Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Day of the Year 2010

Gingerbread houses made by the kids.

We cleaned some of the drawers and closets today. Unfortunately the day is too short to clean all of that need cleaning. We tried to go watch "Narnia" (Voyage of the Down Treader) in Folsom because according to their website they were showing it in 2D at 11:45AM. Guess what? They only have it in 3D and it was at 1:30PM. I was willing to give in and watch it in 3D if we were not going to wait. We were all disappointed. Since watching was not feasible, we went to eat Chinese food at Emperor's Garden. On our way home we stopped by Home Depot to buy some plants and ant bait. Tim purchased some tools and electrical stuff. Then the kids went to the Pet Smart to buy some feeder fish for Chekov, the turtle and some food for Shannon's pet finches. Shannon wanted to buy some female ones so that they would start to have babies again but they did not look so healthy. We'll try another pet store for healthier birds. Now Lala (Miriam's dove) is also inside the house again. Her outdoor cage is too cold.

Brahms and Miriam continued working on the closets. They sorted all the jackets - keep or give-away. Shannon worked on her college application essays. It seems like a torture for her now...her first draft did not meet her parent's approval. Tim and I had a long talk with her regarding the things that she sees herself doing in the future. There is one guideline that we told her and it is based on the two greatest commandments- To love God and to love others. Whatever we do in this world - no matter how grand it is if they do not end in fulfilling these commandment then the life we live is wasted.

I cut everybody's hair in this family except mine. I spent part of this day cutting hair. Tim and Shannon wanted a haircut and we did it in the cold garage. I was freezing, my coffee got cold before I had a chance to drink it.

Tim is now paying all remaining bills of the year while he waits for the sausages to cool down before he makes some appetizers for tonight.  I'll make pancit and fruit salad. Brahms is going to cook pot stickers (from Costco) and make punch. The inclusion of pot-stickers in our New Year's Eve menu started when we had Meng (Chinese exchange student) with us. She told us that eating pot stickers on New Year's Day is their tradition in Beijing. Another traditional thing that we make is the "chocolate mice" which is made of cherries dipped in melted chocolate as the body and Hershey Kisses as the head. The kids will all work on this as the night progresses. Tim is also going to make Blackberry Upside Down Cake. Shannon is also prepared to make shrimp cocktail.

Brahms is busy making a year-end slide show of the family's trips of the year.

Another tradition that we do in this family is to write our resolutions. It's a goal and a promise to one's self. We put them in a special red box. The red box is stored with the Christmas ornaments. Next year when the ornaments come out we get to evaluate ourselves. As for me I've always failed. This year I need to write items that are measurable. For example - instead of saying "lose 10 pounds" I'd say "eat only one serving of everything" or "walk for one hour five times a week". With this I can say whether I am achieving my goal by the things I choose to do on a daily basis. That's just an example. Whatever resolution I'll write, it will reflect the priorities my life. I do hope that my priorities are in line with my faith and love of God and love to those whom God has placed within my sphere of influence. Indeed this is a time to evaluate the present, plan to make a difference and act on them.

2010 was a blessed year!  We praise the almighty God for His grace and goodness.  Surely, we can laugh at the days to come because we trust Him and know that He loves us.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas at Home

The front entrance.

Christmas 2010 was spent at home.  A relaxing time for all of us!  By tradition we attend church service, eat a big meal on Christmas Eve.  Then we eat dessert which is usually pie (this time it was apple pie) and ice cream.  Tim and I drink our coffee and THEN we open the presents.  This year the wait was longer because Tim along with Shannon and Brahms played for the Christmas Eve services.  

