One of my favorite finds during our Sydney trip was Oliver Jeffers. He’s an Australian author, and that’s probably why I haven’t seen his books in Manila before. I think bookstores here tend to stick with books written in American English. I’ll think it’s cute if our son starts spelling it “colour”, but I don’t think his teachers would like that very much. Nevertheless, these books are amazing and tug at my heart. They’re incredibly well-written, the illustration is insanely adorable, and I really need to hug that little penguin.
Reading is something we value very much in our home, and finding great books is always such a treat. Corwin loves being read and told stories to more than anything, so every time Jeff and I have trips out of the country, we always make a point to hit a couple of bookstores. In Sydney, we were able to drop by five. These are the ones we’ve read to him already so I’ll share them here. You can find all these and his other titles on Amazon. Will share more children’s books these coming weeks. In the meantime, here are some pages from the books.
LOST AND FOUND
UP AND DOWN
(This chubby little penguin tied to a balloon. Could barely handle the cuteness.)
WAY BACK HOME
HOW TO CATCH A STAR
Have fun reading! If you have book suggestions, do let me know.
I learned to ride a bicycle last month, at the age of 31. I didn’t learn as a kid. My dad tried, but he let go and I fell. He meant well, and this was the way everyone else I know learned, but I never went back on one. One of my biggest fears is falling. I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that I would never be able to ride a bike. Once you reach a certain age without learning, you just sort of accept it as your truth, that you’re going to grow old without knowing how.
But one spring afternoon in 2012, I saw people riding their bicycles by a river in Kyoto, and it was a beautiful sight. It felt peaceful. And I was saddened thinking I’d never be able to do that. After making arrangements for our October trip this year, I decided to learn. I got a foldable bicycle last April 2, a Dahon City Vybe. I had a more affordable Peerless foldie in mind, but it wasn’t in stock and I had to wait for the next shipment to arrive. The Dahon felt right when I tried it on, so we got it before I could change my mind.
I named her Kawaakari. It means “the gleam of last light on a river’s surface at dusk; the glow of a river in the darkness”. I’ve been chronicling my learning adventures on Instagram and Facebook, and when I posted a photo of it for the first time, I wrote “We’re going to prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks. And if we don’t, well, expect her to be on sale in a month or two.”
I sold her about an hour ago, not because I gave up, but because I learned and wanted to move on to a full size bike already. I don’t get to ride enough to make good use of two bicycles, and it seems wasteful to hold on to it. It went to another couple, Jets and Rhona, who are friends of ours from the wedding industry. He is going to teach her how to ride on it, too, and that makes me happy because even though my story with the foldie has ended, it’s starting a new one with another. My little bicycle, the teacher, is moving on, too.
My goal was to ride a bicycle in Japan, but since I learned before our trip to Australia, I was able to ride a bike there, too. (Thanks to the lovely Cat Juan for her amazing guide to Sydney.) That was my first time on a full size bike, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it came easily. The feeling of finally being able to ride one is indescribable, even more being able to do it in another country. Continent, even. For people who’ve been cycling since they were toddlers, they probably won’t understand the exhilaration, relief, and pride of learning it as adult, because they picked it up easily as kids. But for someone who honestly never imagined ever being able to ride her entire life, it’s priceless. It’s not earth-shatteringly important, and I won’t be winning any cycling medals anytime soon or even in this lifetime, but it is a personal victory against fear and defeatism. One other thing I have learned as an adult is to take my joys in everything I can. Life is too short to be too cool to be happy.
LEARNING HOW TO RIDE A BICYCLE AS AN ADULT WITHOUT FALLING, DYING, OR MAIMING OTHERS
Our son is 2.5 years old now so we were looking into getting him a Strider bike. It’s a no-pedal balance bike, specifically made to teach little kids how to ride minus all the falling that comes with teaching it the traditional way, which is to push them along and let go. This way, the child learns to ride on his own, in his own time. And then it occurred to me that I could learn this way, too. This is why the foldie was perfect to learn on, because my feet were flat on the ground with it. I did a lot of online research before and while I was learning. There’s pretty good advice here. There are also videos available, and a funny article on The New York Times on The Terror and Humiliation of Learning to Ride a Bike at 33.
