Category Archives: special post

Happy Belated Birthday Canada (and Michael)! 07.02.2012

Happy Belated Birthday Canada

(and Michael)!


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

While many adorned themselves in red and white yesterday, perhaps wolfed down some burgers and dogs off the barbeque, and craned their necks to the sky in anticipation of well orchestrated fireworks in celebration of Canada’s 145th birthday, I, too, was busy preparing a festive party for my son who had grown into a fine, young man of eight!


Eight years ago, while mobs of people were gathered on lawn chairs, at picnic tables, and  the hoods of their cars while fireworks exploded in the sky, I was deep in labour, crying out to God for the survival of my unborn child.

I was in 25 weeks gestation, which is equivalent to six months pregnant, watching the movie, 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore on DVD, and wolfing down a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken when an excruciating pain sent me hunched over to the floor.


I could easily blame Adam Sandler’s nasal voice, the predictable outcome of yet another romantic comedy, or the salty grease of KFC as the culprits of my early labour, but there was no time—the baby was on its way.

And while the neonatalogists went so far as to prepare my husband and I for the potential outcome, we were given a choice: “terminate the pregnancy” since it was in most likelihood that the “baby would not survive” and “should the baby survive, it will most likely have severe physical and mental disabilities.”


I hesitated, but my husband’s faith was strong. We stood firm in our belief that the life and care of our child was in God’s hands and that it was not up to us to interfere by choosing to kill our child even before he or she had a chance at life simply because of our fear of difficulty or even death. I had already carried for six months and in all things, there is a purpose. I wasn’t by any means going to purposely end my child’s life because of fear. This baby was our unborn child and regardless of the outcome, we had decided to surrender all of our faith and trust in God to do His will. Instead, we decided to intervene and intercede through prayer to God to fight on our and our baby’s behalf—for life.

Me pregnant. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

And so, while many marvelled at the fireworks in the sky in celebration of our country, Canada, the explosion of my own labour and desperation for life to continue rumbled on. My husband prayed out loud over me.

As soon as the baby was born the doctors took the it into another room. I was left alone in tears and silence, exhausted, relieved, yet anxious to hear the verdict: life or death…

The doctors and nurses waited with me. Though we didn’t speak of it, the stench of fear mingled with hope lay heavy under the hospital light.


My husband eventually came back into the room and announced, “He’s alright!”

And I exhaled a breath of gratefulness, joy, and relief, thanking God for His faithfulness and compassion with my tears and from my lips. We were given a son.

The nurse asked me, “What would you like to name him?”

I answered with affirmation, “Michael Isaac. His name will be Michael Isaac,” and she squeezed my hand.

Michael means “Who is like the Lord?” (mi-who, ke-as or like, El-deity), a rhetorical question that really implies that no one is like God. We had chosen the name Michael is in honour of God’s warrior and victorious spirit and as a symbol of our humility before Him.

In the New Testament Michael is also the archangel that leads God’s armies against Satan’s forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven, he defeats Satan. What better name could we give our son?

Archangel Michael. Art by “Mr. Noxx” on Devian Art.


Michael Isaac was born a mere 1 lb. 12 oz and battled against the odds of illness and death everyday for the first three months to four years of his life. We had been in and out of hospital for the majority of his toddler years, battling always against the sickness that would try to overcome his immature lungs, his lack of immunity. Doctors marvelled at him with scientific curiosity, pity, and awe. Other parents and members in our families secretly thanked their “lucky stars” that he was not their son.

But, God and our faith in Him persevered. Suffering can only lead you to two choices: defeat or resignation to defeat—or a fervour in faith to continue believing and hoping for the best. As Christians, my husband and I chose the latter and surrendered our memory to the origins of our son’s name. And God did the rest.

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


Yesterday, Michael turned eight and is healthy and strong.

Michael, yesterday after a little birthday cake. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

So, for us, our celebration of Canada Day is much more than wearing the colours of our country’s flag or watching fireworks in the sky. It’s an annual rejoicing of God’s compassion and faithfulness in answer to our trust and submission to His will in all things as found in our testimony of our son’s life.

(Which is why, I couldn’t post anything at all yesterday! The festivities, however small and intimate, had in its own way, a set of continual fireworks.)

It goes without saying, “Happy belated birthday Canada! Happy belated 8th birthday, Michael!”—and let the fireworks continue on.


Michael with his sister, Mercedes. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


Birthday cake. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.


Michael and his most anticipated gift: Hulk Gamma Fists!


How did you celebrate Canada Day yesterday?


A Father’s Day Reading List

A Father’s Day Reading List


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Here are a variety of titles of books about fathers that I recommend:

I Love My Daddy

By Sebastian Braun


From the Indigo website:

Sebastien Braun’s appealing text and charming illustrations follow a day in the life of a bear and his bear cub in this celebration of the bond between father and child.


A Perfect Father’s Day

By Eve Bunting


From the Indigo website:

“I’m taking you out for Father’s Day,” Susie tells Dad. “First we’ll go for lunch.” “Good,” Dad says. She chooses the restaurant, and pretty soon Dad can see that she’s filled this special day with treats–treats for both of them!


