Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Mute Button

Someone or something inadvertently hit my mute button, and I find I have little to share at the moment. That might stop another blogger from blogging, but not I. Rather than opting for radio silence, I will simply assault you with the empty contents of my head. And if that's not an invitation to read on, I don't know what is...

Empty Content #1: My disturbing and costly obsession with Haba, a German manufacturer of excellent toys. These toys might have made me smarter, more engaging, better spoken, and probably better looking. Unfortunately, we'll never know now. I confess that I have purchased this, this, a bunch of these, and this as much for me as for the actual recipients.

Empty Content #2: All the back-to-school talk in and amongst various blogs have made me wax nostalgic over the classic PeeChee. My Kuya Ricky, in an inexplicable burst of big-brotherness, once engineered for me what I can only describe as a PeeChee portfolio. Through the brilliant, creative use of masking tape, he bound together eight separate PeeChees--one per subject. I believe that was the year he also made all my book covers. Empty Content #2 Bonus: I once saw Kuya Ricky eat fourteen bananas in a single sitting.

Empty Content #3: I wish I were nineteen years old and enrolled in a Filipino Lit. class taught either by The Wily Filipino or Jean Vengua Gier. Both are asking their students to blog and blog well (though judging by this particular posting, I wouldn't fare too well in either class). On a barely related tangent, I think that all employers should now be checking to see that potential employees possess a "blogging skill set."

Empty Content #4:The guy who pimped his book when leaving a comment on one of my posts. I visited his blog and found a detailed report of his trip to Manila. He maniacally accounted for every peso spent on every meal, beer, taxi ride, and hotel but made no mention of pesos at all when he posted pictures of two young Filipinas in his hotel room whom he claimed brought him to "heights of heaven never before known" or something ridiculous like that. If there were an emoticon that rolls its eyes and vomits green bile, I would insert it here.

And, um, that's about it.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

A Pirate's Life For Me

Wouldn't you just know it? After that (probably) PMS-induced post about Foster City going overboard with the nautical theme, I found myself there--near "Isle Cove" to be exact--at a pirate-themed birthday party for J.G., a tow-headed, goofy-smiled 5-year-old who will go down in history as Risa and Vida's first guy pal.

This little shindig was crazy. Upon entering, each child received their own pirate costume: three-cornered hat with skull-n-bones insignia, eye patch, choice of red sequined or black-and-white striped pirate sash, and tattoos. The coolest kid there immediately wrapped the sequined sash around his head and topped it off with the hat. Loved that kid. After twenty minutes of chasing each other around, the little loons were directed to Treasure Island, where they used faux jewels to decorate their own treasure chests.

Then the pirate showed up.

I have to hand it to Captain Shook. It must have been almost 90 degrees and he was gamely sporting a green velvet frock coat, ruffled white shirt, black boots, and a big black velvet pirate hat. He told a joke. The joke went like this: "Which letter of the alphabet do pirates like best?" Blanks stares from the children. A dramatic pause from Captain Shook. And then... "Aaaaaaaargh!" The guy could not have told a better-received joke. I thought the kids were gonna lose consciousness from laughing so hard. Not surprisingly, it is a joke I have heard repeated about 437 times now. Tell it to every five-year-old you know, but make sure to scrunch up one eye and use your pirate voice.

There was a lot to this party--a pirate ship pinata; pin the eye patch on the pirate; goldfish bowl favors (with a Petco gift card, which I didn't quite "get" until I realized we were supposed to use them to buy goldfish); pirate flag waving and marching; a treasure hunt. But the real swashbuckling fun did not begin until Captain Shook had fashioned a balloon sword for each partygoer.

I realize now that I hadn't truly lived until the moment I saw Risa and Vida in back-to-back lunging stances, using their swords to hold off not one boy each but two while simultaneously retrieving candy from their goody bags and occasionally letting loose with a hearty, "Aaaaaaaargh!"

Good practice for their teenage years, I'd say.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Thursday, August 26, 2004

But What Does It Mean?

I don't know why I'm having a hard time saying this. I don't know why I'm so embarrassed. Maybe it's because I think I should already know what it means. Alas, I do not. So to set things right, I will be driving over to the Stanford campus once a week for ten weeks to take part in a continuing studies course called (I'm grimacing as I type) Meanings of Motherhood. Here's the description:

Although the experience of motherhood is one of the most powerful and transforming experiences a woman can have, we rarely have time to explore its meanings, ruminate on its effects on us, and write about our relationship to it. Using the multiple lenses of fiction, poetry, diaries, and nonfiction, we will explore the ways that women are transformed by their individual journey through motherhood. Particular issues that we will examine include myths and images of motherhood, two career families, traditional and non-traditional families, divorce, single mothers, and foster and adoptive parents. The writers we will read and discuss include Isabel Allende, Chitra Divakaruni, Maxine Hong Kingston, Anne Lamott, Jhumpa Lahari, Tillie Olsen, Sharon Olds, Anna Quindlen, Grace Paley, Tsuboe Sake, Alice Walker, Judith Wallerstein, Arlie Hochschild, and Virginia Woolf. Students will be asked to keep a motherhood journal of their insights, experiences, conflicts, questions, and hopes.

