighting." And yes, less waking up too = more sleep for all of us! Hoorah!

Since he's turning 2 soon, we decided to transition him to a big boy bed. I was thinking of getting him a regular-and-nothing-fancy toddler bed but his dad got all excited and went all out and bought him a pirate ship bed. Ahoy, matey!

Vonn Kaleb had fun while we were assembling the pirate ship bed ;) He probably thought it was a big toy we were putting together. Hehe! Most importantly, I really wasn't expecting the transition from crib to bed to be easy, but surprisingly, it was. He has been doing so well sleeping in his big boy bed, which means Vince and me have been getting more than 40 winks in the comfort of our king bed :)

There's really no stopping Vonn Kaleb from growing. He graduated from the crib and has now moved up to a toddler bed. I understand that not all kids mature at the same phase, with some advancing faster and others who take their time to eventually catch up #latebloomers. For us who came far to achieving a sleep-through-the-night status, this is an accomplishment we are happy and proud of. Each step towards independence albeit how little they may appear to others, like weaning off the bottle and transitioning to sippy cup or learning to use the fork to feed himself, these are triumphs that we celebrate in our family. In the short time that I've been a parent, I have learned that parenthood is anything but easy and those benchmarks and milestones make it more rewarding and worth it :) Having said that, I'll sign off using a very appropriate parenting remark from my husband, "Sulit na. Hindi ka naman lugi." ☺☻

Monday, December 8, 2014

TURNING 2 SOON - KEEPING TRACK OF DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES

Vonn Kaleb is turning 2 in a few months. Already?! It seems like it was only last week when I gave birth, three days ago when I had a newborn, the other day when I had an infant, and yesterday when I baked his 1st birthday cake... and now a toddler onto his terrible 2s?! Gosh, where did the time go?

Anyway, I thought I'd check which milestones my precious son has reached so far, and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here is what most babies do at 2 years of age (please bear in mind that Vonn Kaleb is only 21 months at the time of writing):

SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL

✔ Copies others, especially adults and older children

✔ Gets excited when with other children - *Not so much, but his social skills have improved a lot since we came back from our recent vacation in October.

✔ Shows more and more independence

✔✔✔ Shows defiant behavior (doing what he has been told not to) - *Amen! Preach on, brother! Vonn Kaleb has actually been showing defiant behavior for a while now... #terrible2

✔ Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games - *He does parallel play with other children, and like I've mentioned above, there really has been a noticeable improvement in his social skills that even other people took note of it. I have yet to see him play "chase games" with other kids, but he is starting to be more interactive now with other children in a playgroup setting.


LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION

✔ Points to things or pictures when they are named - *He's been very good at this, and he just keeps on getting better and better, and his vocabulary is growing each day.

✔ Knows names of familiar people and body parts - *He can now say "mommy." Finally! The way he says it is kinda funny and cute at the same time because his pronunciation of 'M' is 'B' (and this is for most of the M words he could say.) So "moo" is "boo", "me" is "be", and "mommy" sounds like "bombby" - yeah, there's a hint of M somewhere in there but the more prominent letter you'll hear is B. Interestingly though, he can say "ma" but for actual words beginning with the letter M, he pronounces B instead. Hmmm...*

X in box symbol Says sentences with 2 to 4 words - *Although his comprehension is very good and bilingual I should say, his speech is somewhat behind. That kinda' get me concerned, so I spoke to a pediatrician I know and she advised me to wait and see until Vonn Kaleb is 2 years and 2 months. She told me that some boys just take their time and most of them they catch up - and this is also what my husband has been telling me. She told us that what she tells her patients is that if by 2 years and 2 months, if the child was still not talking as he was supposed to, then that's the time to consider evaluation and speech therapy. Since I was being antsy and anxiously worried by the delay in Vonn Kaleb's speech, Vince and I agreed to give him until 21 months, and seek help if he's still not talking at that time. Guess what, he started saying "daddy" and "baby" very clearly at 21 months! Well now he's still "bulol" (sorry can't find the exact translation of this Filipino word in English) and does not pronounce all the sounds/letters of words - like "moon" is "boo", "car" is "ca", "chips" is "chi", "chocolates" is "cho", "spoon" is "poo", "sky" is "ky", and so on, but what he used to say as "baba" for "bye bye" is now really "bye bye" and same goes for "hi." There are words which he enunciate very well like "go", "daddy", "baby", "puppy", "key," etc.

✔ Follows simple instructions - *He has been very good at this... and in two languages - Filipino and English.

✔ Repeats words overheard in conversation

✔ Points to things in a book


COGNITIVE (LEARNING, THINKING, PROBLEM SOLVING)

✔ Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers

✔ Begins to sort shapes and colors - *Shapes, yes. Colors, hmmm... I haven't really paid attention if Vonn Kaleb has started sorting them - this is a homework for me.

✔ Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books - *This is our new hobby and source of entertainment. Hehe! He's very, very good at this, and Vince and I are so proud of our son. Like I said, Vonn Kaleb is still "bulol," but regardless, oh boy, he does know how to complete sentences, rhymes and songs. He can even recite the alphabet on his own with some cues and help from us, despite his delayed language skill. We're impressed with how awesome he is at this. ☻

✔ Plays simple make-believe games

✔ Builds towers of 4 or more blocks - *There are blocks everywhere in our house now.

??? Might use one hand more than the other - *He hasn't shown particular hand dominance yet, although when he was younger, he used his left hand more than the right. There's a lot of lefties in my side of the family (my father and two aunts are, and a number of our cousins, too), and my mom-in-law is ambidextrous, so we'll see ;) Me and Vince are both righties by the way.

✔ Follows two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.” - *Like I noted above, Vonn Kaleb has been very good at this - and in two languages.

