Category Archives: family

On this page:
  • Sketch: Elephant love
  • I hate flying
  • Gifts
  • Learning about my grandmother
  • Lucas
  • Flowcharts and drawing

Sketch: Elephant love

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My dad took me to Manila Zoo to show me Maali’s new enclosure. She’s one lucky elephant.

I fed her a few bananas from the safety of the viewing area. Then my dad gestured for me to walk across the rickety plank and into the new enclosure.

Right. Umm. Okay. So I got up close and personal with Maali.

“She’s a really big elephant,” I said. I’d never seen her that close. I held a banana out. Maali took it with her trunk and plopped it in her mouth.

“Look at the camera,” my dad said. I smiled at the camera nervously. Yes, I know my dad was watching Maali, and he’d keep me safe if something happened. But a 4-ton elephant can’t help but get respect.

More bananas. Happy elephant.

When we finished the bananas, I went back over the plank and behind the viewing bars.

My dad turned on the water compressor and directed a spray of water into Maali’s outstretched trunk. She stored water, then drank it. Then he passed the hose to me and told me to direct the water into Maali’s mouth so that the elephant could drink.

Maali raised her foot. My dad showed me how to use the spray to wash the caked dirt from the elephant’s feet. Then my dad gave Maali a shower.

What did I do during my Christmas vacation? I treated an elephant to a foot spa.

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I hate flying

Long flights are the worst. New security restrictions and winter mechanical problems meant delays at the gate in the Pearson International Airport. That meant sprinting through the Detroit airport to catch my connection to Nagoya, a 14-hour flight on which I got stuck beside a talker—an American who told me he initially assumed I was some teenager on a trip with her parents and who, upon finding out I was in IT, showed me a picture of a pile of computers he’d refreshed and tried to impress me with the certs he was going for: CCNA, MSCE, etc. “ASP – you know Active Server Pages?”

I was polite. I made conversation. And I made it very clear that I outgeeked him, in the hope that would get him to stop trying to namedrop technology or military jargon.

I hate flying. I hate the expense of airfare and the time commitment of a trip. I hate the rigmarole of airport security. I hate the paperwork and queues. I hate lugging heavy bags around. Why did my work laptop have to be so big?

As the flight from Nagoya to Manila touched down, the passengers around me broke into applause. Filipinos, glad to be home.

Home. I slipped back into it like a second skin. Home. Family; long-running in-jokes with friends; conversations in Tagalog; even ads that I can relate to. Even my cat remembers our old routines.

How strange and wonderful it is to have two homes, and to know what I take for granted in either.

Gifts

Christmas gift-giving tends to be a little stressful for me. My defence used to be that holidays shouldn’t be about gifts unless Santa Claus is involved. Those adopt-a-family gift drives at work? It sounds like a good idea, but I feel uneasy about requests for Xbox games or branded clothes.

I’m working on that, though. I do get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I’m surprised by a gift, and I’m coming to realize that gift-giving is a neat little way to build relationships.

I’d still prefer it to be spread out over the year, though.

When I come across something I think someone will enjoy, I can’t wait to give it to them. For example, I could have stashed the micro-fleece sheets somewhere in the house, waiting until Christmas to give them. I decided more days of warmth were better than more days of anticipation. (Okay, so that was also a self-serving gift, but you get the point. ;) )

In addition to my impatience, I find it difficult to think of things to give people. I don’t shop recreationally (easier to avoid temptations and practice frugality!), so good deals or interesting items seldom cross my radar. My parents and sisters can buy whatever they want.

I don’t really need anything, and I like saving up for experiences and tools. What I really want for Christmas: Shared time. Shared fun. Donations to philanthropic organizations. More people sharing what they know.

My middle sister and her fiance, on the other hand, have a real flair for gift-giving. They think about all the staff at the office and all the people they meet on trips, and they come up with wonderfully individual gifts for each.

Me, I’m glad that my middle sister and my mom sent me their wishlists. I don’t mind learning about gift-giving using training wheels. I’d like to get better at noticing people’s interests. I suspect that my gift-giving will involve horrible puns. I’m giving my eldest sister and her husband a gift for adventurous people who’ve been there, done that. I’m giving my dad a gift related to passion and energy.

I’d rather make things for people than buy people things, though. I’d rather give people jams and jellies, cakes and cookies, biscuits and bars. I want to learn how to sew organizers, make scarves, duct-tape wallets.

So we’ll see how this gift-giving thing works out. Has anyone deliberately tried learning this? Any thoughts?

Learning about my grandmother

When I told my mom about the hooded fleece bathrobe I’d made for W-, she laughed and told me a story about how her mother used to make her dresses. My mom would beg my grandmother to make some time to work on the dress, which was low priority compared to running a business and keeping everything sorted. Sometimes that meant finishing the dress the day of the party, I guess!

My mom also told me a story about how my grandmother bought my mom a new dress. When the top part was too worn to wear, my grandmother replaced the top, keeping the skirt. When the skirt part ended up being too worn, my grandmother replaced the bottom. My mom asked if that meant she had a new dress.

I’d never met my maternal grandmother, but it was great hearing stories about her, and seeing my mom smile as she told stories. =) Just as I like coming across things or stories that remind me of my parents, my mom probably enjoys hearing about my newly-discovered hobbies and thinking about her own parents. =)

I’ve gotten to the point where I enjoy sewing. I like making things I can wear, and W- and J- humor me occasionally by asking me to make things for them and enjoying things I’ve been experimented with. ;)

I wonder what other common hobbies I’ll discover along the way…

Lucas

I remember when Lucas entered our lives. My sister had been staying late at the zoo, taking care of a sick foal. My father insisted that she have someone or something for company and protection. A big black dog, perhaps.

What did my sister go and do? She got a black Labrador puppy. Labradors can’t help but project instant friendliness. We joked that he would guilt-trip prospective muggers into leaving my sister alone.

With his easy charm, he became the mascot and client service ambassador for Adphoto, my sister’s favourite model, and a friend to everyone.

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Old age has taken its toll on Lucas. He’s hanging on bravely, but it’s almost time to let him go. My sister hopes Lucas can stay until we can all say goodbye to him, but our flights are more than a month away. We’ll see how things work.

I’m happy that of all the families who could have shared Lucas’ life, we were the ones who got to know such a fine dog.

Flowcharts and drawing

J-’s social studies lesson included two flowcharts. W- asked if the flowcharts had diamonds indicating conditionals. Apparently not, so we seized the Teachable Moment and started teaching J- (she’s 11) about flowcharts and logic.

In related news, decision trees and flowcharts are awesome when they involve cats. ;) Will sketch some when I get my new tablet.

(In quite tangential news, I’m thinking of picking up the Wacom Bamboo pen and multitouch tablet. It’d be way cool if I can figure out how to use it for presentations. Maybe next next year, I’ll save up for a proper tablet PC.)