Of my 9,749 shortcomings, one of the worst in my inability to process as I go. I cannot begin to make proper sense of any personal situation until I am light years away from it. Which explains, in part, why so many of my current short stories include at least one 16-year-old protagonist. And why it can take me years to answer an ostensibly benign question like, "So what's going on with you?" I don't want that to happen with my parenting journey. I don't want to wake up eighteen years from now wondering what the hell just happened? And also...you know that line in "A Long December" where Adam (that's what I call him: Adam) urges you to "hold on to these moments as they pass?" I need to learn how to do that.

Or maybe I'm just looking for another excuse to buy a new notebook. You be the judge.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


This right here gives a whole new meaning to crash into me. In fact, maybe it should be...am I really going to say this? yes, yes I am...splash into me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

...And Found

Innocence Lost

In this grainy, dark, and not-so-good photograph, I have just survived the shock of walking through the madcap mayhem of the garish Tropicana casino. In the back pocket of my jeans, there is a neatly folded five spot, which I was going to hand to the bellhop who I assumed would tote my carry-on for me. But there was no bellhop; I had to self-schlepp to my room.

In this photograph, I have just realized there is a mirror attached to the ceiling above my bed. Like in a corny movie, I began to laugh. I said, 'hello' to myself and lay there for a second, looking. Then I rolled onto my stomach, reached for my cell phone, and called my cousin Matt. He was twenty minutes away, he said. "But I'm starving!" I screamed. He is custom to my histrionics, and so he said, "It's okay, Verns (that is what he calls me), meet me near the registration desk; we'll eat."

Twenty minutes.

I was too wired to read or write. I was alarmed by the idea that my daughters were at a lake in California being brilliantly cared for by the spousal unit, his mother, and his sister and that I, for the rest of the weekend, was responsible only for myself. I tried to sit with this for awhile, but my lack of 'quiet mind' has been well documented here, and soon I was hopping around the room, trying to find a way to pass the time.

And that is how I ended up taking pictures of myself in the faux bamboo mirror beside my bed. It's a good thing I did, too, because now I can remember the way I was before I met Matt downstairs and before we walked over to the MGM Grand. Before we ate sandwiches and potato chips smothered with Maytag blue cheese at Wolfgang Puck. Before we figured out that the eerie look-alike quality of the surrounding males--regardless of ethnic background--had much to do with that evening's upcoming Ultimate Fighting Championship. And, most importantly, before I learned how to play video poker.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Las Vegas: Part 1 of A Lot

My Las Vegas report will no doubt dribble out slowly, in part because it will take me a few days to recover from the violent sensory overload, and in part because--let's face it--I'm too lazy to be as cohesive and enthralling as the incomparable Gura.

Let's just get started. First stop: a memo.

To: The Women in the Casinos
From: Someone who Strives Only to be of Help
re: Common Sense

Let me begin by saying, I understand. I do. In a setting like Las Vegas, it's a natural tendency to put yourself on display, to court longing looks, to travel in packs with like-minded women who share your penchant for the heavy-handed application of pancake foundation and/or hair products. That's...okay. But I beg you to consider these three things:

1) Just because backless, shimmery, mere slips of shirts are available for purchase, it does not mean that you must buy one. And just because someone made the dreadful mistake of filling store racks with the umpteenth coming of the flouncy mini-skirt, it does not mean that you must buy one. These items--especially when worn in tandem--complement only about four hundred women. Four hundred women in the entire known world. The chances that you are one of these women is not so good. I ask only that you keep this in mind.

2) It's true that ponchos had a brief, shining moment last spring and early this summer. The excellent thing about ponchos is that they are easy to store. You can just fold them up into a tidy square and place them at the very back of your closet. And that's what you should do right now.

3) Please don't paint elaborate pictures on your toenails. Why would you do such a thing? That time is better spent tending to your eyebrows. Trust me.

In sisterhood,


Waiting, now, for my claws to retract...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

'V' is for Veronica and...Vegas!

Early Saturday morning, I will hop a plane for my first solo trip in six years. Destination Las Vegas, where I shall serve as my family branch representative at the Tropicana wedding of my handsome cousin Morris "Chicharron Head" Delfino and his lovely sweetheart, Melonie.

So what...

