1 October 2015

In Kindergarten

Wow, my little girl is in kindergarten!  When such milestones happen, I am always reminded of how quickly time passes.  Seems like yesterday when we brought Sophia home from the hospital.  Now, she is starting a new chapter in her life.  She is no longer a pre-schooler.  She is now a kindie.  

A few years ago, Ed’s uncle recommended to us the IB program of education.  His kids attended an IB school in Trinidad and he raved about the program.  So, when it was time for us to decide on Sophia’s schooling, I went looking for an IB school in Vancouver.  We applied to a local IB school and crossed our fingers that Sophia will get accepted.  Based on the number of families applying and the number of spots available, there was around a 30% chance of getting in.  I was beyond ecstatic when I received the email informing us that Sophia was being offered a spot in the kindergarten class.  It is a big financial commitment for us but one that we truly believe is worth every cent.

Sophia’s first day was four weeks ago and she has adjusted very well to her new schedule and surroundings.  When I picked her up one day during the first week, she said, “I like this school; they have puppets”.  She has made friends and seems to enjoy the program thus far.  Each day, the students are assigned a job, such as being the meteorologist, light monitor, pencil picker-upper, etc.  Three times a week, they have PE, Spanish, and music classes.  They have circle time and play time (which they call Centres).  They have a topic that they inquire into for a few weeks (called unit of inquiry) and they integrate reading, writing, math, science, etc into the inquiry.  The first unit of inquiry for the kindies is called Who Am I.  One of her projects last week is a “Me Bag”.  She brought home a small brown paper bag.  We were to help her pick three to five things to put in the bag that represent who she is, her likes and interests.  Then each student gets to share her Me Bag with the class during circle time this week.

I have been quite happy with the level of communication and engagement with parents.  The kindergarten teachers have a website where they blog about the topics they covered that week and they post a few photos of the kids while in class, doing their activities.  I have had a few chances to chat with Mrs. M when picking up Sophia after school.  The Spanish teacher has her own site where she posts links to the topics and videos the kindies learned so we can help practice the Spanish words at home. 

I can’t even describe the joy I feel watching Sophia grow and learn.  To see your child demonstrate confidence, knowledge, and new skills brings such pride.  And it makes me appreciate the wonder of nature more.  Human beings are amazing creatures.  I never appreciated it as much as I do now, when I see how much this little baby I cradled in my arms just five years ago can do by herself now.  And she’s just beginning.  Amazing!

Team work for Swimmy the Fish

Playing in the park

Play time
PE class

Junior school assembly

27 September 2015

2015 Camping trips #2, #3, #4

Am so behind on blogging that I will have to do an all in one post about our camping trips this past summer.  

Deception Pass
In the end of June, Sophia and I went with the Van Dops to Deception Pass for three nights.  Ed was in Ontario competing at a dragon boat competition so it was just me and Sophia who went.  There is a lake near the camp ground that was quite ideal for kids.  The water was warm and shallow.  The kids had great fun playing with the inflatable orca whale, which the girls named Dolfina.  They thought was a dolphin at first, hence, the name.  The kids played a lot around the campsite and rode their bikes around and around the campground.  And since the Van Dop trailer was hooked up to an electrical outlet, the kids also had a little time for a movie and the iPad.  

Alice Lake
In mid-August, Ed, Sophia, and I went to Alice Lake with the Van Dops, Blommesteins, and LeWongs for a couple of nights.  It was chilly and cloudy so we did not go swimming in the lake.  We went hiking, instead, around Alice Lake and Stump Lake.  Thankfully, it did not rain.  And thankfully, the Van Dops have a propane camp fire thingy and we were able to keep warm around the fire.  

Lake Wenatchee
The last weekend of August, we made the drive to Lake Wenatchee for three nights of camping.  It was the same group that went to Alice Lake, plus we were joined by Vangie, Skye, and the Lindners.  This is our third year going to Lake Wenatchee.  The first year, it was super windy and it was too cold to swim in the lake,  Last year, the weather was awesome and we spent a lot of time in the lake.  This year, it was cold and raining on and off all weekend.  Alas, we could not play in the lake.  We found other things to do like horseback riding and playing in the playground.  The kids also found a teeter totter made from logs and spent a lot of time playing on it.  

