Sunday, August 29, 2010

Daddy-less Weekend

It’s a Sunday and it is usually our family day lunch out. But since Daddy had to spend the weekend in China, we had to plan something on our own. I got a notice that Meralco will be doing their maintenance work in the village which meant no electricity and water for 5 hours. So we decided to spend the day at the Mall rather than roast at home.

Earlier that day though, I woke up later than usual and the kids took a bath already. The yayas were preparing to leave for their Sunday day-off so I told them to go ahead and we’ll manage. As I prepared for the usual morning rituals, Kyla laid out small plastic chairs in front of the garden and that’s where she and Kevin sat while I was eating my late breakfast. She brought out a fan (electricity was already cut-off) and her new book called Super Dad. I heard her reading the book for her Kuya Kevin while he eagerly looks onto the book.

When it was time to take the morning shower, I told Kyla to pack their stuff and stay at the 2nd floor balcony instead where it was cooler and so that we can lock up the rest of the doors downstairs while I was out of sight. Kyla promptly obeyed and then I saw her hauling another set of low chairs and table to the balcony. She even placed another set of chairs as foot stools while she continued reading the book for Kevin. It was quite a sight to see them serenely enjoying time together and it makes me happy.

Then it was time to prepare for the mall. After helping them get dressed, I talked to the kids to let them know the events for the day. We also made sure Kimby has enough water supply and promised to bring her a pasalubong.

Since tricycles will take forever, I told the kids we will have to walk from the house to the main road to get a jeepney ride. We brought a folding umbrella since it was warm already and in case it rained later.

Walking was fun. I like walking. I can walk for hours to no end like I used to when I was younger and had to get SSS IDs, NBI clearance, etc etc and had to endure hours of walking when my money isn’t enough to get me from one point to the next building miles away. To make it fun, I told Kyla that she will be the “walking leader”. There was a short cut we can take and knows how to lead the way. Even though the sun was beating down, it was fun for all of us.

Then we had to ride a jeepney to SM City Sta. Rosa. Having been born with a family car in tow, the kids love the novelty of riding public transports from time to time. Of course, it was hot and dusty and some jeepney drivers run as if there is no tomorrow so we had to hang on to the rail for dear life, but the kids were happy. Kyla liked being the one to give the bayad to the driver, and calling out a loud “paraaaaa….” when we reached the destination. Kevin liked looking past the rows and rows of scenery passing by and having the dusty breeze against his face. It was probably a curious experience for him.

We had lunch at their favorite Pizza and Pasta joint as soon as we landed the Mall. We requested for a take home pack so that we can bring some for Kimby. I was hoping to watch a movie but nothing was worth the effort so we detoured to the bookstore instead. The bookstore is my safe haven. If nothing else works, buy a good book.

Kyla also started to like books. At first I gave up and tried not to force the issue but since they started the DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read) in school, she developed a real interest for books. So we ended up buying books and activity sets for Kyla (Camp Rock 2 and coloring book), Kevin (activity and writing Books) and a paperback novel for myself -- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which by the way, I started reading until page 41 before the lightbulb moment drove me to write this blog! The book was about an autistic teen age boy playing detective over their neighbor's pooddle who died.

We passed by the Toy Store but firmly told the kids that they can look at the stuff but we are not going to buy any that day because I just got them new toys from my Singapore trip and that Daddy will likely buy some more. I am proud of Kyla’s maturity for such things. I knew she was eyeing the yoyo and the toy microwave. Unlike kids who would bawl for not having their wishes granted, she never forces her will and obeys without fanfare. Until now, we are not buying her PSP or Game Boy (is that still how it’s called?) even if everyone in her school has one but she never complains of being so “not in”. Later that day, before going to sleep I told her how proud I am of her.

We made some trips around the Mall and finished a few errands here and there. I noticed from the mall entrance that dark clouds are building up so we decided to head home. Back at home, we had enough time that afternoon for some snooze, snack and have Kevin play basketball while Kyla volunteered to water the plants and have Kimby guard them at the lanai area. Yayas won’t be back until dinner time so I cooked chicken casserole for an early dinner with the kids who must be missing rice by then.

