Feb 28, 2010

IM Proud

He wasn't what I initially hoped for but I soon learned a little brother wasn't half bad. He was cute as a button and I loved teasing him until he cried, or bossing him around until he squealed. Then one day. Boom! He grew up. And I couldn't push him around anymore. No one could.

with LilBro and BigBro

Yesterday, I was up at six. The boys and I bought playing cards the day before. I promised to teach them Go Fish and Crazy Eight first thing in the morning. By 6:30 I had shuffled and dealt the cards. And then the mechanics. Tato argued that if he turned the card upside down the spade could be a heart. When did he turn into such a wise ass? I guess I didn't take into account little hands couldn't possibly hold the cards together. Or that four year olds look at everyone else's cards except their own. We did breakfast, moved on to puzzles then did a little TV when I needed to catch up on some work. Lunch followed then we were off to do what felt like a million and one errands. With the sun still up we managed more puzzles, more card games, then dinner. With MacDaddy away for the week , a slumber party for three in my room seemed like a good idea. We all piled in and called it a day thirteen or so hours later.

Somewhere under the scorching heat in Langkawi, Malaysia on this very day and in the time we managed to do all of that, the LilBro had one hell of a day. And I'm sure his began way before ours did. He must have played the scene over and over in his head. Oh and the hours he put in! Unbelievable. I kept tabs through his little cyber corner over here. That little boy we used to bribe to take his shirt off while dancing to Village People was hell bent on being an Ironman. I thought he was crazy when he told me he wanted to do this. But I also know something about people and dreams. And know you'd be crazier not to chase after a dream. And so like that package from Shopbop you can't wait to get your hands on, I tracked him down on the website like a mad woman.

keeping track

Swim? Check. Sigh of relief. Bike? Done. Can exhale now. Run? All done. I could finally sleep easy. Thirteen hours and fifty five minutes later he was officially an Ironman. Amazing. And really. He is.

For my brother, who makes me want to push harder.

Feb 26, 2010

Little Miss Bossy

Mak: Mama, Miko said that Ina is super bossy. What does bossy mean?
Me: Bossy people are the ones that always want you to do what they want and always tell you what to do.

And...just to make sure he got my drift...

Me: Do you know anyone who's like that?
Mak: Yes. YOU.

Oooooohhhh. MacDaddy, no wisecracks. Please.

Feb 24, 2010

Mrs. Brightside

Concert Gods are still mad at me -- Killers concert killed, Kings of Convenience also kaput. So what other concert am I NOT going to this year? While feeling gloomy about all this, I get a ray of light from my gmail inbox minutes ago. Taadaaah... Vampire Weekend's latest video... 

Thank you VW for cheering me up and Jake Gyllenhaal for cracking me up. One day The Concert Gods will love me again and I SWEAR I am watching you in New York or frikkin' Coachella with MGMT, Animal Collective, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a slew other rock gods and demigods. One day this is going to happen, I promise. Oh and, Tashie's Mom I hope you like VW! Now back to work.

Feb 22, 2010

Turbocharged Progress

With that mouthful I said about progressive schools, I had mentioned The Blue Man Group because two of their founders, Matt Goldman and Chris Wink, both came from the progressive Ethical Culture Fieldston School. I think it's great these grown men have not lost touch with the child inside them. Because look... they made an enterprise out of entertaining people with their music and their unique kind of performance art using toilet paper tubes turbocharged by electric mixers, splattering paint, drain plungers on their head and other odd on-stage shenanigans. Weird, but true and downright cool. Not surprisingly, the kids dig them.

Presenting... one of Chicha's favorite Blue Man videos, revived out of my internet tantrum on progressive schools... Oh and, she also LOVES Venus Hum's electro-colored dress on stage... watch and feel the love...

When I first saw the Blue Men, live in Astor Place Theatre, I didn't quite know what to make of them. At the end of their show I was blown away, with a bewildered smile on my face, toilet paper and string on top of my head. Then moments later, a Blue Man comes up to me to give me a weird eye-to-eye stare and high five. It was awesome. You had to be there. That was years ago, I don't even remember exactly when, but definitely before they had the Vegas and Berlin shows, the Tokyo theatre built just for their act and the 3D movie coming out next year.

When Bear was 3 years old he wanted to join The Blue Man Group after watching them on you tube. Blue Thousand And One is one of his favorite Blue Man videos, not to mention his first pop-reference to a Stanley Kubrick classic he and his sister should see one day.

Now here's what's beyond cool. Apparently, Ethical Culture's preschool may not be progressive enough for them these days so The Blue Men have put up The Blue School -- with Ken Robinson himself on board their advisory council. If I was living my New York dream life, Bear and Chicha would so be there.

Feb 19, 2010

Progressive Schools

Bear and his prep classmates had a culminating activity this morning to wrap up their theme investigation on Flowers. These events always remind me why I am so, so grateful that my kids go to a progressive school. I would have loved studying in a place like this.

Flowers & Flowers is the name they chose for their flower shop.

After paying for our orders, in tens and one peso coins
(as their math lesson is currently on Place Value),
the "shop owners" start making the flower arrangements.