✔ Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog - *He can recognize and identify all the letters of the alphabet as well as numbers 1 to 5. 


MOVEMENT/PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

✔ Stands on tiptoe - *We really never encountered a problem with his motor skills. In fact, his motor skills develop quite advance for his age. He took his first baby steps at 11 months, and the funny thing with the way he walks is that he walks on tiptoes. Hehe! He was a "bear crawler" - he used his hands and feet (instead of knees) to crawl - so we called it the "Spiderman crawl." He runs more than he walks - and he is always running fast... like 60 mph or something like that. LOL.

✔ Kicks a ball - *He started doing this shortly after he turned 1. He has very good visual motor skills and coordination.

✔ Begins to run - *See note above ☻

✔ Climbs onto and down from furniture without help - *He has transitioned into a toddler bed now. Yay! Mind you, not just an ordinary toddler bed, but a pirate ship bed complete with mast and canon and lights and secret treasure compartment and all that. Hehe!

✔ Walks up and down stairs holding on

✔ Throws ball overhand - *See note above regarding "kicks a ball." Same goes here.

X in box symbol Makes or copies straight lines and circles - *He does makes curvy lines with crayons but I have yet to see him actually write straight lines and circles.



Based on the above checklist, Vonn Kaleb seems to be on track with his developmental milestones. Other than his delayed speech, overall, it appears he is developing age appropriately. As I said, he is only 21 months at the time. Hopefully, by 24 months, he'd be talking two-word sentences, and at 3, he'd be fully caught up with his speech and social skills ☻ Regardless, I'm always so proud of my boy, and he makes me one very blessed momma! I love you, Vonn Kaleb ♥

Thursday, December 4, 2014

VINCE'S INTERVIEW WITH FOX NEWS

Vince is now a TV star. Or so we joke. Hehe! He very recently was interviewed by our local Fox News regarding one of the most talked about topics during cold season, that is the flu vaccine. He didn't say yes right away when they asked him if he's okay to do the interview. He said that he'd talk to me about it first. When I asked him why the hesitation, he told me "he's shy".  *Totosh!  Well, he has done a couple of interviews for our local radio station, and every now and then, he does lectures for a good number of people, so there was no doubt in my mind that he'd do just great on TV.

Anyway, Vince did the interview, and it was aired on TV the day after. When I saw it, I thought, hmmm... he sounded legit, LOL!  Kidding aside, I'm one very proud wifey here. Why wouldn't I be? He looked really handsome on screen -- uyyyy, telegenic ☻ His suit and tie complemented his looks -- ♥kilig! He was very articulate (as always) and spoke with authority and credibility regarding the topic at hand. I have to mention here that he wasn't given the questions pre-interview, so he was basically answering them on the spot (*lunok*). When they were done, the interviewer commended him for being a "natural." Apparently, some of the doctors they have interviewed needed cue cards, whereas Vince breezed through it like a pro ;) Yap, that's my husband right there ☺ 


Okay, enough talk now. I'm starting to steal my husband's thunder. Hehe! This is his moment, and so allow me to share to you a clip of his interview:


video

So, whatchathink? ;) #proudwife

*PS: Totosh is our family's very own signature one-word expression and often used when we tease each other or when Vonn Kaleb is being adorably and irresistibly cute! ☺ I wish you could hear how we say it. Totosh!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

BLISSFUL AND BLESSED FOUR YEARS TO US!

#throwback
Engagement Photo Shoot - Oct 2010
Four years have passed since Vince and I walked down the aisle on a whim. Ours was not a whirlwind romance but our trip to the altar was a little rushed. We were in a long distance relationship and the physical separation was getting harder with each "goodbye, see you again, my love," no matter how frequent our visitations were. We both knew that we were going to marry each other and it was just a matter of when. So one time over our daily Skype dates, and this was after a few days of our engagement, we randomly decided, "Tara, pakasal na nga tayo!" Our plan was to civil wed, file for my J2 visa, then move to the US to be together. However, God's hand allowed us to get married in church despite the lack of time (28 days after engagement) and resources, and that was a wonderful blessing we both will never forget. We got married in late October and by early January, I moved to Pennsylvania to be with my beloved husband. When people asked us then why we hurried into getting married, we would joke and say, "Napagod na kasi si Vince mag-drive."

Fast forward to now, we celebrated our anniversary last month in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This was the second of our two-part Caribbean holiday, the first one being in Mexico to celebrate Vince's birthday the week prior. We didn't have any plans other than having a babysitter for Vonn Kaleb, so that we could have alone time together at the resort. You know, do regular stuff, like maybe eat, swim and talk, and be a childless couple even for just a couple of hours. Things happened so spontaneously though that our supposed to be simple anniversary celebration turned into a sweet and special two-day event, really worthwhile and memorable:

1. We biked around the resort's bumpy cobblestone and paved paths. We had sore bottoms afterwards but we had fun! ☺️

2. We kayaked on the wavy waters of Atlantic Ocean. The waves were so strong, we got knocked off a couple of times, and our camera fell in the water! We almost lost all of our vacation pictures but the kayak staff who was helping us fortunately found it. We kayaked and rolled with the waves until we both felt a little seasick.

3. We had a very relaxing couples massage. I was really glad that it finally happened as I had been wanting Vince and I to get massage together for the longest time. It was his first time and he was very satisfied with it. He was "oooohing" and "aaaahing" a few minutes into the massage. Hehe!

4. We played beach volleyball under the scorching heat. I just realized now that volleyball was a significant part of our love story ☺️ so it was just appropriate that we did that.

5. We enjoyed a romantic dinner at the beach under the stars ♥ I will tell more of this in a separate post (or two) and will share lotsa lotsa pictures ☺

6. A surprise bubble bath was waiting for us in our suite. Another hopeless romantic must! I will share details and pictures in a separate post.

