How I Dealt With My Kid’s Heartbreak

Never let the odds

It was the last game of the day.

I saw him get hurt. His frail, 9-year old body almost made a full tumble. I thought for a moment he’d break a bone. I saw him cry but his coach screamed, “Prince! Prince, we need on you on the defense!” So he got up and made an urgent block to prevent a goal but the game was too intense. There was a lot of pushing and hovering. The opposing team was good and quite physical. My son’s team was good and quite gentle. I saw his tears flow while playing. There was another move that hurt his teammate. He pushed forward to help. The goalkeeper watched helplessly. The other defender made a block but the referee called the foul. It was a free kick for the opponent. My son shook his head, raised his arms in frustration. At this time, the goalkeeper was crying, screaming and protesting a seemingly bad call. But everyone took their places including my son, who was the last man. He and the goalkeeper had tears streaming down their cheeks. As the free kick was made, it sailed straight into the net just inches above my son’s head. And after ten seconds, it was over. They lost, 1-0. The goalkeeper and my son could not contain their tears. (I wanted to cry with them!) They cried, really cried on the field. The coach grabbed my son’s arm and shouted, “I told you not to cry!” I approached them at this point and took my son, “He was hurt coach. It started from that.” Everyone tried to pacify him but he couldn’t stop crying, gasping for air. Even I could not make him stop. So I just let him be. Everyone had lunch.

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After having lunch, I waited for everyone to leave. It was me, my son and the soccer field. He looked at me with questions in his eyes. “Why did you cry?,” I asked. He couldn’t answer. Instead, his eyes filled with tears again. I took his hand, “I know why you cried. You were hurt. But no one saw you got hurt. I saw it. But you got up because Coach called your name. You got up because you wanted to help the team. And then your direct opponent was quite physical. He hurt some of your teammates unintentionally. They got hurt. Then the referee made a bad call. You saw Sam get angry and cry too. You felt that, didn’t you. And it added to your hurt that a free kick was to be made by the same person who hurt you. He won the game for his team while you and Sam couldn’t block the shot. You’re hurt and angry and pissed. I know why you cried. Am I correct?” He just sobbed again. I took him in my arms and explained how life sometimes has some bad calls, how you got to get up and just go, how you can’t control the world but how you can control your reactions.

We sat for awhile staring at the field, quiet until he said, “Let’s go home, Mom.”

Things I DON’T DO That Help Me as a Stepmom

Anyone who loves

They say that being a step parent is not as easy as being a regular parent.

I became a stepmom, free of the drama that can come along with it. I guess this is good because  everyone involved deals with the situation calmly and thus, more peacefully. I must say I give my husband all the credit for this because he has prepared us — me and his children and our child in a way that everyone feels loved and wanted. Everyone has their place. It has always been my intention to sustain this kind of “easy-normal.” Here are things I have learned NOT TO DO as a stepmom. These things help me move along as I raise a family.

I don’t try (or even think) of replacing the biological mother. I always think of how much I love my own mom. I go back to the memories as a child when during nighttime, I would cry myself to sleep when my mom isn’t around. She meant the world to me. I wouldn’t want her replaced — weaknesses and all. To some extent, because the children’s mother is not around, it is my duty, together with my husband to make sure that the children love their mother, despite the absence.

I don’t talk about their mom. It’s really simple to me. I don’t know anything about their mom. I don’t know what went wrong. All I know is that she gave birth to a beautiful child. So, there’s really nothing I can speak of, especially when others have an opinion about the situation. Even when things I hear favor me, I can’t say a word. It’s amazing how I see the children adore their mother, in spite of their limited information about her. They remember her with fondness and to their eyes, she can do no wrong. I’m a mom. I’d like to be remembered that way.

I don’t discipline them the hard way. Even as they are under my care, I set limits for myself. I know I cannot just scream at them, spank them (this is a different matter altogether) or just ground them. Everything major goes through their dad. I can only guide and express my frustration but never resort to the really ‘hard and fast’ ways of disciplining like a real mom can. I think of my son. No matter how he misbehaves, I would not like another person, may it be his football coach or his aunt to discipline him in ways that only a real parent should.