After dinner, Kyla also made a birthday card for his Dad. She drew Alvin as Superdad and then she had smaller drawings around it why she called her dad a Superdad.

As I have predicted, the kids retired early so likely no Skype Video call with Daddy that night but we did have one last game of feeding and putting Kyla’s baby doll to sleep (Kevin helped) and prayed together. Kevin continued fiddling with this towel so I gave him a choice of play or sleep. He chosed sleep.

But before sleeping, I kissed them goodnight and told them how proud I was for being such good and helpful kids. I told them that although Daddy isn’t here, he will be happy to know how they behaved at their best and helped Mommy cope while he wasn’t around.

They must be so used to us being away, either at work for > 8 hours daily or the business trips and the weekends are all we have for quality time and bonding. Whether it was me or Alvin who isn’t around, we try to make it a happy time for the kids so that they won’t be sad about missing one or the other. Make the most of each moment, make it count and give them memories that they can tuck away as part of a happy childhood. Today is one such day!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gluttons Bay Escapade at Esplanade

It sounds sinful.

In one of my trips, I read about the popular Hawkers district in Singapore and made a mental note that it will definitely enter my to-do list in my next trip. My sister Cindy lives there so I make it a point to meet with her for dinner, together with my work friends every opportunity I have.

And that was how we ended up at Makansuntra at the Gluttons Bay near the Esplanade. Quite a fitting name dont you think? Makan sounds like our Ilocanos' mangan which means eat (or to eat).

Hawkers is definitely for the adventurous lot, gastronomically speaking. Surprise yourself and your taste buds with the variety of authentic Asian fare it has to offer! If you are the snobby-choosy-sosi or pa-sosi type who wouldn't be caught alive eating al fresco and au naturelle' then you can stop reading this now. Hawkers isn't for you. It also reminds me of our local carinderia, the Al Fresco booths at Market-Market or the Tiendesitas Food market. The latter are of course the middle class version.

We went to Makasuntra on a mid-week for dinner and it was alive and bustling by 8 pm.

The going practice at Hawkers is you 'save' a table (you can buy wet tissues for SGD 0.30 and use it to reserve your tables), then make a quick tour among the food booths to find what you like. You can mix and match foodies from different booths.

After checking the food stalls dotting the place, we decided to line up at a stall named Boon Tat Street. We ordered their specialties: the grilled spicy Sting Ray and the Deep Fried Baby Squid. Add a bit of Yang Cheow fried rice for good measure.

We also decided to check out another booth and ordered Chicken Satay (another version of our own BBQ) and at the far end was another best seller Hokkien Prawn Mee (fried spciy noodles with monggo sprouts and generous dash of shrimps). There was a separate booth for local drinks and the canned variety and I went for sugarcane juice with lemonade. All these for unbelievably low price! I was looking for an Indian Curried Samosas but was disappointed when Cindy told me it cant be found at Makansuntra. There were also the famous cereal prawns and black pepper crab, chili crab and all sorts of crabby delights but we decided to pass.

Having used to Dada's spicy sisig and kilawin, the spiciness didn't bother me at all. The fried baby squid was the night's favorite and despite complaining that we seemed to have ordered a lot, all the dishes were swiped clean anyhow!
For me, the fun about Hawkers is that despite Singapore being a cosmopolitan world city, Hawkers bring a glimpse of the true local vibe beneath the glamour. It is all about Asian food in its most genuine self, night out with friends, fresh air and chit chats less the glossied ambience.

It is truly Asia!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Stamps

Kevin is elated lately for his Good Job stamps. When we arrived home from work, Kyla proudly announced that her Kuya got Good Job stamps. The stamps usually come in various shapes and pictures. Since Kyla came from the same school last year, she knows that you are given Good Job stamps for having done a great work in school.

His teachers also recognized his improvement in Values Education as he can now understand the situations and emotions being described in his work book (Good Christian, Caring, Sharing, My Talents, etc).

Kevin has been regularly getting Good Job stamps and this makes him very happy whenever we praise and acknowledge his achievements. This motivates him to do more drills at home to reinforce what was done in school.