I'm so thankful I married my best friend, my one and only soulmate, the love of my life, the awe to my some, the beat in my heart. Vince, there's no one else I'd rather have as a partner in life than you. You're one of God's greatest blessings to me. Every day with you is a celebration of happiness and love, and I'm looking forward to four scores and forevermore with you. I love you. ♥

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE MARVELOUS CHICHEN ITZA

One of the highlights in our recent Mexico vacation was our trip to Chichen Itza. It was memorable to me for several reasons:



1.  I had always wanted to see a Mayan ruin. From the moment I first saw a picture of a Mayan step pyramid in my high school history book, I was fascinated by it. After seeing Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, it went straight to my bucket list.

2.  We stayed in Cancun, Mexico, which is about two to two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chichen Itza. Going there by a tour bus would've been our best bet IF we didn't have Vonn Kaleb. Bus tours leave sooooo early, and having a toddler who loves to sleep in like her mother, there was no way we could get our arse out of bed by 7:00 a.m. So, that left us with our only other option, which is to drive ourselves there. Yay! (or more like nay???)


3.  With a little prodding, I was able to convince Vince to rent a car and drive ourselves to the famous tourist attraction. The first challenge we encountered in this plan was the rental car associate who was no habla Ingles. Oh dear! We wanted to rent a car with a car seat but language got in the way, and so we had to wait another day for an English-speaking associate to assist us.


4.  Car seat - check! Rental car - check! GPS - uh oh! Nada. Although the resort staff and the rental car associates were very helpful in giving us directions and were confident in saying that it's very easy to go to Chichen Itza, we definitely needed a GPS. Going from the resort to Chichen Itza was a no brainer. Vince drove while I sat at the backseat with senyorito Vonn Kaleb -- I was paranoid that the car seat would malfunction. Vince really didn't need any help navigating our way to Chichen Itza - it was pretty straightforward.  We took the scenic route as per the rental car associate's advice. There weren't a lot of cars taking the "scenic route" -- which could either be a good thing or a really BAD thing -- but anyway, it was a safe route and led us to our destination as it was supposed to. While driving, we entertained ourselves by once again pretending that the Valencias habla Espanyol. Hehe!


5.  So, when I said above that we definitely needed a GPS, you probably figured it out already that we did get lost. Yup, going back to our resort from Chichen Itza, what was supposed to be a two-and-a-half-hour drive at the most, it took us a couple of extra hours more. Oh Dios mio! First off, it was raining crazy -- thunderstorm, zero visibility, the like that reminded me of Philippines and made me want to shout, "Delubyo!" We drove inter-barrio on the way home, where I saw small houses and sari-sari stores that were (once again) reminiscent of Philippines.  Amidst the heavy rain, Vince drove steadily. We passed by barrios after barrios until we were back on the road leading to Cancun. We took the exit to Cancun, and by that time, it was already starting to get dark.


6.  I remember seeing a mall on our way to Chichen Itza earlier, so I asked Vince if he would like to check out the mall and grab dinner there. Might as well since we're not returning the car until the day after anyway. So he drove and drove to what we thought was headed to downtown Cancun, but the next thing we knew, we were getting deeper and deeper into the city without any sign of the mall nor our resort (or any resort)!


7.  It was getting late already. Vonn Kaleb had not had any real food yet. He had been sitting in the car for almost four hours already, so he was getting bored and antsy and starting to be really fussy that time. The maps we had on hand weren't very accurate, so Vince thought it best to ask people for directions. We saw a car dealership and so we stopped to ask. No luck for us, however, because the people at the dealership did not speak English. We tried to ask at the gas station when we gassed up, and as expected, we once again were lost in translation. Oh jeez! We were starting to get worried, so I turned to my last resort, Siri. Guess what, she wasn't very helpful either :( We were driving around in circles, trying to put together bits and pieces of English direction we were able to gather from the people we had asked, until we saw a road sign that pointed to where the resorts are. We were finally able to breathe!  It was already dark and still raining, and some motorists were not very cautious, so when we started seeing resorts we were familiar with, we were so relieved.


8.  Eventually, we reached our resort.  I was really grateful to God for his protection and travelling mercies and for bringing us back to our hotel safe and unscathed. Whew! We were very proud of Vonn Kaleb for being the trooper he was. He held on and cooperated and behaved himself very well the entire time we were lost. I am so thankful to my husband for being courageous enough to step out of his comfort zone and obliged wholeheartedly to do that road trip, albeit his reasonable apprehensions and fears. If it wasn't for him, we would've missed out on that chance to see one of the seven wonders of the modern world. A big hooray for team Valencia! Woohoo!


Anywayz, now that I've finished outlining why our Chichen Itza trip was memorable to me, I think it's high time to share pictures of the astounding Mayan ruins, right? ;)














This mango smoothie was a lifesaver. It kept Vonn Kaleb hydrated during our drive back to the resort!

To read about Chichen Itza, here's the Wikipedia link:  Chichen Itza

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HOLA, ADIOS AND GRACIAS, CANCUN!

Our family of three (or two-and-a-half as we always say) intended to do a two-week trip to London and Europe, but lo and behold, we ended up once again in the Caribbean!

First stop was Cancun, Mexico. Actually, scratch that. First stop was Disney World. We flew from Orlando, and coincidentally, a dear friend of mine gave us free tickets to the park, so it made perfect sense for us to do a pit stop in Magic Kingdom before we arriba-ed to Mexico.