Jeff was so incredibly patient teaching me and encouraging me, and I will always be grateful. My husband is my hero. On regular (walking) days, I’m already a handful. Me on a bicycle is chaos and murder on wheels. He walked beside me while I struggled to find my balance. He would cheer me on and he let out such a huge whoop of joy when I learned how to pedal that I lost my balance. Haha. We would go to UP Diliman, on that quiet little downhill road between the College of Music and Film Center, and we would go back and forth, back and forth for an hour every night for 2-3 days until I could coast with my feet up and pedal through 5 meters. Exactly one week after I got the bike, I rode around our village and did over 3 kilometers. I think I could’ve learned it sooner, but I didn’t want to rush it. If I fell, I knew it would set me back with more trauma and fear. So we went with slow and steady.
Posting about learning on social media has been helpful. I’ve gotten comments from other adults saying they didn’t learn as kids, too, and that they’re trying to or are going to try soon. It made the whole thing feel a little less silly, and it was all so encouraging.
There were times when I just couldn’t stay on, and they were EXASPERATING. What got me through was thinking about how I’ve given birth, that I am a mother, that the female body was built for so much more amazing things, and that I’m the most stubborn and obstinate person I know. Surely, given all that, riding a bicycle can’t be that freaking hard. I think it was that hilarious indignation that got me through the first few meters, if I’m being completely honest. It’s the fear that stops us more than anything. Wear a helmet and don’t be shy about wearing elbow pads if you feel you need it. Slap on some knee pads, if that helps at all. (I skipped that, but I won’t judge you if you do. Hahaha.) Then just ride. Keep your eyes on the road ahead, not on the road beneath your wheel. Learn how to brake. Avoid people, cars, and lampposts, and if you must swerve violently and hit something, always aim for the plants. Above all, keep your sense of humor with you.
I came across Craftsmith when The Delightful Miss Joyce posted photos of their shop on her Instagram account, way before they opened. I followed them on Instagram then, and have been falling in love with Mia and Kitty’s work since. (Incidentally, Mia is also the woman behind Mobu Days. The pillow we got from Urban Abode was designed by her.)
Craftsmith opened very recently, and I was able to drop by this afternoon. I tried to keep it together but I may have gushed a bit. I was just so ridiculously happy to be there in that space, I felt like hugging myself. I get a little high from being around great design.
More than anything, I think it’s the love and passion that goes into it, the thoughtful design and curation of all the lovely handmade things in their little shop, and this is something that always gets me. I will always love a good story, and this place is overflowing with it.
CRAFTSMITH | Unit 2J Crown Tower, 107 HV Dela Costa, Salcedo Village, Makati City | @craftsmithliving | email@example.com
A former bride of ours and our assistant both told me that the Luckies Scratch Map I picked up in Sydney and blogged about is already available locally through Quirks. I saw on their page that they commissioned Luckies to make a scratch map of the Philippines, and was thrilled. Made arrangements to get one soon as I could.
I was pretty surprised by how large the map is, if I’m being honest. It’s taking me forever to finish it because they’re pretty big areas to cover, but it’s still pretty awesome. I’ll post a photo on Instagram of the map when I’m done.
If you have an older kid, you could make this a family activity and do it together. Corwin is still two years old, so I’m just going to enlist the hubby’s help on this one.
We have a harmless little house lizard that my two year old son has named George about a year ago, and he greets it happily each time it decides to make an appearance. Well, tonight, George must have felt a bit warm because he went inside the A/C. It made a horrifying sound. Jeff looked inside and found George split in two, with his bottom half still wriggling. I could not bring myself to look, but I have been told he is very, very dead. I have been going from shock and horror to funeral giggles to sadness for my little boy, and everything all over again. And I have had to ask the nanny not to tell Corwin while laughing hysterically. I may or may not have a bit of trouble dealing with grief. I’m hoping George is actually a small family of lizards that live off insects around our neighborhood, and that they still visit us sometimes so my son can still say, “Hello, George!” Ideally, one at a time, and never inside appliances again.
I posted this photo on Instagram recently and I’ve been getting asked about it, so I figured I’d share it here, too. It’s a scratch map, where you scratch off the places you’ve been to with a coin. It’s pretty cool, and I can’t wait to scratch off more countries.