That’s Not How You Play Soccer Daddy

By Sherry Shahan


From the Indigo website:

Mikey is the super-competitive young captain of the Hot Diggedy Diner soccer team. He works hard, even if his teammates are easily distracted by anthill investigations and turning themselves into whirlybirds. Determined, Mikey repeatedly charges down the field, dribbling the ball to the goal posts, rat-a-tat-tack-ing the ball.

After a tough practice, Mikey’s dad and dog Socks take him to lunch in the park, but Mikey only wants to practice for the Big Game. Daddy offers to help, but to Mikey’s dismay Daddy doesn’t put in much of an athletic effort. He keeps bending the rules and telling his impatient son to “just have fun.”


My Dad, My Hero

By Ethan Joy


From the Indigo website:

A young child starts off this laugh-out-loud picture book by listing all the ways his dad is NOT a super hero: he can’t leap tall buildings, run faster than a speeding bullet, or shoot webs out of his wrists. Each spread illustrates how Dad doesn’t have super powers but is still a hero at heart.


Ramona and Her Father

By Beverly Cleary


From the Indigo website:

Ramona tries to cheer up the family as only Ramona can — by rehearsing for life as a rich and famous star of television commercials, for instance — but her best efforts only make things worse. Her sister, Beezus, calls her a, pest, her parents lose patience with her, and her teacher claims she’s forgotten her manners. But when her father admits he wouldn’t trade her for a million dollars, Ramona knows everything is going to work out fine in the end.


The Good Father

By Diane Chamberlain


From the Indigo website:

Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown made a choice: to raise his newborn daughter on his own. While most of his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home, changing diapers and worrying about keeping food on the table. But he’s never regretted his decision. Bella is the light of his life. The reason behind every move he makes. And so far, she is fed. Cared for. Safe.

But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he’s worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble….


The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

By J.J. Lee


From the Indigo website:

Taking as its starting point a son’s decision to alter his father’s last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply brilliantly crafted and universal story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out.

For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the suit hanging at the back of his closet. It was his father’s last suit. JJ’s decision to finally make the suit his own serves as the launching point for this powerful book — part personal memoir, part social history of the suit.

As JJ cuts into the jacket, he begins to piece together the story of his tumultuous relationship with his charismatic yet troubled father.


Hands of my Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love

By Myron Uhlberg


From the Indigo website:

By turns heart-tugging and hilarious, Myron Uhlberg’s memoir tells the story of growing up as the hearing son of deaf parents-and his life in a world that he found unaccountably beautiful, even as he longed to escape it.

“Does sound have rhythm?” my father asked. “Does it rise and fall like the ocean? Does it come and go like the wind?”

Such were the kinds of questions that Myron Uhlberg’s deaf father asked him from earliest childhood, in his eternal quest to decipher, and to understand, the elusive nature of sound. Quite a challenge for a young boy, and one of many he would face.


The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son

By Ian Brown


From the Indigo website:

Walker Brown was born with a genetic mutation so rare that doctors call it an orphan syndrome: perhaps 300 people around the world also live with it. Walker turns twelve in 2008, but he weighs only 54 pounds, is still in diapers, can’t speak and needs to wear special cuffs on his arms so that he can’t continually hit himself. “Sometimes watching him,” Brown writes, “is like looking at the man in the moon – but you know there is actually no man there. But if Walker is so insubstantial, why does he feel so important? What is he trying to show me?”

In a book that owes its beginnings to Brown’s original Globe and Mailseries, he sets out to answer that question, a journey that takes him into deeply touching and troubling territory. “All I really want to know is what goes on inside his off-shaped head,” he writes, “But every time I ask, he somehow persuades me to look into my own.” 


What’s on your recommendation list of books about fathers?

What books did your father read to you as a child?


Wishing all the great dads out there a wonderful Father’s Day! Hope you had a blast!


Making the Headlines in “Mom’s Gazette” – Mother’s Day Series: Part 3

Making the Headlines in

“Mom’s Gazette”

Mother’s Day Series: Part 3

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Ever since I first read the book, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, it compelled me to want to study horticulture to acquire the ability to grow an indoor garden or out. (You can read my review here.)

I have four favourite flowers:

The Butterfly Orchid


The Calla Lily


The Sampaguita (The Philippine Jasmine)


and Sakura (Cherry Blossom)


I received none of those for Mother’s Day—contrary to what I was expecting, I received no flowers at all!

Or breakfast in bed (my husband isn’t in agreement with the possibility of crumbs on bed sheets, so this isn’t a treat I have ever experienced yet—oh well, maybe next year…)


I did, however, receive an all-weekend-pass to:

“You can do whatever you want, Mommy, May 2012.”

So, my Mother’s Day tribute began on Friday at 168 Sushi Japan Restaurant, a favourite spot for my husband and myself.

168 Sushi Japan Restaurant


The restaurant crowd was filled with the social buzz of culturally curious youth, interracial Asian couples, and corporate business men and women, prestigious enough to eat slowly, laugh loudly, and not clock their corporate lunch on corporate time—and us, a small, young family of four, having an impromptu treat to sushi.