In Mexico, we stayed in Club Med Yucatan, an all inclusive and kid friendly resort. We chose this resort because it always came up as one of the top 10 kid friendly vacation spots when we did our online research. Now that we have Vonn Kaleb in tow, the first thing we look for in a vacation spot is, you know, if there's something for him to do there. Although unlike other Club Med resorts where they have daycare facilities for babies his age, the one in Yucatan doesn't have one. They have Kids Clubs ranging from 2 years up, and Teens Club, both of which Vonn Kaleb obviously did not qualify for. However, they do have a baby welcome center which provided in-room crib, stroller, bottle warmer and baby tub, and the main restaurant served baby foods and provided baby food makers, microwave, and bottle sterilizer should guests need them. We're at the toddler stage where feeding could get pretty challenging and so having baby food in the buffet restaurant was a lifesaver.

Anyway, here are the highlights of our trip:

1. Crocodile sighting at the beach. Big guy was lost and headed towards the shore. Good thing he changed his mind before he reached the guests.

2. Road trip to Chichen Itza. We drove and we got lost but we found our way back. Thank God! A 20-month-old who had been sitting in the car for about four hours, iPhone map that didn't have info for Mexico, Mexicans who hardly speak English, us who hardly speak Spanish, thunderstorm, zero visibility driving inter-barrios...whew! The car rental gave us fair warnings regarding driving in Mexico, so when we finally got back safe at our hotel at around 8:00 pm, we were mightily relieved. The experience was well worth it though, and more importantly, we had fun. Vince was thankful I motivated and encouraged him to drive. I was thankful that Vince stepped outside his comfort zone within reasonable limits and agreed to drive to Chichen Itza. The Mayan structures were marvelously amazing. No wonder Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. This deserves a separate blog post and I will share pictures... lots of them! ;) Bucket list item crossed off!

3. Pretending that Vincent and I habla Español. We conjured the craziest, silliest, most ridiculous pretend Spanish phrases and sentences, it cracked me up darn good. LOL! ROFL! This is my most favorite memory of our Cancun trip :)

4. Thunderstorm almost every day we were there. We had one bright sunshine-y day and that was the day before we left. Boo! We hardly had the chance to swim, so I pretty much just ate, ate and ate  I may have to diet and bootcamp myself to skinny now that our two-week Carribean all inclusive vacations are over. 

5. Authentic Mariachi over dinner. I wish I understood the lyrics but the mere fact that I was in Mexico listening to a Mariachi band was enough happy thought to cherish. Needless to say, another bucket list item checked off.

6. During dinners, Club Med guest relation officers join guests to eat and mingle with them. So when a Mexican guest officer sat with me at dinner one time, I gave him some witty remarks he surely won't forget. Haha! He told me he wants to travel to New Zealand, Bora Bora, and Philippines. I told him that if and when he visits the Philippines, don't say nothing about Manny Pacquiao. Hehe! That, and that how we were once hit by Thalia of Marimar and Maria del Barrio fever. He was entertained by me rather than the other way around. On a more serious note, I recommended Boracay and Puerto Princessa to him ;) #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines

7. Feliz cumpleaños, Vince! My husband celebrated his nth birthday on our last night in Mexico. I feel really bad and guilty for not having planned anything on his special day :( We didn't even have dinner together then. We had to take turns eating because our senyorito Vonn Kaleb had countless early terrible 2 moments during our holiday. I know that Vince felt that our holiday itself (and shopping spree later when we got back) was suffice but still, I should've done something other than that. Sigh! Oh well,  I'll make it up next time... pinky promise!

By the way, the reason why our London and Europe trip did not push through was no other than our precious little boy. My in-laws went there in September and they gave us the advice that we may want to hold off our plans because apparently London, Paris and Rome are not very kid friendly. The flight to London alone may be too exhausting for Vonn Kaleb and we didn't want to risk him getting sick while we're there. So our Caribbean trips were literally last minute but I'm really glad we pulled it off and we had a memorable family time. We're all getting better at this traveling-with-a-child thing especially Vonn Kaleb whom at his very young age is proving himself to be a trooper like his parents ;) Of course, we're so thankful for God's traveling mercies and protection all the time. We sometimes do get adventurous when we travel but God has always kept us safe and sane, and has allowed us to enjoy and spend quality family time during our vacations.

So that's about it for now. I'll make separate blog posts to share pictures from our vacation and I'll explain more in detail our two-week holiday in future posts :) Until then, vamos Taquitos and hasta la vista, baby ;)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE LIGHTNING THIEF: PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS

Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy who seems to be always in trouble at school. He has dyslexia and ADHD, and he has been in six different schools within six years. Once while on a class field trip, he had a very strange experience. His pre-Algebra teacher, Mrs. Dodds, turned into a winged lady and attacked him inside a museum, but thanks to his Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner, who came to his help. Percy ended up accidentally vaporizing Mrs. Dodds with a sword-transforming pen courtesy of Mr. Brunner. It became more strange when after what happened, no one from his class apparently knows or remembers Mrs. Dodds - not even his bestfriend, Grover, nor Mr. Brunner himself. Percy was almost convinced that he had just imagined Mrs. Dodds and what had happened at the museum that day, but when he overhears Mr. Brunner and Grover talking about The Kindly Ones and something that was stolen and needs to be returned by summer solstice, that's when he knew that all that had happened was indeed real. What Percy didn't expect to know following that encounter is that he is a demigod - a half-blood - a hero, and Mrs. Dodds is just the first of the many monsters he is destined to face and that the fate of an impending World War III depends on him and his quest to retrieve Zeus' lightning bolt.

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I decided to take a short break from the crime/thriller genre, and add variety to my reading scope. I chose to go the fantasy route and embark on a journey with Rick Riordan's famous hero, Percy Jackson.

