Saturday, February 18, 2012

the power of empathy (and lego)

This is one of those posts where I debated whether I should share or not. But it seemed too powerful, so here I am, sharing…

Something in my upbringing has always led me to believe that it is a bad thing if I cry in front of kids. I should never cry in front of my kids. I guess it’s something about protecting them against sadness. I know if I think back, I don’t ever recall my mom crying, even though I’m sure she must have cried at some point while we were growing up!

A little while back, I had a REALLY tough day. I was alone with the kids, they were getting ornery and I wasn’t able to cope. I just barely got Aves pre-occupied and out of sight when I broke down crying. It was full-on tears, sobbing and difficulty breathing. Josh was standing right there in front of me. It was awful. In my tears, I muttered some things about sadness and Josh came over to me and hugged me. In the hug and my tears, he felt my sadness and Josh started crying too. As both of us were crying in our hug, he told me, “it’s going to be OK, Mommy.”. I cannot describe the feeling that it gave me to have my 5-year-old reassuring me that as bad as life seemed at that moment, it would all be OK at some point. His tears and words were so incredibly powerful.

We both stopped crying in our hug and I asked Josh to go and play so I could collect myself. He ran off, out of sight, and I sat there for a bit so I could breathe and get myself together.

About 5 minutes later, he came back and said, “I made something for you, Mommy.”. He handed me a Lego scene that he had made. There was a Lego person sitting at a table in front of a computer with a cup and a light beside it. Beside the table, there was a kitchen counter with a pan on the stove. This is not unlike our own home. Josh said it was me sitting in front of the computer. I was amazed. He ran off to play with Aves and when he went out of sight, I broke down crying again. It just seemed like so much from a 5-year-old.

I don’t know why I’m so shocked by this display of empathy and caring from someone so young. Their ability to absorb what they see and react with such innocence is…overwhelming.

In any case, his reaction and the comfort I received from it doesn’t make me more prone to breaking down in front of my children. In fact, it does the opposite. It has strengthened my resolve to follow my mantra of accept and forgive, so I don’t get to a point where I break down in front of my kids. Because I still have a hard time believing that it is ok for them to see this sort of sadness.

And, for what it’s worth, I was cherishing my Lego scene when, a couple hours later, Josh came up to me and asked for it back because he needed some of the pieces for a truck he was making. Ha! After I gave it back to him and he promptly dismantled it, I realized I didn’t take a picture of it. Ugh. Oh well, at least I will always have it in my memory. It was pretty awesome, though.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

angry face

We often play the “show me your face” game - show me your sad face / happy face / angry face / scared face / etc. The other day, Aves asked me to take a picture of her angry face. Aves clearly knows what angry looks like...



Monday, February 13, 2012

bike ride

Josh and I had such an awesome bike ride on Saturday that I had to blog about it.

I haven’t been that great with riding my bike through the winter. I have no trouble riding into work in the mornings, but I have lots of trouble working up the energy to ride home at night. I’ve managed to easily talk myself out of riding because it gets dark so early, especially since I don’t have proper lights to see (only to be seen) and some areas of the bike path are not lit. Couple that with the fact that I had a nasty spill late in the fall and I can even talk myself out of riding here on the blog!

So, the point is that I’ve been going in to work on weekends to pick up my bike. I usually make an adventure out of it with one kid or both. This past weekend, I went in with just Josh. (Brian and I have been doing more of the divide and conquer approach to parenting lately because it gives us both a break and wonderful quality time with each child.) Because it wasn’t raining, I suggested we bring Josh’s bike as well and try to do a ride somewhere. Josh was very excited about this!

Somewhere ended up being around False Creek. We parked on the south side of the Cambie Bridge. We rode along the sea wall from the Cambie Bridge around Science World. We stopped at the playground near Science World to take a break and play (and gauge whether Josh was ok to continue). When we were ready to get back on our bikes, Josh said he didn’t want to go back yet and he wanted to go “all the way to the big thing with the things coming out of the thing”. That was Joshese for BC Place.

When we got to BC Place, Josh wanted to take a picture (to show Daddy). And along the way back, he wanted to stop a couple of times to take pictures. Just as I’m writing this, I realize that perhaps he wanted to stop so he could take a rest. But whatever his reasons, it didn’t matter. We stopped and took a couple of pictures. We had great conversations - at one point Josh told me that “a humpback whale can ride a bicycle with no legs”. Ha. I can’t imagine what he was picturing in his head! And at one point, we were just riding along and Josh said, “Mommy…”. I said, “What?”, and he said, “I love you.”. And just like that I knew he was having as good a time as I was.

All told, I think the ride was about 5 km. As we got close to our starting point, Josh would stop, get off his bike and walk, claiming his feet were tired. No whining, or complaining; he would walk a bit and then get back on his bike and ride a little further. He was great. It was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Taking a break at the playground

A photo with “the big thing with the things coming out of the thing”

“the really old bulldozer that doesn’t work anymore”

A photo with “the really beautiful lake”

Sunday, February 12, 2012


My dad loves pork rinds. Consequently, we grew up eating them. I don’t know what the trigger was for my dad to buy them, but occasionally, we’d be inundated with bags of pork rinds, which we would eat for days. I’ve never bought them, but I always eat them when they are around. There seems to be something not quite right about the taste and texture - something SO artificial, it just HAD to be bad for you. At least with potato chips, they would make it look like a slice of a potato! I was never even sure if pork rinds came from a pig at all! But I can only describe them as deep-fried, salty goodness and I would eat them whenever my dad brought out a bag.