...if I have a cough and it feels like I somehow swallowed a razor blade which is now sitting horizontally in my throat and shifting with every breath?

...if my cousin Matt, who snores with the same hurricane force common in all Montes/Delfino males, is going to crash in my own personal Tropicana room?

...if the dry desert heat makes my hair straight as matchsticks (I have, after all, often wished for that)?

...if my gambling history makes it clear that I will at some point lose $200 in under 180 seconds, scream, and go eat french fries?

...if I will be haunted by the desperate, sleepless, bloodshot, teary eyes of people who lose much, much more than $200?

I don't care about any of that because...it's my first solo trip in six years. And I'm on a pilgrimage of love, baby.

with many thanks to the spousal unit for wholeheartedly encouraging this splendid folly

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Odd Girl Out

It's happening a lot these days: Vida and Lea figuratively or literally wrapping their arms around each other and scampering off leaving Risa--technically the oldest of the three--screeching with righteous indignation. I try to stay out of these unavoidable flare-ups lest I spend the rest of my life serving as official referee for every disagreement or human salve for every little wound.

But today.

Today, Risa was so forlorn. Her eyes were squished closed and the tears poured and poured. For reasons I don't quite understand, Vida sniffed and said, "My abuelita does not like girls who whine. Come along, Lea." And they left. Risa yelled after her, "Why are you doing these mean things?"

"Oh, never mind them," I offered. "Want to help me cook?" She nodded and wiped her hand across her runny nose, efficiently distributing snot across her entire face. "Okay. Go wash your face. And your hands."

And that is how Risa and I ended up shelling peas together. We were quiet, mostly. I split the shells open, and she picked the peas out and tossed them into the bowl. She snacked on a few peas as she worked, and she talked a little bit about preschool, about who is shy and who is not (none of the girls, according to her, are shy). When we finished, I thanked her for her help and she ran off to play with her sisters. "Hey!" she said as she went, "Thanks for all your mommy work."

I don't know if I'm doing this right or wrong. The truth is that I spend most of the day with my heart split in three, trying to make sure the pieces are equal. But for twenty minutes today I was all Risa's, and it felt pretty good.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A New Way to Serve Chicharron

The family that plays together...

Good Sport Mo
Originally uploaded by ver.

Yum! (I Think)

One of the seldom-acknowledged perks of parenting includes the God-given right to eat a spoonful of nasty Kraft macaroni & cheese directly out of the pot when no one--especially the children--is looking; to consider (and then reject as too horrifyingly nutrition-less) the prospect of buying Geno's pizza rolls; to consider (and once in a blue moon) buy and eat 2 out of an 8-pack of Pop-Tarts; etc. etc. ad nauseum.

This is simply a roundabout way to admit that this morning I ate a bowl of chocolate chip oatmeal.

Changing the subject now, thanks.

For your pleasure, a Reunion highlight: Auntie Ginger (she of the photogenic jell-o shots) was also in charge of the unfortunately named "Adult Games." One of these games required some people to don shower caps, which were then festooned with shaving cream. Then these people sat down on chairs while other people threw chicharron at their heads. The one with the most chicharron stuck to his head was the winner. Or the loser. Depending.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Auntie Ginger's famed Reunion jell-o shots, ready for slurping.

Always Room for Jell-O.
Originally uploaded by ver.

A Kind of Rant, I Suppose

Disclaimer: feeling feisty this morning.

I could be wrong about this. Perhaps Foster City IS a port of call, a quaint seaside village, or a pirate hideout. Why else would so many of its streets, vast apartment building complexes, and odd areas where every house looks exactly the same, be christened with watery names? Everything is a "cove" or a "landing." Take a left on Balclutha! You'll see it halfway down Admiralty Ave.! Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to Bounty St.? She lives on Galleon--just follow the treasure map! So ridiculous.

Foster City, in my little mind, exists only for two reasons: Target and Ranch 99. I Suburban'ed over to the latter yesterday (located in--no kidding--"Marlin's Cove") primarily to buy short ribs for tomorrow's family reunion. But you know how those things go: you grab the ribs, and then you decide you should pick up some of those little panda cookies with the chocolate inside, a couple of pineapples, some bihon, eggs, la di da. And then you remember that there's no spaghetti sauce in your cupboard, and you say to yourself, "One should always have spaghetti sauce for those days when one is too lazy to drag one's butt into the kitchen for any extended length of time." Indeed. And so I scooted back over to the sauce aisle, where every sauce made by mankind can be found. Except, evidently, spaghetti sauce. I ask the guy stocking the shelves to point me in the right direction. "Aisle 6!" he says.


I asked a few others. They lied to me as well.