Incidentally, I remember one of our brides got this as a gift from her groom recently, and I think it’s a brilliant gift for someone you want to see the world with.
Picked this up at the Lonely Planet shop at the departure area of Sydney Airport, but it’s also available online. This is the one I got: Luckies Travel Scratch Map. I also came across these other Luckies travel goodies, which I’d love to have: Deluxe Scratch Map, if you’d like it in black, and this Travelogue.
Planning on getting the Travelogue eventually, but first, must travel more.
Edit: I just found out that this is also available in Manila through the shop Quirks! And I saw a scratch map of the Philippines on their Facebook page, too. Oh, boy.
I’m a sucker for things wooden and handmade. That’s why our house is filled with all sorts of wooden toys even though my two year old son’s favorite toys are cups, bottle caps, and paper straws. That’s why I have an Etsy habit that I can’t quite shake. There’s a romance to things made well by hand. I feel like there’s a wealth of stories in them.
I learned about Urban Abode from a client, and I’ve been following them on Instagram since (@urbanabode), but haven’t had the time to go there ’till three days ago.
The shopping part of the visit was so distracting, I didn’t get to take more photos. Funny that. Jeff and I got two wooden crates for the office, and a lovely throw pillow designed by Mobu Days. The shop also has burlap throw pillows if you’re into that sort of thing. I like the idea and the look of it, but burlap just doesn’t seem very comfortable as a pillow case, so I passed on that one. Still gorgeous though. I’ll probably pop back in when they have new stock and take more photos then. Be sure to go upstairs and check out their furniture.
Urban Abode | CW Home Depot Ortigas, #1 Dona Julia Vargas Avenue, Unit 08-B , 1604 Pasig | +632.586.0026
We’re shooting a beautiful renewal of vows today, on the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary. I love how in love they are with each other still, and people have been expecting me to cry today, but thankfully, I’ve managed to contain myself. Haha. But now on the dance floor as the program ends, one of the couple’s sons is dancing with the bride, his mother, and I am on the verge of crying and laughing all at once.
He’s a young, good-looking hipster boy and you’d think he’d feel like he’s too cool to dance with his mother to Dancing Queen, of all songs, but he’s right there on the dance floor with her, with a huge smile on his face. And that makes my heart so happy.
One of my favorite things in the whole world is dancing with you. You dance with so much joy, it’s contagious. We have done this nearly every single day since before you could walk, to songs that range all the way from Queen to Modest Mouse to Pharrell Williams to The Lumineers. Never be too old or too cool to dance with mommy, okay?
Racing home to you now.
I have so many things I want to write, and I think about writing you every day, but I’d rather spend as much of my free time with you than write these days. I post a lot of things on Instagram and Facebook. I don’t know if those websites will still be around by the time you’re old enough to appreciate what I’ve written there about you and us, but know you’re never out of my mind, my love.
Ever since you were a tiny little infant, you would get affected by music. I have a thing for sad songs, and whenever they would play, the little corners of your mouth would turn down and your bottom lip would quiver, and you would cry after a few seconds, so I’ve been avoiding playing them. Sometimes I try again just to check if you still mind. It hasn’t changed much, you still tear up, but now you tell your father, “Daddy, o. Sad song.” And it’s so sweet and so funny, we burst out laughing, and I switch to something happier, and you dance again. You are such a happy little boy, and that makes me so much happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. You walk like there’s music playing inside your head. Probably something with violins and drums.
We pass by this street at night sometimes and you always point to the street lamps and call them “sad lights”. It took me a couple of times before I got it. The lights are a lot dimmer, and tinted. Dull. Flickering. Sad. I’ve always known you’re highly empathic. You are my son, after all, and I process the world in feelings. When I was younger, I used to think my empathy was a curse, that people shouldn’t be allowed to feel so much. But as I grew older, I learned to contain it and use it to fuel my art. I have grown to accept it and even treasure it as a part of who I am, without letting it affect me the way it used to. I hope I can help you do the same. You always say they’re sad lights matter-of-factly though, the way your father talks about most things. My gut tells me you’ll be just fine.
You get scared when we pass through tunnels. This time we tell you that your stuffed lion that we keep in the car is scared, too, and that you should hold his hand and comfort him. I hear you tell him in a loving voice, “It’s okay. It’s okay, lion.” and my heart just bursts inside my chest each time. “It’s okay. It’s okay, honey.” is what I’ve always comforted you with while holding you in my arms, in that same tone of voice.
