Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Funeral for a Fish

I found myself a hesitant pet owner when R brought home a fighting fish as a kiddie party give away early this year. A few days later, we were again the recipient of two more fighting fish, still another party give-away from another event. For the next few weeks, the kids were the eager pet owners, constantly brooding over the fish bowls and over-feeding the fishes.

As expected, their interest began to wane as months passed. The fishes slowly began to be neglected to a short shake of the fish bowl during lunch or dinner, on their way to the dining table. Still at a later date, even feeding the fishes were forgotten completely.

One day in early summer, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner when I heard a loud shriek coming from the living room. I rushed to where the sound came from and I saw B and R huddled in one corner. B crying inconsolably and R holding up a fish bowl. "B's fish is dead." he said, half sad and half gloating for being the first one to discover the fish immobile at the bottom of the bowl.

J suggested giving the fish a funeral. We couldn't think of a better place so off to the bathroom we went...

B was still howling with grief, and the extent of her reaction scared me quite a bit. To be sad, yes; but to bawl hysterically? over a fish?

R innocently asked me what's going to happen next to the poor fish. I couldn't think of any better answer than to say it is now in heaven. Eyes lighting up upon hearing that, "see B, your fish is in heaven now, you don't have to be sad." B bawled even louder, "but my fish (sob, sob, sob) is not in heaven (sob, sob, sob), it's in the potty!!! Waaaah!"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kiss Her Splash

She was really anxious the night before her first swimming competition, scared she might get off the starting block and dive with her feet going in the water first. She asked us to pray for her that night and asked to be cuddled as she slept on our bed.

During her first event, as she hesitated for a second before going in, she was left the last swimmer on the starting platform. For swimmers, how fast you get off the platform and how further out you go contributes a lot to your finish time.

Her self-doubt showed during the competition, and hampered her four events; although she finished respectably within the second and third quartile. Befitting her gentle nature, she doesn't say anything, but her face expressed disappointment when she saw the official race results as she usually clocks in a decent time during practices.

I didn't know what else to offer her except my encouragement and praise. It is her first competition, after all. That reason alone affords her such an enormous room for growth, I assured her. She just needed to put in more hours for practice. I asked her to go back in time to first grade when she had to learn to do the hula-hoop as part of a graded school activity. It took her weeks upon weeks upon weeks of trying. No matter what she did, that dang hula-hoop simply wouldn't stay where it was supposed to stay. It went down to the ground the moment her hands let go of it. So everyday, as soon as she was done with homework, she went outside to practice. I don't know how long it took her, but I remember my front door neighbor asking J if she still hasn't learned to do it after all the weeks of practice. It must've been that long for a spectator to get tired of watching the incessant practicing, think about what more for the one who was actually doing the practicing. One day, she simply just said that she could do it already!

She was still in a pensive mood as we walked to the ladies' locker. She was perhaps tired from the competition or disillusioned with her ending. We just held hands, and I allowed her this walk in silence. I gave her room to think; I know she needed this time to be with herself.

I comforted her saying "As with everything in life, it is not important to be the best, what is more essential is giving your best." Whenever, the kids would get frustrated with a task that's hard to do, I simply sing them a Barney song, "If you can't do it the first time, try and try again; if you can't do it the second time, don't give up my friend." That works most of the time.

She broke the silence, "Mom, I think I want to practice swimming everyday, even after I go back to school." I slowly breathe a sigh of relief. Now that is what makes her a winner in my book!

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.
-Helen Keller

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bee Watching, Be Careful

Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm has gotten me hooked that I have to have a post devoted to all things honey. I have been to the honeybee farm twice already, and that is just for this summer. On my last visit, I brought along my mother-in-law and sister-in-law with me. We filled our shopping baskets till they overflowed with homeopathic products which listed bee propolis as primary ingredient. I purchased a few more bottles of the Bee Propolis Spray as a reserved stock which I know would come in handy any time my throat starts itching again; Bee Propolis Linament Oil to be used for my next massage appointment; Bee Propolis and Honey Soap for when the kids’ get another dermatitis attacks; their Bee Propolis Ointment have worked wonders for my skin irritations.

For those of you unacquainted with bees, propolis is a substance produced by the honey bees, which they use to the seal their hives against predators and disease. It's made by collecting a sticky resinous substance collected from the buds and damaged bark of certain trees and mixing it with beeswax, pollen and saliva. Propolis does have proven antibiotic and antiseptic properties and may also have antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. I consider it safe and useful as a home remedy. I highly recommend it as a remedy for mouth sores and irritations in the mouth.

I have what the Chinese call a high internal body heat, and often suffer from sore throat as a result of this. But ever since I purchased my first Ilog Maria Bee Propolis Spray early this year, I have managed to keep my throat in good condition so far.

I also love Ilog Maria’s honey because their honey product is raw natural honey with all the rich ingredients that have not been removed by heat or pressure filtration. Unlike the commercially bottled ones I buy from the grocery, theirs has a unique taste that is both delicately sweet and refreshing. I know it sounds odd to have those two characteristics belong in the same sentence and be used to describe a singular thing, but that’s what it does for me. I enjoy it whipped with butter as a sweet topping for my breakfast pancakes, or simply blended with warm water as a relaxing night cap, and sometimes I just simply pour it on a big spoon and eat it pure - as a mid day indulgence. Ahh! The simple pleasures of life.