 On Christmas morning the kids get up early and we open the stockings before we eat breakfast.   This year we added a new exercise which is to assign each person in the family to find and read bible verses that has something to do with Christmas.   We also had each member of the family complete the phrase "Christmas is a story of ...." And explain.   This was intended to help each one to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and not be focused on material things.  These were the answers:

Christmas is a story of change.  Lives of so many people changed when Jesus Christ was born.  The world changed. ~ Shannon

Christmas is a story of Jesus saving us.  Jesus came so that men would be saved from the punishment of their sins.  ~ Brahms

Christmas is a story of love.  God loves us so much that he sent His son Jesus (knowing that He would die) to show us the way.  Whoever would follow Jesus will live eternally with Him in heaven. ~ Miriam

Christmas is a story of surprises.  The events around the birth of Jesus were all unexpected and unconventional from man's point of view.  Virgin birth; God's Son born in a manger; the Jews missing to recognize their King; Herod to be informed by kings from far away land about an event in his own kingdom; etc.  That is how God works up to this time - in unexpected ways.  Prepare, therefore, to be amazed! ~ Tim

Christmas is a story of death.   Not the stopping-to-breath kind of death but dying to an existing course of life in order to please God.  When Jesus came he died from His equality with God - to please the Father; Mary willingly gave up her plans in order to do what God called her to; and Joseph died from his pride to wed a pregnant woman.  In like manner, God calls us to die from our own selfishness so that we can follow Him. ~ Helen

Christmas lights adorn the house during the cold winter nights.

Posing for a Christmas picture after coming back from the Christmas Eve Service.

The living room prior to the invasion of torn gift wrappers.

While waiting for siblings, someone is trying to get some hints...

Miriam inspects the ornaments.

Playing Scattergories with the other other Lewises and the Petersons (Dec. 26th).

Old stockings hang on the railings.

It was a good Christmas.  We went Roseville to go watch "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in 2D but tickets were sold out.  Most of the people in our family prefer 2D over the dizzying 3D version.   We were favored to have been joined by Tim's relatives - "The Other Other Lewises".   It was very nice to spend the 26th of December (the first day of Christmas?) with Bruce and Perla Lewis and their son Carlos, Katherine Lewis, Mary Beth Peterson, and Charlone and Duane Peterson.   We played "Scattergories".  This game really shows the differences in the experiences of the different players which makes it really fun.

Tim gave me a Rebel EOS T2i for Christmas - I've always wanted to have an SRL camera!  Right now I am learning about it.   Although I've managed to take few pictures with it already, downloading is something I still have to learn. 

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa Ana

Anguib Beach

November 15, 2010.  The trip to Santa Ana was long... however, I did not notice anybody complain.  The road was bumpy but we made it.  When we got there we saw this beautiful beach.  The sea was blue and calm and the sand was white.  We were the only people there at that time.  Unexploited and undeveloped, this place has a lot of potential.  I am glad that we were able to see the place before it becomes a commercial tourist place. 

Crocodile Island: No crocodiles on it.

The Lewises made it to the top of the island.

Shannon shows some of the shells she collected.

He stopped taking pictures to admire the place with his shaded eyes.

The breeze tickled Miriam.

Everyone knew where he was from...

We posed for a souvenir photo. 

Mangoves:  Saline-tolerant shrubs.

With Cheska, Mannix, Beth, and Brian.

Narrow and winding road.

The women are being given a seminar by Auntie Alie.

We were in a beautiful place in the company of close relatives. With us were the following:
Eddie and Nenie Yabis with Mannix
Bong and Miriam Castro with family
Grace Yabis with Kean and Marham
Beth Molina with Cheska and Brian
Joan Galvan with Princess Barbero
Auntie Alie Galvan
Rowena Orteza
Pabling - our driver


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jet Lag

jet lag: a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (as fatigue and irritability), occurs following long flight through several time zones, and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body.
Our family traveled some 7700 miles across the Pacific Ocean crossing several time zones on the way...and back.   We were jet lagged when we got to the Philippines disrupting all our relatives with our unusually early waking-up and going-to-bed times.  When we could finally adjust to the time difference, it was time for us to head back to California.   We are jet lagged again.  The kids are going downstairs at two o'clock in the morning to get some milk from the fridge and Tim at four eating some cereal. 