The celebration of Mommyhood was in full force as my husband and daughter happily chomped down their beef teriyaki and gin-zake, while my eldest son was slow and cautious, begrudgingly swallowing food as if the raw sushi itself would resurrect right into his throat and nip at his tonsils. My son was always given to drama.

And so, while I multi-tasked between cutting chicken and kalbi pieces for my two-year-old, I also flagged down the waitress for a large order of fries. And that’s when my son sat up straight, perked up his ears at the change in menu, and happily clipped his chopsticks together like an alligator practicing intimidation before his next meal: chomp, chomp!


Much of my Mother’s Day weekend was like this; my husband and children surrounded me with their daily nuances and needs. But that’s motherhood, its crux and its joy—the necessity of who you are and what you lovingly provide for them.

In return, I received some time to visit a local bookstore and bought myself a paper stand (all the better to see my written reviews or content for posts with) and a new weapon of choice: Maybelline Super Stay 14-Hour Lipstick in Timeless Crimson. Plus, a new pair of Geisha chopsticks for my ever-growing collection of Asian products! BAM!

My lips in Timeless Crimson, Maybelline Super Stay 14-Hour Lipstick. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Maybelline Super Stay 14-Hour Lipstick in Timeless Crimson. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


My new pair of geisha chopsticks—perfect for the renovation of my home office and its Asian theme! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


And of course, I was presented with a personalized gift made by my son, which always makes the gift more meaningful. Its medium was also coincidently fitting: a cover page headline in the newspaper, Mom’s Gazette!

M&M presenting me with my Mother’s Day gift: a headline in “Mom’s Gazette.” May 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


And though my son broke the rules of his assignment by not drawing only a picture of the two of us, he drew instead, a view of his bedroom from an open door–-because it’s the place he loves spending the most time in and the place that I “clean up the most.”  (Makes sense!)

The room in the picture is clearly recognizable to me: a lamp, his bunk bed, his laundry basket, desk, computer, his toys, and a picture of us together while he “reads a chapter from his book for his school’s RAH Program (Reading at Home).

My copy of “Mom’s Gazette” for Mother’s Day, May 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Close-up of my Mother’s Day Gift, May 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Here’s a translation of the article’s content:

World’s Best Mom!

One mother breaks all records to be named Top Mom.

When asked about this honour, her child had this a response:

My mom rocks! She is funny.

When she hugs me, it makes me so happy.

I love doing things with her, especially dancing.

She is so good at singing.

She really is the best!


I remember the day when my son  first came into my life and made me a shocked and frightened mother with a child no more than 2 lbs. and 18 oz.— and then when my daughter dispelled this fear by giving me a second chance at empowerment by labouring in preparation and without fear.


Becoming a mother…again… (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


During my pregnancy with her, I studied the labour-coping and life-saving book, Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills: Proven Pain-Management Techniques for Your Labour and BirthFor those of you who are pregnant for the first time or need more confidence in facing the pain of labour, this book is brilliant! It has real techniques that you can learn and choose from for pain management in better coping and understanding labour and birthing. I highly recommend it for any woman on her way to bringing another baby into the world.



And years later, here are my two little monkeys posing for the camera in presenting me with my Mother’s Day gift, the Mom’s Gazette:



No, I didn’t receive breakfast in bed. Nor did I get a bouquet of my favourite flowers. I did, however, receive what is always best on Mother’s Day: unconditional “Mommy” love, a platter of sushi, some laughs, and quality time spent with my kids.

M. at Gage Park in celebration of our Mother’s Day weekend! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
X.M. on swings at Gage Park in celebration of Mother’s Day 2012! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


How did you celebrate Mother’s Day? What was the best part of your celebration?


Removing the Red Cape: Reflections on Motherhood Part 2 (Mother’s Day Series)

Removing the Red Cape:

Reflections on Motherhood Part 2

Mother’s Day Series

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

I must confess that for this particular Mother’s Day, I feel somewhat guilty. A day set apart to honour mothers, (myself, now included) comes with it an expectation that the honour you receive, you receive because you’ve earned it (and sometimes this just isn’t the case).

But, before you can even answer to it, you must first be able to recognize what it is that you’re supposed to fulfill. And so, Mother’s Day, is especially for me, a time of introspection, a tally, a measuring-up of “Mommy character,”—essentially a secret inventory of a job well done—or not so.

And I have felt more towards the polarity of the “not so” end of the metaphorical measuring stick. And trust me on this; this isn’t my form of self-deprecation in order to gain sympathy votes, second-hand compliments, or coerced empathy. I know I can be a much better mother than I am right now.

The ideology of motherhood is often times antiquated with sainthood or heroism, and rightly so, on many counts—but a far cry from the reality of the “Mommy”-everyday- experience.

An image of the Virgin Mary

One’s own failings in motherhood is a taboo subject; the underbelly of hushed tones, secret guilt, regret and anxiety. One that isn’t openly discussed unless in a private confessional between a most trusted friend or partner.