The Lightning Thief is the first in the five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Readers who are into mythology will definitely enjoy this book. I thought my scant knowledge of Greek gods and godesses and their entangled mythical affairs would make it hard for me to follow the story, however, that was not the case. Mr. Riordan made it a point to always give descriptions and background details whenever a mythological character is presented in the story, which I found very helpful in appreciating and understanding the characters. I know that some people find mythology boring but this book has enough story in it to be far from boring. Being adolescents and young adults as main target readers of this book, the author's writing style makes this book an easy read and overall wholesome. I like the humor interjected every now and then in the story especially the chapter titles. I also like how the author depicted Greek mythology in a modern setting making it more relatable for young readers. I have to say though that I was a little disappointed when one of the key points in this book turned out to be quite predictable (at least for me). At one point in the story, Percy Jackson was told of his future by the Oracle. I believe the intention was for the oracle to be elusive and to add suspense particularly to its ending, however, I think it didn't have enough mystery component in it. It didn't take me far in the book to figure out and decipher the oracle, so the ending was kind of a little ruined for me that way. Nevertheless, I still believe it is a good book and I'd surely recommend it.

Below are a few excerpts:

"They're --- myths, to explain lightning and the seasons and stuff. They're what people believed before there was science."

"Science!" Mr. D scoffed. "And tell me, Perseus Jackson"—I flinched when he said my real name, which I never told anybody—"what will people think of your 'science' two thousand years from now?" Mr. D continued. "Hmm? They will call it primitive mumbo jumbo. That's what. Oh, I love mortals—they have absolutely no sense of perspective. They think they've come so-o-o far. And have they, Chiron? Look at this boy and tell me."

"Exactly," Chiron agreed. "If you were a god, how would you like being called a myth, an old story to explain lightning? What if I told you, Perseus Jackson, that someday people would call you a myth, just created to explain how little boys can get over losing their mothers?"

"I gained much from that wish ... and I gave up much. But I'm still here, so I can only assume I'm still needed."

"We were three adolescents hanging out at a car wash without a car; any cop worth his doughnuts would figure we were up to no good."

"The dead aren't scary. They're just sad."

"I was also barefoot, because I'd given my shoes to Grover. Better the Coast Guard wonder why one of us was barefoot than wonder why one of us had hooves."

"It's funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality." 

"He was reading a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front. I wasn't much into fantasy, but the book must've been good, because the guard took a while to look up."

"A steely look of anger flared in my mother's eyes, and I thought, just maybe, I was leaving her in good hands after all. Her own."

"The real world is where the monsters are. That's where you learn whether you're any good or not."

"All the heroics—being pawns of the gods. They should've been overthrown thousands of years ago, but they've hung on, thanks to us half-bloods."

"I won't go looking for trouble. I usually don't have to."

"The sea does not like to be restrained."

When I was reading The Lightning Thief, certain parts reminded me of the Harry Potter series. Even Rick Riordan made a reference to a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front -- ehem! I know it's not fair to compare Percy Jackson with The Boy Who Lived but JK Rowling set quite a standard in terms of fantasy fiction. Ms. Rowlings' Harry Potter series pushed my imagination to a different level, and tickled and played with my senses throughout. Unfortunately, Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief failed to induce in me that kind of reading euphoria. I did enjoy The Lightning Thief, please don't get me wrong, but I honestly don't think I'll read it once again, as opposed to the Harry Potter series which I read more than twice - some of the books I read three times! Also, I remember being hardly able to wait for the next book after finishing one in the Harry Potter series. However, with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, eeehhh, not so much. Although I definitely would still love to read the rest of the books. I give Rick Riordan the credit for adding a modern twist to Greek mythology to create a story, entertaining and apt for young readers, however, overall The Lightning Thief is still lackluster when compared to Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. With that said and JK Rowling fangirl aside, I give The Lightning Thief 3.75 stars. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

TELL ME YOUR DREAMS

Ashley Patterson is an attractive yet introvert lady in her late 20s. Toni Prescott is an outgoing lady who loves to dance and sing. She also loves spending her private time chatting in the Internet. She is six years younger than Ashley and she is of English descent. Alette Peters, the youngest of the three, is of Italian descent and has a very good talent in painting. They all work in a computer graphic company in Silicon Valley, but they do not get along well because of their differences. Toni despises Ashley for being "Miss Goody Two Shoes" but mingles with Alette as Toni somehow enjoys Alette's calm attitude. When a series of murders happened involving male victims who were brutally killed and castrated, all three ladies become suspects. The ensuing investigation and trial led to shocking revelations tying these three unique characters and eventually bringing them together.

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Years ago when I read Sidney Sheldon's Master of The Game, I concluded that was my favorite of his books by far. Now that I've read Tell Me Your Dreams, I'm torn!

>>SPOILER ALERT<< If like me, you were fascinated by John Cusack's movie, Identity, then you'll flip over Tell Me Your Dreams as well. I love how fast paced the story is and quickly develops into ultimately revealing that Ashley Patterson is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, and Toni Prescott and Alette Peters are her alters. It's smart of the author to only reveal Toni's real name, Antoinette, later in the book when a psychiatrist was explaining that alters usually take a pattern, and in Ashley's case, she and her alters share the same initials, AP. I like that part in an early chapter when Alette says an exact line which Ashley also said in the beginning of the book. Although that was a key clue to where the story was going, the following chapters remained to be interesting and intriguing keeping the suspense all throughout. And when I said, all throughout, I meant like up till the last page! My jaw fell on the floor when I finished the book. Have you seen Leonardo di Caprio's movie, Inception? You know that last scene when he twirled his totem object which left viewers' mouth gaping and then debating whether the totem did stop or not? Same feeling you'll get with Tell Me Your Dreams. You could formulate as much as you'd want with how you'd like the story to end but the never ending what if's would never satisfy your curiousity. Sometimes open endings are annoying but sometimes they can be hauntingly beautiful, and Tell Me Your Dreams is one of the latter. Oh, the mystery of unknown!

