Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween in Three Places

No so long time ago...we used to all go out on a night like this to the neighborhood with all the kids to trick-or-treat.  (We'd go out early, leave a bowl of candies by the front door and a note welcoming trick-or-treaters to help themselves with them.) Sometimes we would carry Miriam because she'd be too tired going up and down the hills.  When my kids had enough candies they would stop going to the houses.  Then they would come home and see who wins in getting the most candies.  Our kitchen table would be full of candies but on that Halloween night they get to eat maybe five (maximum) candies and put the rest away.  They'd drink apple cider or hot chocolate or milk and then just hang out.  I miss those days.

Miriam as Mini Ninja Suzume

Now Miriam, in her Mini Ninja, Suzume outfit, is out trick-or-treating with Tim.  As always, she's with her friend Erich who is dressed like a gorilla.  I know she's not after the candies but rather she likes to show off her costume.   Brahms is in Cameron park right now with his old friends from middle school.  They're at Jonathan Gomorrah's house.  Brahms is so happy to see his good friends again including Jeremy and Jordan Parlin and Andrew Keen.  He still seem so attached to his old friends, which is good because it's taking a long time to build new friends in Oak Ridge.  Shannon is home giving candies to trick-or-treaters.  I told her to go out but she refused.  Instead she is doing her favorite things to do: reading and baking bread.  Right now I smell her Sunday Bread.  (We just had Natalie over in her pumpkin outfit.  Miriam and Tim are now back).  Now we are eating Shannon's creation.  It's yummy and loaded with energy too!

Shannon with Natalie, our special Trick-or-Treater

My children are growing up and I can't help it.  It is good to remember how things used to be and yet it is also fascinating to see them do new things.  Thank God for another Halloween...and healthy children.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My First American Halloween

We were newly weds living in Morgan Hill.  Helene Lane is a very quiet street.  People there didn't seem to get out of their houses and if they did they didn't talk.  Our house backs onto an old golf course with an open view of the hills and mountains.  The backyard was always a better place to go than the front yard where only closed garage doors are the views.  The only people who came to our house were those we invited or those who said they would come.  The times were even specified.  I was surprised when people we knew asked if they could stop by. Where I came from in the Philippines, mother-in-laws or anybody for that matter just come.  That is the setting of my first American Halloween story - a place where unexpected-guests are unexpected.

It was October 30, 1991 at seven o'clock, Tim and I were in our sweats because we kept our house cold, sitting in the living room after we had dinner.  Suddenly, in the middle of whatever we were talking about, the door bell rings.  My first reaction was to go to the door and find out who it was.  However, Tim's was different.  He joined me as I walked towards the direction of the door but then he staggered and exclaimed, "Oh, no!  It's Halloween!"  "So what if it's Halloween!  Let's open the door!"  "No!"  "Why not?"  By this time Tim is whispering because we were very close to the door.  "They want candies."  "We have some candies in the cupboard."  "No, we don't have any, because we forgot to buy."  "Believe me, we have some candies!"  I shifted my direction, now I'm going towards the cupboard. "They don't like those candies."   "Let's give them money then."  "No. You don't understand".  He turned the lights off.  The bell rang one more time, and another time.  Then we heard footsteps of people leaving.  Tim had a big sigh of relief.

Halloween in the Philippines is called "All Souls' Day" (October 31st).  It is the day before "All Saints' Day" November 1st).  As a kid, I was told that these are the days when the living-ones remember their dead.  They show this by going to the cemetery and cleaning around their graves, painting the tombs.   I always worried about stepping on someone's grave.  People bring flowers (that they pick along the way, not from stores) to the cemetery.  They light candles and leave them by the grave.  In their homes people prepare some food (rice delicacies) and offer them to the souls of their dead who are presumably visiting during that time.  This was really scary for me because my grandmother told me that if I ate or just tasted the food before she has served the "dead's portion", then my mouth will get distorted and will stay that way for the rest of my life.  I remember that during that night of All Souls' Day the dogs howl at night and I tell you it is a lot scarier than all the Halloween decorations and costumes that people wear here. 

There is no trick-or-treating in the Philippines. There is one thing that people in the neighboring town of Ballesteros did and maybe still do.  They would trick people by moving people's stuff to the front yard.  I remember seeing frying pans, laundry basins, and shirts hanging on fences along the road.  That is the extent of tricks that I knew.  Giving out candies on Halloween never occurred to me before.  Christmas time however is different - kids go caroling and you, whom they've come to sing carols to, are expected to give them money or suman, patupat, or tinupig (these are all different kinds of rice sweets).  By now you should understand why I suggested that Tim and I should give money to the trick-or-treaters in Morgan Hill. 

Every time I remember my first Halloween in America, I still can't help but laugh.  Philippine Halloween tradition is loaded with superstitions with emphasis on the dead.  American Halloween is one of the many commercialized holidays.  Costumes and candies don't have any particular emphasis.  I thought that they are supposed to be scary but that is also wrong.  I think it's a masquerade coupled with a permission to acquire large quantities of candies.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Musselmans In New House

We took a quick trip to Burlingame to visit Mark, Jen, Maya and Jason.  It was good to see all of them and their new house.  Of the three houses that they've had so far, this is the biggest of them all.  It looks very nice and comfortable.  The hardwood floors made me think of our own old carpet with pity.  The house looks new with all the modern appliances and counter tops inspite of its age (1924?).   Oh, the power of renovation.  The master bedroom is very spacious, it covered the whole second floor.  Mark has a separate, quiet office.  It seems very conducive for thinking and generating big ideas.  Tim was probably thinking, "If only I have a detached office..."  They have a spacious, yard where the kids can go around discovering nature and just playing around.