But, this post is not about bashing mothers or “poor” motherhood skills—especially on Mother’s Day. It’s a sober reminder to myself and others that motherhood is more than an honour badge we wear alongside our stretch marks, adoption papers, or personal commitments to be the primary caregivers to the child or children in our lives.

It’s a daily act of love, discipline, role modelling, and sacrifice—one that we, as mothers know innately by experience, rather than the often-idealized media coverage that permeates our social and subconscious understanding.

I wasn’t born with a natural red cape that enables me to zoom heroically from one parent interview to the next soccer game, nor from the kitchen to whip up an extravagant breakfast menu to the grocery store to battle inflated product prices or egos in a perpetual line-up.



Nor was I born with special telepathic powers to decipher my children’s encoded baby language or his or her complicated “demands.” And no, even though there are countless “guidebooks” on parenting, I have yet to read them all or retain the diversity of their opinions and advice especially when faced with the all-time infamous questions:

“Okay, what do I do now? What’s the best approach? How should I handle this?”

So, minus the red cape, the telepathic powers, and the guidebooks, I’ve pretty much learned from scratch and “on-the-job.”


Here are the top five things I try to keep in mind when a red cape, telepathic powers, or a guidebook is especially needed:

1. My children are unique. I shouldn’t compare them to others.


Children “measuring their height.”


Milestones are wonderfully time-stamped into our memories, but not necessarily with a time-stamp guarantee. I often hear from relatives or others, “Well, you know, so-and-so? They already started crawling/walking/talking/going to the potty…,” etc., when my child is deemed a “late bloomer.” The mistake here would be to take this into account and over-analyze your child’s milestone record, subjugating yourself and your child to unnecessary pressure.

2. Motherhood is not a competition. “My way” is not better than another’s.


Mothers racing to the “Best Mommy” Finish Line.


Female friends and relatives who are also mothers tend to give us advice when they see we might be having a little “Mommy” trouble in effective parenting whether we ask for it or not. And sometimes this exchange can get a little heated if your parenting philosophy differs from somebody else’s. And sometimes it borderlines a sense of parenting rivalry rather than friendly and useful advice. When this happens, I remind myself that motherhood is not a competition. I don’t need to be a “better” mother than someone else. I’d much rather be the best kind of mother I can be for my children.

If this happens, just shake that competition chip off your shoulder and understand that motherhood is an honourable and diverse tradition, one that should be celebrated with one another. Relax, you’re doing a good job.

3. Model the behaviour you’d like to see in your children.



It’s really that simple. They see, they hear, they learn—and they do. And they’ll do as you do. If there are particular things you would rather not see your child do, best not to give them the personal first-hand lesson by doing it yourself. Integrity is an important foundation of character. It can be learned. But it can also be better enforced when it has a living example.

4. Motherhood is not sainthood. Don’t be a martyr.



Remember the red cape? Yes, we don’t have one, nor should we. There are times when our energy will be low, when we need to renew and return to more than who we are as mothers and remind ourselves that being a mother is only one facet that encompasses the entirety and complexity of being a woman. Rest. Relax. Return to things, interests, and relationships that rejuvenate who you are outside of being a mother.

5. Enjoy your children and your relationship with them.


My two little ones playing in the backyard. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


The younger your children, the more dependent they are on you as a mother. Sometimes this dependency can feel burdensome (especially when you’re tired). Or when you’re swept by the flurry of a busy and active life and plans in spending “quality time” with your children get conveniently pushed further down your agenda calendar or your “To Do List”—until you realize you’ve missed a great opportunity in knowing and spending time with them.

My son is seven-years-old and my daughter is two. They won’t always be. And before I know it, they’ll be leaving the “nest” and I’ll be yearning for the past, their youth, and our time together as it could have been or was. This is a fatal mistake. Our children never stop being our children by relation—but they do eventually grow up and leave.

Best to pause, re-think that schedule, and re-prioritize your time with your children. Your influence in their lives is integral to who they become later. But, apart from that, the joy of sharing a life with your children can never be re-lived, imitated, or compensated for. Do what you should and can now-–and continue beyond the empty nest. You won’t regret it and neither will they.


And since The Bibliotaphe’s Closet is home to book lovers, here are a few book suggestions that celebrate motherhood in celebration of Mother’s Day:

Are You my Mother?


My Mother Is Mine


Stay Close to Mama


On Mother’s Lap


Where’s My Mommy?




If you’re a mother and/or parent, what advice do you give yourself when you don’t have a red cape to wear in times you need to “come to the rescue?”


Because of Mother’s Day, be sure to check out this upcoming week’s feature on Children’s Books with Asian themes in correspondence to The Asian Heritage Month Blog Event.

To read more on the Mother’s Day Series, you can visit here.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Let’s honour our children and our mothers today!



Holy Mother! I’M a Mother!: Reflections on Motherhood Part 1 (Mother’s Day Series)

Holy Mother! I’M a Mother!

Reflections of Motherhood Part 1

(Mother’s Day Series)

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

As a young girl, I was fiercely independent. Unlike my younger sister who secretly misinterpreted “apron strings” as “Siamese twins.” She was on my mother’s hip for a large part of her early years. Unlike me, who was content and unafraid to experience the world on my own. It’s not that I didn’t need my mother—I just didn’t need my mother.