Let's look at excerpts from the book:

"There's something you're going to learn about me, honey. I don't give up. Ever."

"How does it feel to have a famous father?"

"She had forgotten how savage her father's temper was. He had once punched an intern during an operation for making an error in judgment."

"...but try as she might, Ashley could not remember what it was. She had blocked it from her mind."

"I hate cold weather. Even with gloves, my fingers get numb."

"Toni thought about the terrible accident in which her mother had died. Toni could still hear her screams for help. The memory of it made Toni smile."

"She could see colors, smell colors and hear colors. Her father's voice was blue and sometimes red. Her mother's voice was dark brown. Her teacher's voice was yellow. The grocer's voice was purple. The sound of the wind in the trees was green. The sound of the running water was gray."

"She could  be plain-looking, attractive or stunningly beautiful, depending on her mood or how she was feeling about herself. But she was never simply pretty. Part of her charm was that she was completely unaware of her looks."

"Toni had a solution for everything, and it was usually: 'Let's go and have some fun.'"

"The only thing that solved her happiness was the knowledge that the darkness would come down on her again, and she would be lost in it."

"...buying things they would have no use for the next day."

"The past is the past."

"Hometowns were supposed to look smaller when a native returned years later..."

"It was amazing how much people could change in ten years. They were fatter and thinner... prosperous and downtrodden. They were married and divorced... parents and parentless..."

"...a virago with a tongue sharp enough to fell the forests of Oregon."

"...when a murder goes unsolved, I don't think it means that criminals were that smart. I think it means that the police weren't smart enough."

"'Of course, I will. We'll go out and celebrate.' And the words reverberated in his mind. Years ago, he had said to someone else, 'We'll go out and celebrate.' And he had killed her."

"It's a condition where there are several completely different personalities in one body. It's also known as dissociative identity disorder. It's been in the psychiatric literature for more than two hundred years. It usually starts because of a childhood trauma. The victim shuts out the trauma by creating another identity. Sometimes a person will have dozens of different personalities or alters."

"Alters are created because the host can't stand the pain of the trauma. It's a way of escape. Every time a fresh shock occurs, a new alter can be born. The psychiatric literature on the subject shows that alters can be totally different from one another. Some alters are stupid, while others are brilliant. They can speak different languages. The have varied tastes and personalities."

"What idiot said that pregnant women weren't beautiful?"

"They made an unlikely couple, but the marriage worked because they were deeply in love with each other."

Sidney Sheldon is one brilliant author. He captivates his readers with his genius and his books are really hard to put down. You have to be prepared with the roller coaster ride you've put yourself into once you start reading his book. The unpredictable loops and twists are jaw dropping and stomach turning. Just one bravo after another - that's the kind of author he was. That being said, I rate this book 4.5 stars, with half-point deduction once again for very few typo errors.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

ME AND MY TODDLER'S FIRST COLORING SESSION

I recently introduced my 19-month-old son to crayons. When I first showed him how to use a crayon, on a piece of paper I drew shapes of circle, square, triangle and star, which I then colored one by one as I say the name of the shapes. I'm surprised as to how fast he picked that up and I honestly did not expect that, so that makes me one proud momma of a little boy who now knows his basic shapes. Yay! *feeling achieved*

I've actually been contemplating of homeschooling my son for pre-school, and who knows, maybe even all the way depending how we both do. I started looking up homeschooling curriculum and materials, and in my search, I found an arts and crafts book meant for toddlers age 18 to 24 months. I bought the book and we tried coloring a couple of pictures from it. After a few attempts to familiarize him, it seems to me that he is still very young to appreciate crayons and what they're supposed to do, (and I honestly think that he's too cute to comprehend yet why I say repeatedly, "Crayons go on papers only - not on walls, carpets, floors, or anywhere else!). He showed some interest in the beginning but later on he just wanted to go back playing with his toys. Talking about children having very short attention span! I feel though that the arts and crafts book is a good start for both of us especially that I'm really considering homeschooling him in the future. Right now, I decided to put our arts and crafts sessions on hold until he's probably a little older, like when he's 2 maybe, and hopefully, his young mind will have a better grasp of it by then.

Anyway, I just want to share here photos I took from our coloring session. As I said, he was so eager to go back playing with his toys when we finished coloring. It was so hard to keep him still for pictures, so I was able to take only a couple of good pics.

I'm very proud of you, my son! :)
Pretending to color, and he was good at it. Hehe!
He has a red wagon which he loves riding and playing with. When he saw the picture of a wagon, I think he recognized it, and when I told him it is, I saw in his eyes that he understood what I said. His vocabulary is evidently growing each day and we're just patiently waiting for his speech to catch up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE SKY IS FALLING

When the last member of the so called American royal family, the Winthrops, was killed as a result of a burglary gone wrong, well respected Washington DC-based media personality, Dana Evans, investigates on the series of tragic fatal accidents wiping out the entire Winthrop family within a year. What started out as a seemingly wild goose chase, with her connections both locally and internationally, Dana pulls strings which allowed her to probe deeper and further into the confidential Winthrop family affairs. Her growing curiosity for the family's mysterious deaths led her to places such as Italy, France, Rome, Brussels and Germany. Little did she know that from the first moment she put her nose on it, the people that conspired to facilitate the Winthrop's deaths have been watching her every move. As she gets closer to finding out the truth, it becomes apparent that her and her disabled son's lives are in grave danger.