Maya:  "I can climb!"

Maya and Jason are beautiful and well behaved kids.  Mark and Jen are doing such a great job.  Jason is full of energy and is such a happy kid.  He was very entertaining - showing us all the things that we need to see including how he climbs up his parents jacuzzi tub. He showed Brahms how his trains work until he was tired and could barely eat his lunch.  Then he said night-night.  I've always been amazed at their obedience when it comes to going to bed.  Maya was like that too when she was little.

Jason & Shannon

Jason  & Brahms

Maya is a curious girl.  She asked me why Miriam calls Shannon "Ate" and calls Brahms "Kuya".  She's very smart.  We also noticed that she is very focussed on the things that she likes doing.  She must have changed her shoes twice just so she could learn to climb trees properly.  When it was time for us to go she said, "Why do you have to go?"  What a thoughtful question.

The Cousins (While Jason sleeps)

It is good to take time to visit with relatives.  We get to share current joys and concerns with each other.  The problem with being far from each other is that when we hear about something it's no longer news but history.  It's too late to be part of that. 

Parental Units

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The original picture is sharp black and white

A gift is freely given.  The nature of the gift is completely decided by the one who gives it.  It is chosen based on a desired perk to the one whom it is intended for and delivered with kindness and love.  No matter what it is, once given, the present will be tagged with a new value determined by the recipient's gratitude.  My mother-in-law gave my husband a very precious gift for his birthday.  With it came this inscription on a piece of paper:

Dear Tim,

Your dad and I took you with us to the "Kinetic Scupture" race in Ferndale on May 9, 1971, when you were approximately 21/2 years old.  A young woman, who said she was a student at Humboldt State, asked our permission to take your picture.  We said that was OK and she promised to send us a copy, which she did.  You will find that she wrote the date and her name "M. Sullivan" on the back.

I've always loved this photo.  It speaks to me of the fine man you are and how, even that young, one could see your potential.  You were so intent on those moving sculptures, we could sense your wheels-turning!!!

Anyway, I pass the photo on to you.

With love and pride!
My husband was clearly astonished to find such special present.   With
thoughts of tenderness towards his own mother, he looked at the picture as if he wanted to cry but was embarrased to let it go.   We all looked at it with appreciation, a lot of imagination and questions.  "Are you sure that is you?"  "What happened to your nose? (It used to be smaller.)"  "You used to be so cute!"  My children and I welcome anything that tells us a little bit about him during the "blind period" when we have not met.   Secretly, I wished I saw him when he was a little boy.  In as much as I didn't, I will just content myself to sharing life with him now as we age together, till death do as part.

We will treasure this picture and the memories that came with it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Hill

Apple Hill, a place in the foothills near El Dorado Hills.  Ten years ago before we moved to El Dorado Hills one of Tim's co-workers advised us to go see this place called Apple Hills.  We all made our own preconceived picture of the place.  It took us many years before we finally convinced ourselves to go to Apple Hill.  The place did not come close to that mental image I created - I imagined a green hill that is lined with apple trees and there around that hill is green grass where people can watch the apples on the hill. 

Apple Hill is a community and an association of growers.  The association probably started with apple growers only but now you'll find wineries, pumpkin fields, and Christmas tree farms featured in the area.  It is a seasonal place of attraction as they open only late in the year when the apples reached a certain level of maturity, when the pumpkins are ready for picking, and until the Christmas trees are ready to be cut and all sold out.  It is a fun place to spend a day with family.  Some of our friends go to Apple Hill every year to find and cut their own Christmas tree. 

Of the many things that you can do in Apple Hill, our family has chosen two activities as our favorites:
First of all we like buying apples in bushels.  They are very freshly harvested and inexpensive (much cheaper than Costco apples).  We were there last Saturday and got half a bushel (30 lbs) of extra large Fuji apples for $12.00.  Maybe we will go back later to get Granny Smith apples for pies, apple sauce, and apple crisps.  Secondly, we like eating BBQ-ribs with the apples laden-with-fruits for the view.  We enjoy clumping together on a picnic bench as we eat delicious Apple Hill ribs.  This year however, in keeping with the economic-crisis (frugality) theme, we decided to cook our own ribs and packed it carefully so that it was still warm when it was time for us to eat them.  Tim made them so tender, you could tear the ribs apart with your fingers. Not only did we bring ribs, we also brought our  Lewis-version of garlic bread.  To complete our calorie consumption, Tim ordered a dozen of apple donuts.  Everything was delicious.  And most of all, we had fun! 

Apple Hill - Just another reason to get together.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Family Together

When distance separates families, every opportunity to get together is always considered a blessing.  This weekend we got to spend some time with Paul and Pam.  We laughed, ate, talked, walked, and my children got the priviledge to play music with Paul.   As I watched them play, a part of me- the selfish part, wished that we lived closer. 

"The greatest gift, however, was just being family together.  Praise God!"  
- Pam

Paul and Pam wore these flowers at a wedding.