Independent little me. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.


Later, my ambition, which was sparked not only by my very first “academic award” found in my compassion to “share my crayons” with another child sitting at my table in Junior Kindergarten when I was awarded with The Apple of the Day Award from Miss Sherry, my beloved teacher—was further embedded by my parents’ generous praise of my work and my intelligence.


I was four.

And every picture that I painted or drew was hung up on the walls of our townhome laundry room, which was on the second floor.

Pictures of a crude, shaky hand: the ever-recognizable yellow-circled sun with straight lines for its rays of light; green scribbles of grass, over-exaggerated stems of tulips of varying colours and sizes (since I had no idea how to draw any other kind of flower); blue clouds, tiny m’s for flying birds, an apple tree with far too many apples and obvious stems; a box house with an attempted roof; and anatomically bare stick people who were taller than my boxed house.

Yes, these were the products of great praise. And so, I kept on drawing. I kept on painting. I kept on reading. And I kept on writing—I kept on.

As I grew, I became a scholarly and serious student, often, if not always at the top of my class. I even graduated as Valedictorian, winning a Brampton Rotary Award of Excellence that drove me to believe I could someday conquer the world (okay, not the world, but maybe a good two or three countries).

Needless to say, my drive for success propelled me into an accepted solitude with a focus only on a strong career and vocation, extravagant travel plans, a nomadic lifestyle, a few adventurous lovers, dependable and like-minded friends, along with a house full of cats (I later found out that I’m anaphylactic to cats and put myself at risk of death in ever being near them!)

(c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


Marriage or having children were not part of my long-term plans—or even part of a short-term one.

I had nothing against children. Or even men or marriage. I just had other plans. (And we all know how plans usually go…)

My husband and me on our wedding day. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


I’m not complaining. Some of the best things in life derive from spontaneity and surprise. And poof! I met someone who didn’t make me forget my plans or myself, but helped me acutely remember.

Two years into our marriage, “we made plans” to try for a baby.

The actual stick that changed my life. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


Unlike some women (and my previous academic success), my pregnancy and that surrounding childbearing was not in any way, “textbook.”


I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix, a terribly insulting term, which alluded to the idea that my cervix was somehow wilful and unwilling to succeed in its primary function, which is to carry a child. And just as insulting to my very nature, which was not used to being called “incompetent” at anything I had set my mind to.

And so, I carried my child for as long as I could until my firstborn was born too early—the mere size of a pop can, born at six months gestation instead of the anticipated nine.

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


That’s how my personal experience of motherhood began. Not the wistful, flowing ebb of sentimentality usually associated with Hallmark cards, perfectly colour-coordinated baby showers, and gushes of congratulatory hugs, handshakes, and bravado cigars. No.


I had panic and pain when I should have been ethereally glowing. I had Level- Three-priority hospital care with the subjugation of pity, awe, and scientific wonder and study. I had worry, anxiety, and fear—first of labouring, which I had never experienced before, and second, of the potential death of my unborn and then “born-too-early” child.

It was an intensive time of postpartum hormonal change with the heightened stress of death banging on my son’s isolette incubator door. He was 875 grams when he was born. He was fully intubated, depending on the life source of CPAP machines, strong antibiotics, a strict visitation code, a revolving shift of surrogate nurses, and the grace of God.


I had missed my prenatal classes by two weeks! My son was born before I could attend my first session and so when the accompanying nurse told me to breathe, I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, nor did I know what it was to enjoy a baby shower.

I had one—an impromptu gathering of my mother, a few of my aunts who had thrown a few gifts into some gift bags, and a buffet of food I didn’t feel like eating because all I could do was worry about whether or not my baby would live or die.


Dramatic? Yes. True? Absolutely.

And rather than tell you in detail of the four years of frequent hospital visitations, medical appointments, tests, studies, and other forms of my son’s near-death experiences and medical scrutiny—I will say, that we had by no means, any plans to have another child due to the extensive care our son required and the fear of surrendering a second child to a similar fate.


But, you know how plans go.


And so, five years later, we put our faith into the possibility of having another baby…

Now, I have a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter!

M & M, my two “kidsters!” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


What’s the moral of the story?

There isn’t one—but, it is my story. And that of my children. And in reflecting back, Mother’s Day isn’t a day to merely celebrate what it is to be a mother—but also to celebrate the children themselves who have made us so.

I know I will most likely be receiving a similar drawing to the one I drew as a child, on Sunday from my kids. The crude and shaky lines will most likely inscribe,

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! I love you!”

And yes, I will most likely post it our fridge door.

The yellow-circled sun will most likely be replaced with the steel mask of Iron Man and the straight lines will become its rays of light-beam weaponry. The green scribbles of grass will most likely be the bludgeoning green of Hulk, while the over-exaggerated stems of tulips will become the varying colours and sizes of enemy ships. The blue clouds will stand as Captain America’s shield and the tiny m’s of flying birds will most likely become boomerang discs.  The apple tree will stand firm as the tree from Black Panther’s forest. And the boxed house with an attempted roof will most likely become a testament to the Superhero Squad’s secret headquarters!