I don’t decide for them. When they were little, I can decide on what shoes to buy, when to take a bath and all the little things. Most of the matters though, decisions are made by their dad and I help put them through decisions. For instance, as the kids are now adolescents, there are issues of going out, curfew time, who to be with, what organizations to join…I feel it’s always better if dad knows and decides with them. I always advocate that decisions should be made with them and that we just don’t decide for them.

I don’t cringe at the memory of their mom. Admittedly, there’s a funny feeling that goes through me when they hold their mom’s photo or when they suddenly bring out stuff about their mom but I always consciously just let them be — to freely express their emotions about their mom even in my presence. I think that’s one of my personal goals as a stepmom — to make them realize love’s limitless bounds.

I don’t expect anything. I think this goes not just for step parenting. Sometimes, in life, it’s better not to expect. It’s best to appreciate what really is there and what comes along. It makes me feel more of what is here, now.

I don’t give up on them. Giving up on a child? Seriously? For what I am now, I am grateful my parents didn’t give up on me. My teacher and mentors didn’t give up on me. With all my flaws and with all the burnt cooking, my husband doesn’t give up on me. Giving up on someone in some way means giving up on life. The kids are growing and there’s a long way to go. I can imagine how terrible things can be as they go through the growing up phases but I can also imagine that with these phases lie opportunities of how love can actually prevail.

Much of what I don’t do, it’s really because there’s a lot of easy lovin’ in the foundation of my partnership with Constancio.

They say love…makes all things possible. Don’t you think?

 

It’s Time to Eat: Sasahama Restaurant

Sasahama Restaurant, National Highway, Panamitan, Kawit, Cavite

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What Brought Me Here

Since my husband is so good at finding the best places to eat, he mentioned Sasahama to me. He said, “There’s a Japanese place along the highway where loads of cars line up. It must be good. Let’s try it.” As I am a sucker for sashimi, I agreed.

What We Ordered

Salmon Sashimi (of course), a little less than 200 pesos

Chicken Tepanyaki Lunch Platter (which had a lot of sidings, soup and rice)

Tempura

What the Place Was Like

It was a big, old house turned into a Japanese restaurant. This was too obvious as original partitions of nooks and crannies were still up. I even saw an antique glass cabinet that housed dinnerware. It was old but cozy. It was tired but comforting. It was clean, most importantly. There was also a homey bar set up. We were here twice in a month and in those two times, a lot of the clients were Japanese. I was thinking where they came from, since Kawit is quite a quiet place. I learned that they were locators in nearby EPZA.

sasahama

What the Food Was Like

They served authentic Japanese food, that’s for sure. Their food was tasty enough. The servings were just right. Their complimentary rice tea was refreshing too. But it was their sashimi that blew me away. It was freshly prepared, perfect and juicy. I had to order another batch in both of my visits.

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Lessons Learned

As always, the really nice places to eat are tucked away in the places right in front of our nose.

My daughter and I — we can’t get enough of salmon sashimi.

Family Verdict

Sasahama Japanese Restaurant — We’ll be back, for sure. I wouldn’t mind driving all the way to Kawit just to eat here.

 

 

Perks of a Military Wife (Really, There Are!)

drive together

I married a military man.

Having grown up in Baguio City and being exposed to a lot of PMAyers, I was not swept off my feet to see these uniformed men. Except when it was Tom Cruise in his movie, Top Gun. Up to this day, I am still surprised that the heavens cooked me up a gallant soldier to marry. I cannot be thankful enough. Looking back, and now in my years as a military wife, I count on my fingers the little perks that I appreciate being married to a navy officer.

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The Military Wedding

Every girl has her dream wedding. I am more concerned of the life after the wedding day but it didn’t hurt a bit that I had a beautiful wedding ceremony. It was a military wedding complete with honor guards, a draw sword ceremony which is also called the arch of sabers. It felt an honor to walk under that arch. I had a uniformed entourage where I remember some of my bridesmaids and even ninangs were taken aback at how dashing their uniformed escorts looked. The ceremony ended with a Kaydet Girl dance, a dance that officially welcomes the bride as the new member of the class, the song especially sung by the men in uniform while each of them dances with the lady.