So many great memories are made in these camping trips. The kids will grow up with these fun memories of them camping and playing.  I love watching the kids get along well and do things that they were not able to do before.  As they get older and spend more time playing on their own, the adults have more time to relax, sit and chat with each other.  We all have such busy schedules that having a weekend here and there to slow down and just hang out with each other is wonderful.  These moments are definitely priceless.

8 July 2015

Sophia's graduation #1

A couple of weeks ago, Sophia had her graduation from the 3-5 Early Child Care Program at Collingwood Neighbourhood House.  I hope it is the first of many graduations for her.  Sophia started going to the group daycare at CNH when she was 13 months old, first in the Infant program, then the Toddler program, and finally the 3-5 program.  I consider ourselves extremely lucky for getting a spot at the daycare as the waitlist is long and many families don’t get a spot when they need it.  All three programs are very well-managed, and the teachers are really good and dedicated.  It is a fantastic daycare and Sophia loves it there.  I have thanked my lucky stars many, many times over the last four years that my daughter gets to go to such a wonderful place on workdays.

The kids who will be going to kindergarten come September got to participate in the graduation ceremony.  They wore a gown and cap, marched into the room in a line, and sang four songs for their family and friends who attended (complete with actions, of course).  Then they received a certificate and a present from the teachers (a book).

I know a lot of people find it hilarious that a 4-year old would have a graduation from daycare (I do!) but it does make it more fun for the kids.  And I think it helps the kids accept that they will soon be leaving daycare, and all their friends, and they will be going to a new school to meet new teachers and classmates.  Sophia did not like the idea of going to kindergarten at the start of the year (she said she was scared) but since they started prepping for their graduation, she has become more accepting of the fact that she will be going to a different school in a few weeks.

Even though the graduation ceremony is in June, most of the kids are staying on until the end of August.  But I am already starting to feel sad about leaving CNH daycare.  Our experience with CNH has be awesome, Sophia’s teachers have been amazing, and our little daycare community feels safe and comfortable.  I have known some of Sophia’s friends since they were one year old.  I am going to miss seeing them everyday.

The grad photo!

Getting ready to sing.

Double Trouble

28 June 2015

Dinner with Carla

Yvette and I met up with Carla for dinner one Friday evening in June. We haven’t seen Carla in nine years! But the camaraderie felt just like old times. Carla, Yvette and I worked at the same company fifteen years ago and we all became good friends. In 2001, Carla moved back home to Dawson Creek and eventually married. She and her husband settled in Grande Prairie and had two kids. The last time Carla came to Vancouver was nine years ago for our friend’s wedding. But with two kids and a family business to help run, a trip to Vancouver just wasn’t in the cards until June 2015 when Carla decided that a solo trip to Vancouver to catch up with old friends would make a perfect gift for her birthday.

We went to a Japanese spaghetti place on Robson for dinner and later that evening, we stopped at Bacchus for some tea and dessert. We didn’t stop talking from 5pm to midnight! We had a great time catching up on each other’s lives and reliving memories from fifteen years ago. We were so busy chatting that we even forgot to take a photo of the three of us. What I will remember most is how wonderful it is to jump back into a friendship and feel like we just saw each other yesterday.

Thank you for visiting, Carla, and we sure hope it will not be another nine years before we see each other again.

24 June 2015

Sabrina's graduation

Earlier this month, Ed, Sophia, my mom, and I traveled to Edmonton to attend my niece's convocation ceremony at the University of Alberta and to celebrate this big milestone with her.  She has worked hard the past four years to get her degree (with distinction, to boot) and we wanted to be present to cheer for her as she walked across the stage to receive that piece of paper that states she has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.  As one of the speakers said during the ceremony, this is an accomplishment nobody can take away from the graduates and they should be very proud of themselves.
Congratulations, Sabrina!
My brother from Virginia also came to Edmonton to attend the celebration.  It was great to be able to spend time with my family and catch up with each other.  We live far away from each other and don't get to chat all the time but when we do get together, we always have an awesome time together.

It was also good for Sophia to experience going to a convocation ceremony and seeing the graduates around her.  Anything to encourage education for her is a good thing.