We are proud of you Vin!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Newest Baby

Rory is my newest baby. My new Acer Aspire One mini laptop was named after Lorelie "Rory" Gilmore II of the Gilmore Girls.

Brainy. Smart. Vibrant. Chatty. Chic and glitzy. But most of all, a talkathon.

Rory comes with an Intel Atom N475 Processor with 1.83Ghz and 2GB DDR3 Memory and all the niceties you need for mobile connectivity and blogging. Comes with the standard wifi and bluetooth, webcam, 10.1 LED and ultrathin self. Which I was told is a good find for its price. I'm not really a techie so you can dispute me on this one.

I had been eyeing to snag a mini laptop since the blog bug bit me. I was actually hoping to find a 15T (cheapskate!) mini but hubby says its probably the speed of tortoise so he convinced me to invest on this one instead and so we can install Skype in case we need to chat if he's travelling. I told hubby if I were single (ie, no bills to worry about) I'd go for Mac.

Truth to tell, I can write a blog from my Samsung Omnia II phone because it has everything you need for mobile publishing. But it does not work if you think faster than you type. Which such small keys, I ended up with calluses after the first paragraph.

Working with Rory enables me to create my blog from just about anywhere. Which is my ultimate objective because it is so frustrating to have all these crazy, beautiful, indulgent thoughts flitting about and not being able to write about them esp. when you were just waiting anyway.

Its so light and handy you can carry it anywhere and I can write my blog while waiting for Kevin (during Saturday afternoons) or while everyone else is sleeping and my caffeine side effect kicks in. If I am out, I can use my plug-in internet for uploading the blog and have my Omnia to take pictures (which I can send to Rory via bluetooth).

Yep, its a good time to feel techie. Ain't mobile life a blast?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Ups and Downs of UPS

Nope, not the courier.

Its the Unified Problem Solving tool-- the IN thing when it comes to solving chronic process instability issues. From the sound of it, seems that UPS is your modern day hero that will put an end to issues that has been haunting you since time immemorial.

For our group's UPS workshop week, we dared to brave one of our so-called 'since time immemorial' problems. We were quite doubtful if we can solve it in 2.5 days given that we have been working on it for about 3 years now with various degree of success.

So, what did we learn?

1. What is essential may be invisible to the eyes.
Had to agree with Antoine de Exupery on this one. UPS and its twin, SWP, train the eyes to see the issue and not guess the root cause. Cool. But what if the issue you are working on is not accessible for scrutiny? Well, you still need to observe the phenomenon but you have to be open minded to catch meaningful connections between what you see, see where it leads you to further observe and condense what the invisible connections mean. Thus, UPS does not just train the eyes to really see. It is also mental exercise, after all.

2. Looking at a different vantage point.
Funny how for most of the teams, the issue seemed to have disappeared altogether come observation time! Our team was on floor for at least 3 hours and we were bracing ourselves for a breathless morning. But zilch! Nada. Zero. We left the video cam, all strapped and secured at the chosen vantage point so we can move around to the other lines and observe. The battery ran for two hours. As soon as the battery died, the culprit appeared and we were having our lunch break then! This recurred for the rest of the day until we decided to change our tactic (from lesson 1 above). We still worked on the same issue but decided to investigate from a different perspective. I'll spare you the sordid details. But needless to say, we made progress from there.

We often label our problems X or Y and we try and search somewhere where we think we can find X or Y. But sometimes, you just need to look for an entirely different point that's all!

3. Real problems, real solutions.
The best part about UPS is that it eliminates our obsession for theories and hypothesis. Unlike the old Cause and Effect where we include "what ifs", UPS requires that you only work into the Cause and Effect chart those phenomenon you have observed and that there is logical and observable explanation. That way, we can save our effort by working only on real problems. Of course, we had to remind ourselves from time to time to ditch the cow (bawal ang baka)!

So did we solve the problem? We found that there are three phenomena in our issue. We found the two and have solutions for those. The third phenomenon is still somewhere in the Twilight zone.