Access to Military Facilities

Whether or not you live inside camp, military families have access to a range of facilities and services — medical and dental services, sports facilities (In our case, the gymn and the football field come handy.), temporary living quarters (so you don’t have to stay in an expensive hotel when on a getaway), spiritual facilities and services. The service also offers commissaries, where dependents can shop tax free. It’s amazing too that in some parts of the world, they honor your military card even if you’re from another country. In Hawaii, I enjoyed shopping at the Navy Exchange, where prices were far more affordable than when you shop outside the military bases. (Think Subic and Clark when the Americans were still here.)

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The Never-ending Promenade

Prom doesn’t end in high school. As a military wife, I am required at times to attend soirees and balls. It’s nice to dress up and be with your dashing man in an elegant affair. It’s a welcome break from the daily lovely chaos of a mother’s life. What makes events like this worth going to is not just the dressing up but the meaningful, social chatter everyone engages in.

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Friends, alliances everywhere we travel

Travel is one of the obscure perks. When I visit my husband in different places, I experience many places…and faces! Somewhere, somehow in some location, there’s always someone connected to you who you can make friends with or ask help from when in need.

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Chivalry is very much alive

Just when I thought chivalry is dead, my husband holds open doors for me, lets me go first, carries my bag, gives me his coat or brings me flowers. It’s not bad too that we are surrounded by men who more or less do the same. Having two boys in the brood, I’d like them to grow up knowing about these simple, chivalrous acts.

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You’re in the know

When it comes to national issues, you know more than the civilian does. It is nice to be in the know but every wife must be responsible enough to keep information to herself. Even when things are not discussed, because you live in a military sphere, you sort of just know. And you don’t talk about it.

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His military personality rubs off on me. 

This is a personal perk that maybe applies to just me. My husband is quite strict and quite of a snob in a charming way. Because of his personality, I am treated with caution and not anybody would just walk all over me. I like it that way. It worked well so far, too.

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Pride and Love of Country

Of course, the love for the country is always there. Every waking day, I am reminded why my husband isn’t by my side. There was a time when he almost left the service for greener pastures but I saw that he would leave while looking back over his shoulder. I didn’t want that. Let him stay where he is happy and there, I’ll find my happiness too.

 

The Calmest Moments

Claim your calm moments.

When everything else is screaming in your head, seize your calm moment.

Busy lives. Busy days. Busy thoughts. Once in a while, we must realize our need to stop or pause to find calmness.

When are you most calm?

Amidst the noise in my life, good and bad, I am made aware of the moments where I find myself most quietly discerning and relatively peaceful. Every now and then, I am able to claim that calm space but there are a few that consistently pacify me in between hurried and harried times.

When I’m in my husband’s ship, the seas bring me calmness. The restricted lifestyle on board pushes me to a state where my thoughts just keep still and everything just let me be.

When I tinker with Spotify, the music app, I lose myself in an array of playlists. I am unified with music where nothing else matters but the hymns I hum along to and the melodic dance I listen to.

When I stand by my youngest son’s school gate, waiting for him to rush into my arms, I find peace. That waiting is my loveliest waiting moment. Anticipation of seeing his face light up makes my breathing go easy.

On weekend mornings, where the dad and the kids sleep a bit longer, I like watching them in the silence of sunrise. Watching them breathe relaxes me, prompts grateful thoughts and gets me ready to live another love-filled day.

I meet serenity every time I watch my son train for football. Seeing a little soul so involved in a genuine passion makes me think fluidly. I am in awe with the kids who put their heart and soul into a beautiful sport while having fun.

I have my private space somewhere in the metro, where I literally just sit still and let life be just for a few minutes. Doing this every now and then slows me down, clears my head and brings my heart back to its rhythm. Prayer is an important element.

Calmness can bring a lot of positive, tangible benefits. It helps you think better, allowing you to express yourself more appropriately. It helps you arrive at better decision-making. Calmness brings us back to the ground.

Have you found your moments of calmness? Sometimes, it’s a matter of seizing them. It is always within reach.

Make time to claim that calmness.

 

Days at Sea, Days of Silence

Remember Everyone Deployed

Whenever my husband’s ship makes the round for Kalayaan Islands, the largely disputed islands of the country, the family knows we are in another round of waiting and longing.