I gave up on the Evil Ranch 99 Parade of Big Huge Liars and decided to use my own noggin to deduce where the spaghetti sauce might be. Many, many minutes were wasted because I don't have the type of mental machinery that would ever in the span of my life imagine that spaghetti sauce might be located in the dried seafood aisle. But there it was. Mocking me.

I sighed, loaded my groceries onto my schooner ship, and sailed out of Marlin's Cove.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Notebook Fa-Reak

Just poking my head out from under this growing mountain of laundry to confess my notebook fetish. I am particular about them. Spiral-bound from Walgreen's? I don't think so. And while I admire those people who have piles of classic black and white speckled Mead composition books lined up on a shelf, I am not one of those people.

Instead, I am one those people who makes a pilgrimage to Kinokuniya Stationery Store in J-Town to stock up on Kyokuto notebooks. Because the paper is creamy to the touch, the ruled lines are crisp and perfectly spaced, and the covers come in a huge assortment of colors and designs. I can stay in that tiny store for an hour, nodding every now and again with perfect understanding at my fellow notebook fetishists.

And then I will stop at that Brown Bag place on Fillmore for Clairefontaine clothbound notebooks--the largest size. The covers are sort of Euro-crazy, but the paper! The paper is so smooth.

If I am anywhere that has an offering of famed Moleskine notebooks--usually a bookstore like Green Apple, Books Inc., Cody's--chances are good that I will buy one. There's something about the combination of ribbon marker, elastic closure, and little accordion pocket in the back that lures me.

If for whatever reason (three kids, let's just say) I cannot make it out-of-doors to procure notebooks, I will simply satisfy my cravings online. Just look at these beauties from Russell & Hazel.

Oh, my. My feathers are twitching...I feel an urge coming on...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Reunion 8•14

In the immortal words of Rafiki: It is Time. Time for at least 125 members of my paternal family to gather at the annual Delfino Family Reunion. I am obsessing over the following:

1) Will Girl from Ipanema once again be the most performed song?

2) Which strapping young Delfino male will win the game in which he is forced to push an orange across the finish line while gyrating his hips which in turn causes the cucumber--which is tied around his waist with a long string--to schwing?

3) Will this be the year that our elusive cousin Des, lead singer of Julie Plug, shows up?

4) How long will it take for Lola Pilar's chicken relleno to disappear from the table? And who will be the culprit?

5) How many kids will accidently ingest jell-o shots?

6) How many non-clan members from nearby picnic sites will migrate to our party? Who will slap their hand as they try to make off with the sio pao?

7) How many versions of the following conversation will be heard?:

"Who is that guy?"
"It's Lolo so-and-so's son."
"What's his name?"
"Yeah. Adobo."
"Why haven't I ever seen him before?"
"He's here every year, you idiot."
"Shut up!"

8) And speaking of adobo, who will win the Adobo Contest? Will there be a bribing scandal? Will official grievances be filed?

and, finally...

9) Will any clan member be foolhardy enough to choose this time to introduce his/her new love interest to the family? Will said love interests run screaming after hearing the seventh vocal interpretation of Girl from Ipanema?

Look out Lake Elizabeth.

Waiting for the Water Taxi

It never came.

Originally uploaded by ver.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Originally uploaded by ver.
After a slothful week in which my most taxing physical activity was sidling up to the lake snack bar to order various fried foods, it is difficult to re-enter my regular life. Even typing this is proving troublesome; if I could find a way to recline while blogging, I would. But by far the most difficult aspect of re-entry is the Laundry Aspect. It's so fun to sit here staring at the piles and piles of laundry yet to be done.

Something tells me that my 9-year-old cousin Annika, seen here kicking some mighty puwet at the 2004 Junior Olympic Level rhythmic gymnastic championships in Lowell, Massachusetts, would frown on my lazing around. Third place? Judges, please.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Wish U Were Here

Postcard from the Lake

I packed enough clothing to last our children twenty-three days, plus parkas in case it snows. In my own suitcase? One pair of underwear, two tank tops, and some hair gel circa 1998. One of these days I'll get it right.

Luckily, it's 90 degrees up here and very little clothing is needed at all. I'm sure I could cool off if I ever actually stepped foot in the lake, but I am not on friendly terms with bodies of water; it's a little known fact that I drowned in a previous life. I do enjoy sitting on the sand and watching the water, though. When I'm not looking down reading my book, that is. Or munching on a SkyFlakes cracker. Or watching for ducks out of the corner of my eye (it's a little known fact that I was attacked by a duck in a previous life). Or mocking my nieces' Scrabble moves.

It was my turn to cook for everyone tonight: empanadas, lumpia, sugar snap peas with sesame/ginger dressing, bulgogi (twelve pounds!), rice noodles with oyster sauce and baby bok choy, etc. etc. etc.

There are five empanadas left. Want one?