The temperatures have dropped a lot since we left and therefore our bodies also have to adjust to the cold weather condition.  The daylength is a lot shorter now too - about 9 hours of light.  Let's assume that we are really adaptable to the changes in the climate - that still does not make our adjustment easy.  Why?  We still are lagged behind in so many ways.

When we left we knew that we were arriving on Thanksgiving Day.   We planned to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal the next day - which we did.  It was very good and relatively easy.   We even used our nicer plates, goblets, serving dishes, and even our finer cloth napkins.  It was like the real deal.  We enjoyed our belated Thanksgiving 2010.  The bad news is that we saw our friends on Facebook and they are now decorating their Christmas trees.  If there is such thing as "season-lagged", that would be the best word to describe us now.  Our six-foot fake Christmas tree can be easily brought down from the attic along with the boxes of stored Christmas decorations up there.  I could ask Tim or Brahms to bring them down and they would comply.  Psychologically, however, I am not prepared for seems like I skipped the incubation period for the Christmas spirits to develop in me.  I could pretend that I already caught it but it is not the same.  I need to learn from my children who are busy working trying to catch up, on their own pace, with what they missed in school and hoping that their class has not gone so far ahead.

On the other hand, jet lag can be beneficial to mental well-being.  In spite of all the ads in the mail, the usual urge to go shopping is absent!  Hooray!  This is great!  Now all I have to do is to be creative; make use of my "disrupted circadian rhythms" to think of ways to celebrate Christmas stress-free. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Aparri Cagayan

Boats bound for Linao.

Our visit to Aparri was mostly about the market (palengke).  My children wanted to see the life in the semi-urban parts of the province.  Aparri is one of the major towns in the area in fact it is where my sister (who lives in Abulug) and her family would go to buy appliances or when they want to go see a movie.  

The market is a very fascinating part of the town because it is the center of activities.  It is situated near the river.  People come to Aparri by land and water. 

Fountain at the center of the market.

Narra bed for sale.


Small mud fish (attasi)

Main entrance to Aparri.

Aparri is more crowded now than I can remember.   However, I saw many signs of progress.  Houses are now bigger and better; they now have several internet cafes in town and chain restaurants.  We got to eat at Jollibee (the Filipino counterpart for McDonald's Hamburger.  Brahms thought that their hamburgers taste like meatballs.  There are NO free refills for sodas and the cups are small.   In the Philippines, it is very common to see spaghetti and rice served at restaurants like Jollibee, McDonalds ,and KFC.   

Cagayan River.

Drying shrimp (aramang).


We walked several rows of fish and meat stands.  My kids watched one vendor make sausages.  Every part of the pig and chicken are sold in the market.  At the fruit and vegetable stands we bought a few kilos of lanzones which we ate in the car. 

More boats.

Aparri: Pride sign.

A house near the river.

No disposable cups at Jollibee.

Cagayan River meets the Pacific Ocean.

...and then it rained.

My kids definitely learned something more about the earlier life of their mother...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Orteza Family

The Orteza Family

My sister Rowena and her husband Jun, have five children: Jacob. Jeremy. Liwliwa, Lyka, and Rhiza.  They live a simple life in a barangay (village) called Santa Filomena.  He is an industrious farmer and a very kind husband and father.   When she is not cooking or doing laundry or cleaning her house, she tends to her own little store and serves as the Barangay Secretary.  My sister moves more slowly than I do that sometimes I feel impatient watching her do her work. :)  But she has a different style ever since we were younger. 

Their children go to Alinunu Elementary School.  They are dedicated to learning about God;  they attend church every Sunday unless it rains.  (They believe that the kids would get sick if their heads get wet.)  They host a children's bible school at their house once a week.  We send bible study materials for the teachers to use. 

It was really nice to have spent time with them as a family.  The cousins got to know each other.  My nieces and nephews like learning English from their cousins while my own kids wished that they could speak Ilocano better. 







Lyka and her dad.



Jun and Lyka