Over the phone, Constancio announces his schedule for the next few days. His ship is bound for Kalayaan Islands in the West Philippine Sea. Yes, I worry but I put it aside and put my faith in my heart that all will be well. Having him at the West Philippine Sea means there will be no calls, no text messages, very limited communication. Whenever this is the case, I prepare the children at once and tell them that we won’t be hearing from their dad in awhile. The littlest one prods me more on details — what his dad is up to, what time will the ship undock from the harbor, what possible communication network there is in the West Philippine Sea. I patiently answer his questions. He settles whenever I tell him, “Your dad has to make rounds to give food and supplies to the soldiers in the faraway islands of Palawan. They’ll go hungry if your dad won’t go.”

As we go about our daily routines without any call from Constancio, there’s a whispered silence that hovers over our heads. When we get lucky, a call or a message creeps into our mobile phones, when cellular networks from Malaysia or Vietnam make it possible. I try to  imagine how he goes by his daily life. I prefer remembering light and happy memories that make his navy life a little bit easier.

But I know it’s also not easy as its seems.

Every single time that he encounters deployed sailors in our disputed territories, I can feel how his heart is mighty proud of visiting them as his ship and crew delivers the little comforts that make life easier. He proudly sends me photos of scenery that I probably won’t ever come close to in my lifetime. As I absorb the scenes, I marvel at the beauty of the country. And yes, his rounds make us love the country more. As a family, we remain steadfast and strong too, understanding that our sacrifices of time and distance is a small thing compared to what our soldiers face at sea.

After a few days, the silence pauses because my son asks, “When will dad have signal? I want to talk to him?” or “Did you get a video of my dance? Send it to Dad now.” (Yes, my little, military son commands me that way.) And when I finally receive a call or a message, my heart is relieved. The silence is stopped. It is replaced by the usual happy chatter of love.

kalayaan starfish

 

It’s the Captain’s Birthday!

rita island 13110919 More than anything, presence of other people you love most complete birthday celebrations. That’s how it is with my family. As long as we’re together, no matter what the activity, a real hug and a shower of kisses make every celebration meaningful. The children and I wondered what to give their dad, having a list of what he wants as a gift. Instantly, five days before the birthday, I said, “Let’s go to Palawan!” I knew in my heart of hearts that both the dad and the kids want this most. My husband Constancio is stationed at sea in Palawan. Knowing fully that this is his last leg of sea duty in his entire career as a sailor, I felt it was just right to be together. Just as I expected, Palawan welcomed us back in all its glorious beauty, setting us up in the most serene atmosphere of celebration to honor the natal day of the man we love the most.

Coincidentally, it was also the ship’s birthday month and my husband deemed it right to also honor the day she was commissioned to duty. Thus, the dual celebration. It was held in Rita Island, a privately owned, secluded island of Palawan. The ship crew were busy in preparations. I know with their cramped lifestyle and days of sea duty, they anticipated a day of fun and frolicking. For sure, they also looked forward for the ship captain to let his guard down for awhile on his birthday.

What more could be fun than a beach bash in August, which is usually a month of typhoons in this part of the world. I was sure to be left at peace while the kids busy themselves in the beach.

I watched my husband smile and laugh as he enjoyed watching his crew have fun in the beach. The kids were amused to watch the soldiers play games — beach volleyball, swimming races, tug-of-war, basket buko (!) and sack race. It was an afternoon of basking in the sun, wading in the clear waters of Palawan and good ‘ol beach food!

At nightfall, the Captain and the soldiers feasted on an extra special boodle fight. A boodle fight is a style of sharing meals in the military to symbolize unity, brotherhood and authenticity. It is one time that rank is not a major consideration in Philippine military life. The usual menu is culture food. Food is spread out in a long table, usually in banana leaves and soldiers gather around to partake in the blessing, usually eating with bare hands. My husband has made it a tradition in his ship that every time a crew celebrates his birthday, a boodle fight on deck shall commence. Afterwhich, it was happy hour for the boys. My son joined in for awhile to watch the band. He was initially taken aback and then delighted when the soldiers put on their singing caps and dancing gear. He said, “Mom, the steward is sooo good in dancing!” It was a night to remember in the ship. I was sure everyone enjoyed the Captain’s birthday.

I did. Being together simply brings unspeakable joy to the family. Happy birthday, Sir! happy birthday sir