I think they are having a wonderful school experience and are learning in the best possible way, BUT I have actually gotten some flak for not sending my children to a typical Manila "legacy" school, the kind where Pappy and I were once sent.... Which is why this post is about to take a defensive turn. RANT ALERT, folks.

Another lesson here: Boys can rock the cash
register... as well as the flower arranging.

Defensive because I am getting tired of people who think progressive schools are weird, fringe institutions where kids run around all day doing whatever they want, stopping every so often to sing Kumbaya. No structure or challenge. Kids coasting along Godless and Hapless.

I hear variations on this theme from lolas and titas and even from a few friends among our supposedly more enlightened generation. In fact, I had to set a few of them straight in a recent dinner. Of course I did this as nicely as I could, but with doubts if I really got through to them.... Because damn, it can be hard to talk to people about progressive schools if they haven't read the ideas of Howard Gardner, Alfie Kohn, Ken Robinson, Erik Erikson, John Dewey or Felix Adler.

Back story: Dinner-party-friends had visited a so-called progressive school I'm not familiar with, bashed it like crazy, then lumped ALL progressive schools as being the same -- for instance, "kids in progressive schools aren't taught how to READ!" In my mind: Whaaat? This prompted one of my most shameful-mom-moments when I defensively told them that, "my kids go to progressive schools and they were both reading at age 3." I know, yikes. I just couldn't help but shamelessly flaunt my kids' early reading prowess, because damn, I cannot speak for all schools that claim to be progressive, but in the progressive school my kids go to, kids learn how to read and more importantly they love books it's practically organic to them.

These people have probably not heard of the wonders of Readers and Writers Workshop, but I really didn't want to bore them with any more of my geekery, so I just kept quiet about it.

Flowers Theme Investigation integrated in Art Class...
check out their Vincent Van Gogh-inspired flower paintings.

Georgia O'Keefe-inspired flower paintings.

I'll also bet... these people still think the Little Genius theory is true -- that kids who ace reading and writing tests at age 4 will surely get into Harvard. Ask the education experts from Harvard, people. Also, Einstein didn't even speak until he was 5 and he gave us the Theory of 'Frikkin Relativity. I hope they would read The Junior Meritocracy, current cover story of New York Magazine. Especially that friend in the dinner party who said, "that progressive school we went to, they don't care if your kid isn't reading at age 7!"

At age 6, Bear is into the Tintin comic series and already holds the opinion that Herge makes "better drawings than Geronimo Stilton..." which to me is pretty wild and cool. But I'm not putting undue pressure on him to be the next Herge-league genius nor am I deluding myself that he's surely a wunderkind. At age 4 he was building Lego sets for 8 year olds. Although his freestyle Lego creations are more impressive to me, I'm not putting undue pressure on him to be a genius engineer either. He has the rest of his life to work on being genius-whatever-he-wants. For now, I just want him to be a nice, happy kid with a few crazy, inspired ideas.

Bear's O'Keefe-inspired flower shirt.

In the meantime, he and his little sister go to progressive schools so they can enjoy being kids while learning how to love learning math, literature, science and social studies; and to be appreciated for being creative as ALL children are naturally creative; and to be challenged to come up with their own original ideas. Not to be needlessly challenged to memorize static "facts" from textbooks -- some of which still say Pluto is a Planet, by the way.

Jeez, these kids learn fresh, relevant information; they learn through experience; they learn to collaborate and think deeds before creeds.... and that's supposed to be bad? At a young age they learn to think critically, to analyze information, to form opinions, to solve problems, to create, to integrate knowledge.... why would I not want these things for my kids?

Always with his own opinions, Bear prefers Van Gogh over O'Keefe.
His version of Van Gogh's Sunflowers on the right. Go baby!

As for the other parents I know who send their kids to Keys where Bear goes to school....

I guess they all haven't read Gardner, Kohn, Robinson, Erikson, Dewey or Adler. I am just a freak that way. But they do instinctively GET IT. IT being this idea so simply-put by the head of The Calhoun School, who was quoted a lot in that little-genius-myth-busting article from New York Magazine. His name is Steve Nelson and this is what he wants for his students:

"I want a school full of kids who daydream. I want kids who are occasionally impulsive. I want kids who are fun to be with. I want kids who don’t want to answer the questions on those tests in the way the adult wants them to be answered, because that kid is already seeing the world differently."

Nelson wants kids to question, question, question and have an adventure finding their answers. Calhoun, by the way, is PROGRESSIVE. Famously progressive. The kids who go there, lo and behold, they READ. They have been progressive since 1896. Nope, progressive schools are not just some recent fad.

And guess what? Their students make it to Ivy League colleges and they get jobs. Some of them become US senators and congressmen, media moguls, founders of the Blue Man Group, male lawyers who champion women's rights, internet pioneers, New York Times editors, doctors who create vaccines then win Nobel prizes, artists and scientists. J. Robert Oppenheimer went to the very progressive Ethical Culture Fieldston School (where Keys' Directress Teacher Didi used to teach, aside from Bank Street and Calhoun too). Al Gore went to Sidwell Friends, where Chelsea Clinton went and where the Obama girls now go. Oh, and as for businesses... kids in progressive schools do learn to COUNT. Peggy Guggenheim went to Calhoun and I love her, and I love her museum -- which she could not have run as well as she did, if she didn't learn to read or write or count in school.