And of course, the anatomically bare stick people—will now include two more!


How do you celebrate your children as a mother?

If you’re not a mother, how do you celebrate the children who are in your life?


The Bibliotaphe’s Closet New Magic Mug!

The Bibliotaphe’s Closet New

Magic Mug!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

The “geek” in me can’t resist great branding—especially when that brand is my own!

“A little over-zealous, aren’t you, Zara?”

Zealous starts with a “Z”—so yes. Absolutely.

C’mon, admit it. If you’re a blogger and you’ve “branded” your blog, wouldn’t you be a little excited, too? (You, there, the ones shaking your heads—stop that. You really shouldn’t lie to me and my readers! Almost all of them are bloggers, so we know.)

Okay, so if you disagree with me, no problem. Maybe I’m a little too excited. I can’t help it. It’s like feeling a tinge of fame without the stalking. I don’t know about Justin Bieber, but I can walk out my front door, take my dog for a walk, and breathe in the fresh air without being photographed.


(Poor, Justin. I really shouldn’t make fun of him. He’s a growing teenager with a bank account that could pretty much buy an island for himself and his girlfriend! Plus, he’s Canadian—so props, Mr. Bieber! The craze for you is just as wind-swept as your hair! No hard feelings.)

So, what crazy thing did I do? I went ahead and made myself a magic mug. Magically! Like my favourite wizard: Luna Lovegood. Poof! I ordered it and it was delivered within a week. The delivery time in itself was magic enough.

Luna Lovegood. My favourite character in the Harry Potter series.


Wanna see the video? Sure, why not? Just try to ignore my two-year-old daughter who absent-mindedly lay her bag of chicharon on the table while the camera was still on. Thanks, daughter. Because you’re two, you’re forgiven.

And I think I’ll be drinking a lot more coffee, just to watch my Magic Mug, which is fine by me since I’m addicted to it beyond rehabilitation. It’s the only vice I allow myself. Okay, strike that. It’s the only vice I let others know about (snicker).

Now, to my Magic Mug…


The Bibliotaphe`s Closet Magic Mug. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez


Tada! The Magic Mug is also great to tell when your coffee starts to turn cold since it changes back to its original black colour. I can’t wait until next week when I receive The Bibliotaphe’s Closet new business cards….as in my son’s own words of amazement:



Have you “branded” your blog yet? If so, how?


Stars Wars Day: May the 4th Be with You…

Star Wars: May the 4th Be with You…

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

When I told my seven-year-old son that May 4th was Star Wars Day, he was more than apt to participate and was a little angry with me for not telling him sooner. I had not known myself if it wasn’t for the buzz on Twitterverse.

As an Outworlder myself, this post is a little late due to my own personal warp-lag.

Translation: I’ve been a little exhausted from travelling the hyperspace of blogging. (I’ve been hosting the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event for May shortly after “Dewing” the Dewey Read-a-Thon!)

But, I couldn’t pass up the chance of posting something about the much-revered Star Wars series. I was only a child when it first came out and fondly remember the craze it stirred even then. I’m glad to see that Star Wars has not lost its sci-fi appeal and has even passed down to my own children.

In honour of this galactic story, here is an overview of the best of the main characters in the Star Wars series:


  • he serves as Grand Master of the Jedi Council
  • he serves as a general in the Clone Wars

George Lucas originally wished Yoda to follow his other characters in having a full name—Minch Yoda—but instead opted to have many details of the character’s life history remain unknown.

  • it is unknown what species he is, but known simply as Yoda’s species
  • in 2008, Yoda was selected by Empire magazine as the 25th greatest movie character of all time
Yoda’s well-known quote:
“Do or do not… there is no try.”

Darth Vader:

Species: Human/Cyborg

Position: Jedi Knight, Dark Lord of the Sith, Supreme Commander

Homeworld: Taootine

Affiliation: Jedi, Galactic Republic, Sith, Galactic Empire


Darth Vader, now an iconic figure in science fiction was originally a Jedi Knight named Anakin who fell to the dark side of the Force.

He is the father of both Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa.

Vader, a student of Emperor Palpatine secretly intends to overthrow him to establish himself as ruler of the Empire.

Vader is ultimately redeemed in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when he sacrifices himself to save his son, Luke.



Luke Skywalker:

Species: Human

Gender: Male

Position: Lieutenant Commander in the Rebel Alliance, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, Grand Master of the New Jedi Order

Homeworld: Tattooine

Birthplace: Polis Massa

Affiliation: Rebel Alliance, New Republic, New Jedi Order, Galactic Alliance


Luke Skywalker leaves home and becomes the apprentice to the Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi.

As the son of former Queen of Naboo and Republic Senator Padmé Amidala and her husband, Anakin Skywalker, Luke is heir to a family deeply powerful in the Force.

He’s also the fraternal twin brother of Princess Leia Organa.

In 2008, Luke Skywalker was selected by Empire magazine as the 54th greatest movie character of all time.