I can remember when I was a little girl living in Davao, a certain bee-keeper was a perennial house guest, bringing along with him fresh honeycomb with every visit. He would bring the cut honeycomb and squeeze the honey out of it using a cheesecloth. Another finer-sieved cheesecloth would then be used as a filter to make sure that the strained honey is free from wax and other debris. Finally, it is poured into the mouth of a funnel with a huge sterilized jar at the bottom. Jars of these dark-colored honey were a constant fixture in our family’s kitchen. My dad always ate them right off the spoon as a nutritional supplement.

On an earlier visit to the bee farm, we were delighted to be served fresh honey right off the comb. The owner’s son instructed us: “put out your pinkie finger and press the comb.” We did just that and we were greatly rewarded with sweet, golden honey oozing out of the combs.

Still, others couldn't get enough of this ambrosia, instead of putting out a finger, they stuck out the whole hand instead.

The Bible couldn't have said it better:
My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste (Proverbs 24:13)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Once a Farmer had a ....

Paradizoo in Tagaytay is one of R's must see places whenever we are in the vicinity. The last two visits to Tagaytay we have decided to skip this, much to R's dismay. So this time around he wasn't going to take any of our excuses; he put his foot down - and begged. :)

Unlike its' sister zoo located at the Residence Inn, this place has farm animals in attendance. We were assisted by a guide who took time to tell us about the animals in the zoo. He first took us to a minimally fenced acreage housing the llamas and alpacas. If, like us, it's your first time to hear the word alpaca, you might wonder what it means. An alpaca is an animal that looks very much like a llama. To the untrained eye, it would be hard to tell the difference. But our guide pointed out to us that it is actually very easy to spot the difference as the llama is roughly twice the size of the alpaca. In addition, the llama has longer hair, with a very coarse outer coat over a softer inner coat as opposed to the alpaca which has a darker, very fine, single coat. It is for this reason that the alpaca has been carefully bred for over 5000 years as a luxury fiber producing animal, while the llama has been bred for the same amount of time as a pack carrying animal.

In the photos below, the alpacas are the ones with the dark brown hair and the llama is the one with the light hair.

At the next enclosure we saw a freak of nature on display, a five legged cow.

Over at the next fence, the guide proudly showed us some Wagyu cattle.
Still on the opposite fence, we saw some local water buffaloes.

And turkeys roaming free

We also had the opportunity to visit the inside of the goat's nursery where they kept the newborn kids (up to two moths of age) close to the nursing does.

We passed by a flowering garden, and this sign grabbed my attention

There were a lot of hydrangeas in bloom, locally known as milflores.

R trying his hand at fishing.

... and B dipping her hand where it doesn't belong...

C and R are rewarded for their patience. Their first catch was a minuscule fish which we quickly threw back into the water after a quick photo-op.

. . . . . only to be gobbled up by the waiting ducks.

They got luckier with the second fish they caught

The guide allowed us to take a peek inside their mushroom house where trays and trays of oyster mushrooms are growing. They also had their own vermiculture nearby. R, who is my budding zoologist, was captivated by the creatures moving underground he had to be reminded to move along, otherwise he would've stayed there for a few hours.

The strawberry patch is a recent addition

We didn't notice that we took a long time, but as we ended the guided tour and looked at our watch, we realized that it was time to head back home. And R gave a sad farewell to his favorite place. We have been there countless of times already, but the zoo keeps on introducing new animals and activities that there are always new things to see every visit. Surely, we will be back soon.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Of Bees, Buddha and Blackberries...

The long Labor Day weekend found the family in Tagaytay celebrating 2 wonderful occasions, my in-laws wedding anniversary and my niece’s 2nd birthday. Family gatherings like these offer a wonderful way for the kids to bond with their cousins, and a great way too for the grown-ups to get away from the stress of city living.
The picture above shows us having lunch at T house. A new boutique hotel which also boasts of a gourmet restaurant and a spa.

We have been to this city countless of times yet there are always numerous places of interest sprouting, assuring us that each visit seems like the first. The first stop of the trip was at Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm, where we filled our shopping baskets till they overflowed with homeopathic products, all made with honeybee by-products.

We also visited a hydoponics farm slash Chinese arts museum. Yoki's Farm has to be one of the biggest lettuce farm South of Manila.

The vegetable farm also features a big structure housing numerous Chinese artifacts, mostly sculptures. The piece de resistance is a 30-foot statue of a smiling, golden Buddha which unfortunately was cut-off from the picture by the kids' nanny.

This three-masted Chinese junk ship boasts of intricate details and is carved out of a singular piece of jade. Jade statues this big usually commands top dollars, reaching up to US$2,000.00.

The differently hued flora found in the garden made for a colorful collage.

The different produce grown in the farm makes their way to the more well-known restaurants within Tagaytay.

My own harvest of blackberries...