Invoice on hand, ready to take my tens and ones in coins,
for an experiential math lesson in Place Value. See, they count!

I have a book about Peggy Guggenheim and will quote a snippet from the foreword written by her grandson. I quote it because it's an anecdote that, to me, shows the spirit of progressive education. It shows how experiential learning touched her life and the life of her grandson. Sandro Rumney writes of his famous grandmother:

"I was a child when I used to spend my vacations in Venice. My grandmother would often take me on long gondola rides to show me again and again, sublime works by Tintoretto, Carpaccio, Guardi. Lost in the cool shadows of a small church, sometimes she would be inspired. One day, ignoring all copyright warnings, she copied the remarkable sandals she had seen in a Carpaccio painting into a small notebook, and ordered them to be made in every color by her shoemaker. She was ahead of her time in discovering the rules of the most successful museum shops. Sometimes this perceptiveness was also aimed at me. Thus my grandmother thought it was more instructive for me, and more lucrative for her museum, to have me sell her catalogues to the visitors rather than to let me finish my vacation. It was always more fun; she was wary about affixing any information at all to the works of art, making it necessary for the visitors to pass by my little counter. She justified this to herself by offering free admission to the museum. At the end of the day, we would go over the business operations together; this was something she always enjoyed doing." (Italics mine.)

I love Peggy Guggenheim, I know I already said that, but she is a great example of someone who was educated in a progressive setting, who was allowed to daydream, who found her passion and who gave the world something wonderful in the process.

Peggy Guggenheim in her surrealist gallery.

So please, to those concerned, STOP PITYING MY KIDS for going to a progressive school. Thank you very much, but I think they'll be alright. AND before bashing progressive schools, try to learn more about about them. Hopefully, your spirit of inquiry has not been completely quashed by the drudgery of your own school experience. Judging in ignorance is SO not progressive. And isn't progress always good?

Feb 18, 2010

Love In The Era Of Mixed Tapes

A short and sweet (two minutes plus plus) and precious film by Luke Snellin that takes us back to the good ol' days when Ipods and playlists didn't exist.

For my four-year old Mak, who loves lipstick kisses and who is holding his breath till classmate Judy is finally ready to be "friends with boys too and not just girls". The day will come. And there will be more Judys. Patience, my dear.

Feb 16, 2010


Our favorite 3 year old girl is now four... fore! Look ahead! They do grow up so fast so we try to relish every moment. Here we are relishing birthday memories. Snippets from an advanced birthday celebration with her nursery classmates, then on the day itself HK Disney fun extravaganza with her favorite mama, daddy, kuya and yaya...

Happy 4th Birthday Chicha! from Nikka Santos on Vimeo.

It's great when they can find joy in meeting a "real" princess (that was Belle daddy, not Sleeping Beauty!), riding Dumbo, blasting aliens with Buzz Lightyear and blowing candles on your favorite egg tarts. Parade plus egg tarts right after just about blew her mind. On February 12, 2010, the day Chicha turned 4... it was the happiest place on earth!

Feb 14, 2010

Love In Action

Handmade and hand-delivered by the Mak-Tatos

Dropping in with some Sunday love. Presenting pure love in action. Have a beautiful day!

Feb 9, 2010

Playing Second Fiddle

I got my first job when I was six. My task was to do absolutely nothing. I was cast as an understudy in a TV commercial - the "just-in-case-the-real-kid-cries-or-throws-a fit" kid. I played on the set while waiting for my turn. The other child did a brilliant job apparently. I never got my turn. What I did get was my very first pay check. I remember blowing it all on a bike. I was a happy camper.

I had almost forgotten all about this until that memory came rushing back yesterday when Mak got home from school. Talk about a memory flashflood.
Mak: "Mama, I like it when Justine is sick".
Me: "Mak!! Why?"
Mak: "Because when she's not in school I'm the narrator in the play but when she's there I'm the frog!"

And so we talked about how everyone involved is just as important as the other, yes, even the Manang that sewed the stage curtains (for extra emphasis) and how the play badly needs frogs too. This is The Princess and The Frog play after all! And I thought my point came across kind of well actualIy until I dropped him off in school this morning. Craning his neck in the school's driveway with matching hopeful look. "Let me check. Maybe Justine is not there."


Feb 3, 2010

I'd Rather Dance

Dear Nana,

Killers night was killed. Yup, big ouch. May I suggest licking our wounds, with Kings of Convenience? So rocking-out in the MOA concert grounds with Brandon didn't pan out, but maybe we're meant to chill-out in White Space with Erland and Eirik?

And here... LIVE, doing a song I LOVE...

They have a lovely new song too. I first fell in love with them when I heard THIS. As The Smiths sing it, Please Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time. I'm hopeful again because just this morning I got a nice little email that says tickets could be in my hands soon.... Call ya later!