You call mosquitoes “smee-toes” and it’s so insanely adorable, I don’t want to correct you just yet. A few weeks ago, you were being so much more adorable than usual that I couldn’t help but let you know. “You’re adorable, honey.” You giggled and smiled at me very sweetly, saying, “I’m a doorbell.” I think I nearly died laughing. You make the people around you so, so happy.
You have a book called A Bit Lost, where the little owl gets, well, lost. These past few days, you have taken to making this unbelievably cute pretend-forlorn face, saying in a small voice, “I’m lost.” And I pretend to look for you even though you’re right smack in front of me because, hey, I can be cool like that. But I can’t let it play out for too long because I can never resist hugging you and wiping away the sadness, even if it’s just pretend, and I tell you that I’m here, that mommy will always find you, because I will. I will rip through the entire world with my bare hands if that’s what it takes to find you. So please, please don’t stray too far from me when we’re out, my little adventurer. The world will never be ready for me without you.
It’s 2:45am. I wrote while you were sleeping so I don’t have to miss out on any more than I have to while you’re awake. Sweet dreams, little one.
A few days ago, the three of us were in the car and about to leave our driveway when your father kissed me. We heard giggling in the backseat. When we turned to look at you, my brain nearly exploded from the cuteness of it all. You had your hands covering your mouth and you were “kilig” and giggling your little face off. Naturally, your father kissed me more times to elicit the same reaction from you. It was the sweetest thing. I wanted to scoop you off your big boy carseat and smother you with kisses, you crazy adorable thing you, but I managed to contain myself during the drive.
Your dad and I were supposed to go out on a movie date last night, but for some reason, I just really needed to be home with you instead. I am so glad we went home. We had such an amazing night playing together. We pretended to go on a road trip, sang, played drums on pots and pans, made a red snowman and crocodile, and chopped clay hotdogs and donuts with an old membership card. You get so many nice toys from us and other people, but it’s the tiny little things that make you happy. I appreciate that so much about you.
You chatted our ears off yesterday. “Here you go.” “Where’s it? There it is!” “Red means stop. Green means go.” “Trinoma first. Baguio after.” “There is ants! One ants!” (Haha.) “Have some lollipop please, mommy.” (Your pedia gave you one yesterday. It was your first ever.)
I am your mother and it is my privilege to be completely biased and find you brilliant. But we don’t want you to grow up hearing us tell you you’re smart, and have you go through life expecting things to fall on your lap just because you think you’re smart and feel you deserve special treatment. We want you to find validation in working for things, in the trying, and achieving your goals the right way. Ever since you were a baby, we’ve been slowly teaching you to be resilient, to not give up when things don’t work the way or as fast as you expect them to, to pick yourself up when you fall and dust yourself off, and to keep practicing until you get it right. We want you to grow up valuing honest hard work, so you can savor success that you have rightfully earned. No shortcuts. No lies.
It was so difficult for me to learn how to quell my instinct to squeal and yelp each time you fell when you were learning how to walk, but I managed to get there within days because I needed to. We didn’t want you to become scared of falling. Tonight, you tripped and fell on the floor while walking around the room. As always when there’s no injury, you didn’t cry. You stood up, and came to me for a hug and a kiss, then went back to whatever it was you were doing. And while playing with clay on your own for a bit, we heard you talking to yourself. “Cut it. Try again. Try again. Practice, like Cubby.” In the book you read with your dad, Cubby couldn’t get the hang of the pogo stick right away, so he kept practicing and practicing until he got it right. You were the same with basketball, too. You would play for a long time even though you couldn’t get the ball through the hoop, and now you’re quite good at it.
I felt an incredible surge of pride when I heard you encourage yourself like that. I hugged your dad real tight and said, “I’m happy. Are you happy?” He hugged me back, said yes, and asked you if you were. Before he could finish the question, you replied with a decisive little nod, “Happy too, yes.”
You’re an amazing little person, and you make us want to be better and do better. You give us something bigger than ourselves to aspire to. You make me want to be the best version of myself, so when you grow up, you can be proud of me, too.
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