Princess Leia:

Species: Human

Gender: Female

Position: Heir to the Alderaanian Throne, Senator of Alderaan, New Republic Diplomat, Chief of State of the New Republic, Jedi Knight

Homeworld: Alderaan

Birthplace: Polis Massa

Affiliation: Imperial Senate, Rebel Alliance, New Republic, Galactic Alliance, Jedi


Princess Leia was born Leia Skywalker, the twin sister of Luke Skywalker, born to Padmé Amidala from her marriage to Annakin Skywalker.

Her adoptive father is Bail Organa, who is the head of Alderaan’s royal family, which makes Leia, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.

Later she marries Han Solo and has three children with him: Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin.

Princess Leia is characterized as a driven woman with a forceful personality known as the most beautiful, “petite, fair-skinned human female” in Star Wars.

She is a woman warrior who frequently participates in combat operations and an excellent marksman, missing rarely, if ever, with a blaster.

She kills Jabba the Hutt, choking him with the chain that bound her to him.

Princess Leia later becomes a proficient Jedi after finishing her training under her brother’s guidance and eventually becomes a full-fledged member of the New Jedi Order, under the training of Master Saba Sebatyne.

She is best known in popular culture for her “cinnamon bun hairstyle”—which both my daughter and I love!



Obi-Wan Kanobi:

Species: Human

Gender: Male

Position: Jedi Padawan, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, Jedi Council Member, Jedi High General

Homeworld: Stewjon

Affiliation: Jedi Order, Galactic Republic, Rebel Alliance


Obi-Wan Kenobi is first introduced as rescuing Luke Skywalker from a group of  Tusken Raiders. Obi-Wan reveals to him that he knew his father, Anakin Skywalker, and served with him in the Clone Wars.

Obi-Wan offers to instruct Luke in the ways of the Force and asks him to join him on the quest.


Han Solo:

Species: Human

Gender: Male

Position: Captain of the Millennium Falcon, General in the Rebel Alliance/New Republic smuggler

Homeworld: Corellia

Affiliation: Rebel Alliance, New Republic Alliance, Galactic Alliance


Han Solo, and his Wookiee co-pilot, Chewbacca, become involved in the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire and becomes a chief figure in the Alliance and galactic governments.

Solo and Chewbacca are indebted to Jabba the Hutt and accepts a charter to transport Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker,C-3PO, and R2-D2 to Alderaan in Han’s ship, the Millennium Falcon, for a payment to clear the debt.

Enticed by the possibility of a large reward, he and Chewbacca help Skywalker rescue Princess Leia who is held captive.

After delivering Luke Skywalker, Leia, and the droids to the Rebels, Solo and Chewbacca receive payment for their services. They later help Skywalker, which ultimately enables them to destroy the Death Star. Following this, Han is appointed a Captain by the Rebel Alliance.

His romantic involvement with Princess Leia eventually leads to marriage and three children.




Species: Wookie

Gender: Male

Position: First Mate on Millennium Falcon

Homeworld: Kashyyk

Affiliation: Galactic Republic, Rebel Alliance, New Republic


Chewbacca’s creation as a “gentle, hairy, non-English-speaking co-pilot” was inspired by George Lucas seeing his own dog sitting up on the passenger seat of his car!

It is said that Chewbacca’s name is derived from собака (sobaka), the Russian and Ukrainian word for dog.

Chewbacca,Wookiee, became Han Solo’s first mate and companion after Solo, an Imperial Captain, refused an order to kill him while Chewbacca was a slave of the Empire.

Chewbacca owed a life debt to Han and would serve Han Solo for the rest of his life.

Chewbacca’s voice was created from a mix of recordings of walruses, lions, camels, bears, rabbits, tigers and badgers.  One of the most prominent elements in the voice was a black bear named Tarik.

Chewbacca is one of the few fictional characters to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Movie Awards.

And though I don’t normally prefer “hairy” men, I make the exception when it comes to Chewie. He’s one of my favourites of the Star Wars franchise.




Gender: Masculine programming

Position: Protocol Droid

Homeworld: Tatooine

Affiliation: Galactic Republic, Rebel Alliance, New Republic


C-3PO is a protocol droid designed to serve humans.

He often boasts that he is fluent in “over six million forms of communication.”

He is generally seen with his long-time counterpart, R2-D2.

C-3P0’s main function is to assist etiquette, customs, and translation, so that meetings of different cultures run smoothly.

He is also one of the only protocol druids who is able to lie.

We also later learn from the Prequel Trilogy that C-3P0 was originally built by Anakin Skywalker from spare parts and is later a key witness alongside R2-D2 to Anakin and Padmé’s secret wedding.




Position: Astromech Droid

Homeworld: Naboo

Affiliation: Galactic Republic, Rebel Alliance, New Republic, Galactic Alliance, Jedi Order

R2-D2’s name is said to derive from when Lucas was making one of his earlier films, American Graffiti.

Sound editor Walter Murch asked for Reel 2, Dialog Track 2, in the abbreviated form “R-2-D-2” and Lucas, who was in the room and had dozed off while working on the script for Star Wars, momentarily woke when he heard the request and, after asking for clarification, stated that it was a “great name” before falling immediately back to sleep.