It was wonderful to see Sophia and Sabrina hanging out.  Sophia just wanted to be with Sabrina the whole time we were there.  She followed Sabrina around and asked her all sorts of questions.  Sophia helped frost a cake, bake chocolate chip cookies, and bake cheese bread (Sabrina's into baking).  It made me so happy to see the two of them have that bond even if we only see them once or twice a year.
Strolling with Nanay and Sabrina

Making cheese bread
The day before we were to return to Vancouver, we went to visit Fort Edmonton Park.  There was a fair with rides and a fun house, there was the fort itself, and the town that the pioneers built outside the fort.  It was all preserved and there were people dressed in period costume to give the feeling that you are visiting the past.  We all had a great time.
Carousel at Fort Edmonton

17 June 2015

2015 Camping Trip #1

We camped in Porteau Cove with our friends the Lindners and the Sidneys.  Highlights from the camping trip:
- Gabi and Sophia loving the walkie talkies
- The girls spending a lot of time "investigating" the beach
- Gabi taking a spill on the scooter (yikes)
- Adria not sleeping and letting everybody in the campground know about it
- Weather way too hot for early May (but we loved it)

It was a fantastic and fun trip. Looking forward to camping trip #2!

30 May 2015

Field trip to VanDusen Botanical Garden

A few weeks ago, Sophia and her daycare mates went on a field trip to VanDusen Botanical Garden on a cold spring day.  I made sure to come along because this would be Sophia's last field trip with the daycare.  She'll be off to kindergarten in September and there are many "lasts" with the daycare over the next few months.

I really appreciate the work the teachers put into making sure events such as a field trip takes place.  There are a lot of things to organize and coordinate, plus minding the whole class during the trip itself.  The kids enjoyed their field trip and kudos to the teachers for making it happen.

Here are some photos from the field trip:

11 April 2015

Going barefoot

I bought my last pair of running shoes in May 2009. And I still use them. Granted, I have not been running a lot in the last six years but it has been close to six years nonetheless. So, I recently decided it was time to buy a new pair.

In the CrossFit gym I go to, we work out with no shoes on. I just wear my socks doing the workout indoors. We slip on our running shoes when we have to go do some exercise outside. But for the most part, our workouts are indoors, wearing our socks. It felt funny at first but I have grown accustomed to it. We also sometimes run laps inside, with no shoes. Our CrossFit coach showed us how to run properly with no shoes. Basically, land on the balls or the middle part of our feet, not the heel. We should not over-extend our legs so that we can land properly. It’s a different way from how I’ve been running all these years when wearing running shoes that again, it felt funny at first but I started to feel more comfortable with it over time.

At the suggestion of my CrossFit coach and Ed, I looked into the minimalist running shoes. These have “zero drop” from the heel to the balls of the feet, unlike the mainstream running shoes which have 10mm to 12mm lift from the balls of the feel to the heel. With zero drop, it is basically like running barefoot and this promotes a more natural running gait.

I found a small store on Main St that focuses on natural running (http://www.distancerunwear.com) and they carry a good selection of minimalist shoes. I tried on three pairs (Vivobarefoot, Inov-8, and New Balance) and I ultimately decided to buy the one that feels the most like being barefoot - the Vivobarefoot Stealth. I have used it only twice for our warm-up run before the CrossFit work-out so the jury is still out on whether I made the right choice or not. We’ll see…

4 April 2015

Alaskan king crab dinner

Ed organized a dinner with me and three other friends recently at a Chinese restaurant in Richmond.  No special occasion.  Just five people enjoying amazingly delicious food and feasting on an Alaskan king crab and a duck.  The crab yielded three different dishes - the legs steamed with garlic, the leg knuckles stir fried with spicy sauce, and the meat in the body mixed with noodles.  The duck yielded two dishes - Peking duck and duck lettuce wrap.  There was too much food for five and we just ate and ate and ate.  The food was very tasty!  We all had a great time stuffing ourselves.  We definitely could have had two or three more people join us and we would still have had enough food for everyone.

We all knew it was going to be an expensive dinner but I don’t think any of us expected it to be as expensive as it turned out to be.  We were all a little shocked when the bill came.  The crab cost $418.00!  I don’t think I have ever had one dinner item cost that much before.  

To splurge once in a while is fine and we definitely had a wonderful time enjoying that crab.  I better start saving for next year’s Alaskan king crab dinner!

Some photos... (Thanks to Tina and Sean for the photos.)
King crab!