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Being a fan of Sidney Sheldon, I love how no two works of him are alike. Although his writing style is consistent and evident in all his books, the suspense and plot twist are simply unpredictable that there is just no way you could guess how a story would take its turn. I love how he gives his readers free travels to different places and introduces them to different languages and cultures. Although his works are fiction, I love how he incorporates nonfiction items into the storyline. My favorite is when he, what I phrase as, "drops bombs" in his books. He has this notable style wherein he would make a positive remark and then he would totally just kill it in the following sentence. For example, something like, "She has the most beautiful angelic face he has ever seen and held. So, he decided to slash it and douse it with acid." Or something like, "She has been feeling better since the last dose of chemotherapy. She is slowly regaining her strength and has been very active the past few months. She is looking forward undergoing breast reconstruction next month, and going back to work when she has recovered fully. Her spirits were high when she came for MRI this morning. Her doctor is put on the spot when the findings came back showing end stage cancer with widespread metastasis." (Please note that those examples I gave are mine and not Sheldon's. Next time I read one of his works, I'll copy and paste his exact bomb dropping moment.) Anyway, all those elements and writing style I mentioned above are found in this yet another page turner, The Sky Is Falling, and once again, this great author did not disappoint. Bravo!

Now for excerpts from the book:

“...time ticks on until it finally sends us into the same unknown eternity."

“Where his right arm should have been was an empty sleeve.”

"They invented charisma."

“It was hard to believe how beautiful she was. But she probably doesn’t have a working brain cell in her head, Dana decided. On the other hand, with that face and body, she doesn’t need any brains.”

"Snowball in hell..."

“Dana felt uglier by the second.”

“There was an unspoken message in her words.”

“The place was jammed with people celebrating the Christmas spirit by rudely elbowing other shoppers out of the way.”

“Anytime you want more, just tell me. And you better do it fast, because from what I hear, you’re history.

“There should be an eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not abandon those who love you.

“Tomorrow will be a better day.”

“Don’t go looking for trouble, or you’re going to find it.”

“There were still vague traces of beauty left, like clues to what once was, but bitterness had overlaid the past with a harsh brush.”

“Can I do anything?” “Say an extra prayer for me.”

“Russia has become a candy store — only instead of buying candy, you can buy atomic bombs, tanks, fighter planes and missile systems.”

Finally, I rate this book 4.5 stars - a half-point deduction for very few typo errors I found.

Wow, I wrote another book review. Looks like I'm hitting two birds with one stone here. I'm not only back to my hobby of reading, but I'm back to writing as well. Kudos! *high five to myself*

Friday, October 3, 2014

REUNITING WITH THE BOOKWORM IN ME

I love to read, and back in the days when I had sooooooo much time to spare, reading was my favorite pastime. My love for books started at such an early age. At 5, my reading and writing skills were quite advance for my age, and the books we had at our home library got me hooked into reading. I can still vividly remember how I flipped pages of Collier's Encyclopedia (we owned a complete set), and read through whatever tickled my carefree mind, one volume after another. There were several more educational reading materials and a few fiction books in our home library, and that kept my young mind occupied. At school, I was introduced to young children's books including Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Choose Your Own Adventure, and Sweet Valley Twins (which as I aged later on turned into Sweet Valley High then Sweet Valley University). Getting older, I then followed the works of Sidney Sheldon and V.C. Andrews. When I had extra money back then, I bought paperbacks preferably pre-read ones (they're cheaper), so I rummaged book sales for those. I never ran out of books to read back then.

For some reason when I left the Philippines, I stopped reading books the way I used to. I would still grab a book and read every now and then but it was nothing like the way I did before. I guess I got too caught up adjusting and exploring this whole new world ahead of me that I somehow shoved the bookworm in me at the backseat. Anyway, long story short, recently I have started reconnecting with my inner bookworm. I have picked up on reading again and the most recent one I finished was The Divergent Series. It's a good read and quite interesting, although I have to admit that I think the ending was anticlimactic and I would've preferred a different ending. >>> SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read the book and wish to read it, then don't read further here. <<< If I were to choose an alternate ending, the scene would be something like this: Tris getting weaker and weaker because of the Death Serum in the Weapons Lab. Then, wheelchair-bound David appears to kill Tris. She and David then engages in a fight with Tris struggling due to the Death Serum slowly taking its effect on her. Despite that, she manages to disarm David and knock him off his wheelchair. David crawls his way to the gun intending to shoot Tris. With whatever strength that's left of her (and all the climax drama of this particular scene in the book), Tris manages to release the Memory Serum just in time to stop David from shooting her, his memory being immediately wiped out. However, the Death Serum appears to have taken her last breath as she passes out after pressing the serum launch device. Then, she sees her dead Mom, and she talks to her asking her if she's done and her Mom says yes, yada yada, and just when one may think she's really done, Tris gasps as if choking on air and draws a deep breath, and that's when she realizes that she in fact is immune to the Death Serum because SHE IS DIVERGENT after all! The ensuing events will then be Tobias and Tris going back to the city and will start anew and rebuild their lives together. Jeez. I couldn't believe that after all the triumphant events that built Tris' Abnegation/Dauntless/Divergent character, the author decided to kill her. Anticlimactic, really. Oh well, I could only wish that when the third book turns into movie, they provide an alternate ending. Sigh! If it would make it any better, here are my favorite quotes in the series:

"His absence will haunt their hallways, and he will be a space they can't fill. And then time will pass, and the hole will be gone, like when an organ is removed and the body's fluids flow into space it leaves. Humans can't tolerate emptiness for long."

"...confidence alone can get a person into a forbidden place."

"...politeness is deception in pretty packaging."

"Who cares about pretty? I'm going for noticeable."

"A brave man acknowledges the strength of others..."

"...Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it's so important that we don't rely on it..."

"I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand for another."

"But becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that's the point."

"...but we just have to let the guilt remind us to do better next time."

"Or maybe forgiveness is just the continual pushing aside of bitter memories, until time dulls the hurt and the anger, and the wrong is forgotten."

"Sometimes all I want is to be a few inches taller so the world does not look like a dense collection of torsos."