Fast forward to last week. Liezel just came back from the Philippines. For the 2.5 weeks she was gone, all I heard about from her and Ed was that she was going to bring back a suitcase full of chicharone (in case you haven’t made the connection, chicharone is the Spanish term for pork rinds). I was intrigued - why were pork rinds from the Philippines better than the bagged crap we get at the grocery store? And why am I even contemplating that question?! They are PORK RINDS for pete’s sake!

But as Liezel and I were catching up one evening last week, she decided it was finally time to break open the chicharone. And Ed was right there, looking like a kid at Christmas. I knew this had to be good because Ed knows his food!

I must admit, the chicharone from the Philippines did not disappoint! It was not only deep-fried, salty goodness but it was melt-in-your-mouth, deep-fried, salty goodness! Liezel said that when she bought the bags of chicharone, they were made fresh the day she bought them. Yes, I said ‘bags’ with an ’s’. She pulled out not only one bag of chicharone, but there were THREE different bags. Who knew there could be so many different varieties of chicharone?!

This is what I learned about chicharone:

- The ‘traditional’ variety (and likely the one we get in our grocery store versions in North America) is called Balat and it is made from pig skin. I might add that even though this was the least tasty of the three, it was still FAR better than any pork rinds that we get over here!
- The one variety called Bilog (which I thought was the best one and it’s Liezel’s favourite too) is made from the lining of the pig’s intestine.
- The last variety is what I would consider the pièce de résistance of chicharone, not because it tastes the best (that was bilog) but because it is the one you HAVE to try if you are going to try chicharone. The last variety is called Laman; and because pork rinds weren’t already bad enough for you, they (and I’m not sure who ‘they’ are) had to not only take the pig’s skin, but they had to include a layer of fat along the inside and then deep-fry the works. I could feel my arteries harden as I bit into every piece of the laman! It was like the Philippino version of stuffed-crust pizza.
So, thanks to Liezel and Ed for sharing your chicharone with me. It is a HUGE deal, considering you can only get them when you go to the Philippines! And just in case the rest of you have never seen a pork rind before - I took pictures!
Three varieties of chicharone: balat, bilog and laman.
Same three from the back, so you can see deep-fried salty goodness!
Up close, in the same order (notice the layer of fat on the inside of the piece of laman on the right!).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

accept, forgive

Overwhelmed. That was me a couple of weeks ago. There were a few incidents at the beginning of the year that were screaming to me that my life was getting a bit too stressful for me. I don’t think I was listening. So, a couple of weeks ago, this culminated in an incident with the kids that made me realize that I could no longer carry on the way I was. I was breaking everything around me. It was bad.

At the time, I felt like I was in an impossible situation. I felt trapped. I didn’t know how to ‘fix’ things. But with the help of the loved ones that make my support system, they have made me see that I need to focus on 2 things: 1) Accept that for now, I am the way I am. I am broken; and, 2) Forgive myself for being this way. Honestly, I have spent most of my life trying to always be 100%. Because if I’m not trying to be 100%, then I’m not trying hard enough, right?! Yes, I have very high expectations of myself and, consequently, I have high expectations of others (I blame it on tiger parenting! Hahaha…). But, that is a COMPLETELY different story.

So, for the past couple of weeks, I have been daily, hourly reminding myself to accept that this is just the way things are for now. If I can’t focus at work, then I have to accept that; not force myself to keep trying to focus on work. And, as hard as this has a been, if I am not up to the task of spending time with the kids, then I have to accept that I need to let Brian pick up my slack. I am not 100% right now because I am broken, so I can’t expect myself to be 100% in the things that I do. And I need to stop trying.

Acceptance has taken on many forms in the way that I get my work done, the way that I am with the kids and in my relationship with Brian. It has helped much more than any amount of ‘trying’ that I’ve been doing while I don’t have the emotional capacity to do it. I can’t quite describe it, but I think it’s working.

And just as much as I’m reminding myself to accept, I am also reminding myself to forgive. This is much harder to put into practice. Because forgiveness has to be persistent. It doesn’t help if I’m going to forgive myself for now and then beat myself up later. When I said, ‘I need to think about what forgiveness looks like’ to a friend, he said, ‘Stop thinking about it. That’s your problem. You have to think about everything. With forgiveness, you just have to do it. Just forgive yourself.’. Ha. Did he really just say that?! Did he really just tell me not to think?!

So, forgiveness is also a daily, hourly reminder. I am forgiving myself and trying to be kind to myself. In those times where I don’t seem to be able to do much else than exist, I’ve been doing things that are just for me - like going skating, going to a coffee shop and writing or reading, wandering around and listening to music and, most importantly, connecting with my support system, who have been saving me every single day for the past few months. And I am reminding myself to be okay with this. Even if these moments come at unforeseen times.

These past couple of weeks, things ‘feel’ better. I am cautiously optimistic. Accept and forgive definitely feels better than whatever I was doing previously. Much better.