27 March 2015

Into Skating

We went ice skating on Family Day (Feb 9) because our friend, Yvette, rented the ice rink and shared it with family and friends.  We found out the day before that there would be no skate rentals available so like crazed parents, we went around the city looking for skates that fit Sophia’s slender feet.  We ended up finding a pair at Cyclone Taylor Sports.  It set us back $80, which I was pretty choked about, but we really wanted to go skating and it is hard to find footwear that fit Sophia’s feet.  So, fine, I said.  Let’s just buy the freakin’ skates.

Fast forward six weeks and I feel better about the skates.  Sophia has really taken to skating and we’ve been going to public skate once a week since that Family Day.  Her balance is pretty good and so is her coordination.  She’s going faster each week. She can even go backwards a little bit now (she wiggles her bum side to side).  She really enjoys her time on the ice and I love watching her motor around the rink.  It’s funny how thrilling it is to see your child improving at something they enjoy doing.  

Sophia’s motivation seems to be her desire to be in an ice show just like Minnie Mouse.  We went to see Disney on Ice before Christmas and it sparked her interest in ice skating.  She sometimes asks how good she has to be so she can be in an ice show.  Haha.  I tell her the only way to get better is to keep practicing.  And as long as she enjoys it, I’ll keep taking her to the rink.  Good thing thing I love to skate, too.

Showing off her new skates!

A friend from daycare was at the rink, too.

In skating lesson

On the big ice

18 March 2015

Best buds

Gabi and Sophia have attended the same daycare since they were around 1 year old.  They drive each other crazy but also enjoy each other's company immensely.  Here are some pics of them growing up together...


15 February 2015

Reconnecting with Mr. Lee

I listen to CBC’s The Current radio show as I drive to work in the morning.  A few months ago, there was a guest on the show who commented about how for so many immigrants who are skilled professionals, getting into the field they are trained in is very difficult because they have no Canadian experience, and they end up working as taxi drivers or in retail instead.  He said that these educated, trained immigrants just need to be given a chance.  When I heard that, I immediately thought of William Lee.  He offered me my first job in Canada back in the 90’s.  He gave me a chance.  My family had landed in Canada three months prior and I had been applying for IT jobs the moment we arrived.  I didn’t have much work experience and I definitely had no Canadian experience so I was feeling very anxious about my chances of finding a job in IT.  But somehow, William decided to offer me the position and that first step set up my work life here in Canada.  Without that first person taking a chance on me, who knows what work I would be doing today?  William definitely affected my life in a very positive way.

The funny story I will always remember from that time is how I addressed William as Mr. Lee.  Everyone else in the team called him William but being my boss, I couldn’t bring myself to call him that.  In the Philippines, addressing your boss by their first name is considered very disrespectful!  William let me call him Mr. Lee, and enjoyed that time immensely, until I felt “Canadian” enough to call him William. 

As I drove to work that morning, I felt that I should let William know of the impact he had on my life.  We had lost touch over the years and I took a mental note that I should add this to my to do list.  About a month ago, I finally got around to looking for him.  I didn’t know if the email I had still worked.  I decided to check LinkedIn and Facebook.  I found him on Facebook and sent him a message to say hi.  A couple of days later, I got a response and we made plans to meet up.  I also told him about why I went in search of him and officially thanked him for taking a chance on me.

Ed, Sophia, and I had dim sum with William a week ago.  It was so wonderful to see him again, to catch up on each other’s lives, and reminisce about the past, too.  The last time we spoke must have been 14 years ago but we just picked up where we left off.  He is still the same as I remember him, and I was very glad that Ed and Sophia got to meet him too.  I am so happy I made the effort to reach out and reconnect.  And I will make sure that it won't take another 14 years for us to get together again!

12 February 2015

Ten years old

My first ever post on this blog was on Feb 10, 2005...  Wow, happy ten years to my blog!

6 February 2015

Big White Ski Trip with DIDO Friends

I love our DIDO group.  We’ve all known each other for over 14 years.  Before the kids came along, it was about trying out new restaurants and doing fun stuff (like ski trips, hiking, and hanging out at the beach).  Then the kids started coming and we would get together at each other’s houses because it was much more comfortable feeding babies at home.  But slowly, as the kids get older, we started doing fun stuff again.  In fact, five out of the six kids even skied with us down the green run on our last day at Big White.  It’s hard to explain how amazing it felt to see the grown ups and the kids skiing down the hill together.  I thought my heart would burst; I was so proud and happy.  I was a little sad, too, because Sophia was the only child who still can’t go up on the chair lift and down a green run.  I really am hoping that she will be able to join the group next year.  I think that will make me cry!