"I suppose a fire that burns that bright is not meant to last."

"Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life."

Okay, that's about it. I didn't really plan on blogging a sort of book review here, but while I was at it, I couldn't help, so, my apologies for that. Till next book!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

IT'S A BIG WORLD OUT THERE, SON!

Growing up, I was a small kid. Well, I still am short and petite, but what I meant was that I was always the smallest kid in my entire batch. I had my own fair share of teasing and name calling by some of my bigger and taller classmates, but honestly, they didn't really bother me at all. I knew that I had every right to be smaller than the rest of them mainly for the fact that I was two years younger than them. I had the impression that I shouldn't let people from my school know about my age fearing that I'd get demoted, or worse, kicked out, if the school find out that my parents forged a copy of my birth certificate and altered my year of birth just so I'd be accepted in grade school. Truth was that I was initially declined admission for the same reason that I was too young to be in grade school and they wanted me to attend preschool instead. My mother thought otherwise having known that I was reading and writing very good at age 4; hence, we came back the second time with a vengeance, or I should say, misrepresentation with a forged public document. Anyway, if there's anything I picked up from the taunting I received back then, it was the realization that the world is a big place. It dawned on me at such a young age that, yep, I was a small, small girl in a big, big world. Literally and figuratively.

Fast forward to puberty and all the awkward teenage years in between early adulthood to where I am at my life right now, I came to a point where I was pretty much at par with my peers and colleagues, and that age (and height) gap did not factor anymore. I have conquered insecurities, developed self-esteem, gained confidence, acquired skills, collected accomplishments, made new acquaintances, known true friends, broadened my horizon, and kept on growing into maturity that I thought, "Wow, it is a small world after all!" Literally and figuratively.

More recently, my husband and I have been taking our 18-month-old son to outings, and getting him more exposed to other children. His Filipino stature obviously does not meet the American average, so whenever he is in a common play area, it's not a surprise to see him getting bulldozed by other kids his age or even younger ones who are way heavier and taller than him. While there are admirable well-mannered kids who are aware of other children's personal spaces and are cautious and mindful when at play with smaller and younger ones, there are also those who obviously hurt or at least badger other kids on purpose. All parental bias and subjective opinion aside, how hard is it to tell a kid who is just playful, naughty, active and rough housing, apart from one who is outright misbehaving and bullying others particularly smaller kids like my son? It doesn't take a genius nor a psychological degree to figure that out, right?

Having said that, I have seen my son, in all his effort, climb up to go down a slide, only for a bigger kid to cut him in line and go ahead of his turn. I have seen him gets tossed on a bounce house when bigger kids get on. I have seen him fall on the floor when innocently pushed by a younger but bigger child. I have heard him cry when an older toddler snatched a toy away from him and purposely hit him on the head with the toy. In all those experiences, I couldn't help but feel how suddenly the world has once again become a huge place for me. It even felt like it doubled its size, now that I am a parent. Literally and figuratively.

It's a big world out there, son. I trust it won't take you long to scale it, seize it, make it your oyster, and even hold it in a paper cup like I do, and until such that time when you could do it on your own, your father and I promise to be always here for you. We'll face and conquer this giant together. We love you very much, Vonn Kaleb.





Friday, April 18, 2014

DESTRESSIFICATION

What's the worth of working for hours and hours proofing a 27-page report, which after you got everything lined up, cleaned up, cross checked, and prettified, you make the mistake of overwriting the file, thus sending its existence to bane? Gone, vamos, vanished, baboosh! Just.Like.That. There's no crying over spilled milk, so inevitably and ultimately, I re-did the file - all 27 pages from scratch. Betchabygollywow. I think I need a stress pill. STAT if you please!

Or maybe not. How about a couple of new flip flops, some new dresses (seven pieces not enough? more?) to wear here and there, few new swimsuits and bikinis... and a weeklong tropical vacation to The Bahamas maybe? Yeah, forget the stress pill, because THOSE are exactly what I need to de-stress!

These ladies will have fun in The Bahamas with me!
*Havaianas and Victoria's Secret*
Because of the confusion and chaos that my double agent (SAHM WAHM) life has brought me in the past how-many-weeks now, I hereby declare and invoke my right to splurge. Retail therapy mode on!

I name them Sahmmy and Wahmmy ;)
So those are but a few of my loot. There's more to come in the mail and my shopping list is still open. A new waterproof digital camera is definitely in order since I found out that our old one is no longer working and has given up the ghost after its faithful service to us in our various trips including Jamaica, Florida, Boracay and Hawaii. 

On a more serious note, while I do enjoy the purchasing power I get from my very own hard-earned money, I still will not deny that career and mommy duties are taking their toll on me. Waaaahhh! My aging process has sped up twice. Double the trouble. Double the wrinkles. Double the fat. Goodness me!

I feel that I may have to choose one or the other. I'm no Superwoman, and it's impossible for me to give in to the demands of mommyhood and my job 101% all the time and at the same time. I'm in a dilemma and seriously torn about it. If only I can get a little help, I can totally rock this... but then again... sigh!

With that, allow me to bid adieu by sharing the current anthem of my life, courtesy of the late Karen Carpenter:

"I'm caught between goodbye and I love you,
Never knowing quite where I stand,
I'm caught between goodbye and I love you,
Falling both ways, nowhere to land
So constantly stranded, I can't understand it
This double life you've handed me
Is like the devil and the deep blue sea."

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PS:

Thank God It's Friday! Thank God it's a long weekend. Thank God for sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross and shed His blood for the atonement of our sins. Thank God that on the third day He rose and is alive forevermore. Hallelujah and Praise God for saving my soul! Have a blessed Friday and happy Resurrection Sunday to all my brethren in Christ.


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