Thanks to Yvette for being so proactive about organizing our ski trips.  She found a really nice 4-bedroom, 4-bath condo in Big White.  There was more than enough room for all of us and a nice big open area where we can all hang out together.  As the kids get older, they also need less minding so we grown-ups were able to have uninterrupted conversations throughout our stay.  We had three days of skiing and two travel days.  We signed up Sophia for three days of ski lessons but it was cancelled on the third day because the gondola that takes the kids down to the bunny hill had broken down.  So we spent the morning of our third ski day on the bunny hill with Sophia.  It had snowed quite a bit overnight and continued to snow through the day, that her skis wouldn’t slide at all on the bunny hill.  We basically had to run down the hill, pushing her along, and it was NOT fun.  After four times down the hill, we just took off her skis and just rolled around in the snow.  That part was quite fun.

The last time Ed and I skied together (that was not on the bunny hill) was before we had a kid.  On our first and second ski days, with Sophia in ski school, Ed and I enjoyed two hours of skiing together with our friends.  It was sunshine, blue sky, and groomed runs for two hours each day.  It was glorious!  

And I have to say that all those squats and dead lifts we do in CrossFit must be doing something good because our legs felt pretty strong.  Our legs felt tired at the end of the day but not too sore at all.  However, after the big snow dump on the third day, skiing on the powder made my legs burn.  That snow was hard work!  I would prefer a groomed run any day!

It was such a fun trip and I look forward to doing this with our friends every year.  Seeing the kids grow and able to do more and more things with us is so wonderful.  Being able to keep our friendships close and strong is also such a gift. Our kids are growing up together and we are growing old together.  In many ways, these friends are family, too.  

Here are pictures from the trip:

26 January 2015

I am not an animal

I was reading something to Sophia that said "human animals"...

S: People are animals?
Me:  Remember I said that we came from the apes?  So, yes, we are a kind of animal.
S: (pause)  I didn't come from the apes so I am not an animal.
Me:  (laughing) And where did you come from?
S: (pointing to my mid-section) Your tummy.

11 January 2015

My 3 words for 2015

I started this last year and I did use the words as my “flags on the battlefield of my challenges”.  I have to admit that they faded from my mind as the year went on.  This year, though, I will not limit myself to words.  In fact, I won’t even come up with something original.  In early 2014, I participated in defining Navarik’s core values and I have come to embrace these as my personal core values.

1) Be true

2) Be brilliant

3) Make it happen

I love what our team came up with.  Everyday at work, I think of these phrases and use them to guide and inspire me.  I have extended this to my personal life, too, although not as consistently.  My goal is to live by these values everyday, wherever I may be.

3 January 2015

And it was a good Christmas

I took time off from work from Dec 25 to Jan 4.  And I really did tune out of work.  I usually keep thinking about work even when I am at home but not this time.  It was a much needed break.

We had Christmas Eve dinner at my sister's.  My nieces prepared the delicious turkey and the rest of us brought the salad, sides, and dessert.  Ed found a TV channel that showed Cirque de Soleil all night and Sophia was quite fascinated by it.  I promised her that we would go see a show when the circus came to town.

Christmas day was pretty lazy.  Sophia and I made breakfast (it was Sophia's Christmas present to Ed) then opened presents.  We spent the day in our pyjamas, hanging out at home.  It was a very lovely day!

On Boxing Day, we loaded up the car and drove to Portland.  We visited my mom-in-law and her husband for a few days.  We found new things to do in Portland like go to the Children's Museum, bounce around in a trampoline park, and eat the freshly made ice cream at Salt and Straw.  We had lunch at the food truck area in downtown, and of course, helped the local economy by going shopping a little bit.

Back in Vancouver, we welcomed the new year with our friends, the Van Dops and LeFebvres.  We had a hot pot dinner and a sleep over at the Van Dop house.  New year's day was another hang-out-in-our-PJs day.  The kids played, we ate hot pot left-overs, and enjoyed each other's company.  It was a very enjoyable way to welcome the new year.