Ewan McGregor, who portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel trilogy, said in an interview:

“…there is something about him that makes you feel great affection for him. I think it is a combination of his shape, his high-pitched voice. He’s just incredibly appealing. In fact, I believe he is George [Lucas]’s favourite actor.”

Lucas confirms this in the audio commentary of the Episode III DVD.

George Lucas also notes that it is intentional that R2-D2 saves the day at least once in every film.

R2-D2 was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2003.



And at the request of my Star Wars-crazed son, he wanted me to include in this post a picture of his Star Wars books and toys collection saying,

“Mama, don’t forget to include a picture of all my Star Wars stuff especially my Darth Vader stuffy and the light sabres!”


M’s Star Wars book collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M’s Star Wars toys. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M’s Star Wars toy collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M’s Star Wars Mighty Bean collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M’s Star Wars toy collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M’s Star Wars toy collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M’s Star Wars toy collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

And to prove my children’s reverence for this series (as well as my own), here’s a picture of M. who created in his own spare time a Trooper costume out of a cardboard box, and the three of us on Halloween:

M. working on his cardboard Star Wars Trooper costume! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
M. in his homemade Trooper costume. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
BANG! BANG! The Imperial Forces are here!!! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
Storm Trooper (Mommy); M. as Darth Vader, and M. as Princess Leia. Halloween 2011. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.


I don’t have as many Midi-chlorians as the Skywalkers, but it’s safe if not mandatory to affectionately hope and say,

May the 4th   be with you!

To check out some cool Star Wars images, you can visit my Star Wars board on Pinterest.


Who’s your favourite Star Wars character?




Support My Cousin in His Run for the Toronto Half-Marathon for the Halo-Halo Village!

Support My Cousin in His Run for the Toronto Half-Marathon for the

Halo-Halo Village!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

My baby cousin who isn’t a baby anymore happens to be an avid artist and art teacher in Toronto and runs an art project called the Halo-Halo Village.

If you’re Filipino, you’ll be familiar with our famous dessert, Halo-Halo, literally translated as “mixed-mixed.” It’s a delectable concoction of shaved ice, milk, cream, ice cream, and your choice of “mixed” ingredients such as: mongo beans, pineapple gelatin, coconut strands, jackfruit, etc. The list goes on! And mmm…it’s good!


And so is my cousin, Jeff Garcia’s art and continual work in the creative industry!

Here are some of the images of how he supports the art community:

Jeff leading the young artists on an outing. (c) Photo Jeff Garcia. All rights reserved.
Jeff with his art students. (c) Photo Jeff Garcia. All rights reserved.


Not only is he a great artist (and no, I’m not just making a plug because he’s family—he really is gifted—I know, I’ve seen his drawings at the tender age of seven and they were complex), he’s also a great runner. (Now, I know how he keeps his thin physique!)

And so, on May 6, 2012 at 8:30am, he’ll be running the Toronto Half-Marathon on behalf of the Halo-Halo Village!

Yikes! Just thinking about it makes me tired (though, I, too, used to run long-distance—hey, maybe it’s genetic?).

So, if you’d like to support my cousin, affectionately known to me as “Jepoy,” here are the details in doing so:

  • He is running for pledges of $21.29. A dollar for every kilometre of his half-marathon (21.2923 km).

  • Donate $21.29 and your name will also be screen printed on the back of his race shirt.

(Now, the gift of giving is great enough, but the artist in Jeff compels him to give back!)
  • You will also receive a screen-printed poster of his race Bib Tag # with the total time he ran the 21.2923KM.

The collective poster will also include the names of all the Villagers who supported his run.


Proceeds will go towards Halo-Halo Village’s closing and renovation process

at 208 Christie St. during the month of May and to help continue his events and workshops outside of those walls.

Halo-Halo Village (c) Photo Jeff Garcia. All rights reserved.


He’s “running forward to new beginnings!”

If you would like to support his run for the village:

1. You can either give him cash or cheque ( payable to: Mango Peeler ) in person at: 208 Christie St. on Friday May 4th from 5pm-9pm. Or you can email transfer him your $21.29 donation to this email.

Security question: LONG. LIVE. THE. 

2. Send him your name/ record label/ studio/ clothing line/ your band/ etc./ that you want printed on my shirt and the bib tag posters.

Jeff will need the pledges and names by Saturday morning the latest as he will be screen-printing his race day shirt on Saturday May 5th.

If you live outside of Toronto please provide your mailing address in an email. You will receive a receipt for your donation.


Jeff with other Villagers. (c) Photo Jeff Garcia. All rights reserved.


He would also love the moral support! So go out and cheer him on during his run on Sunday or meet him at the Finish Line! Play some music on a boombox, bring him a mango, or make him a cool sign!

You can also follow details of Jeff’s run on Twitter (@mango_peeler) with the hashtag: #RUN4THEVILLAGE and his website.

(Drizzy Drake is a personal friend of his and he will be!)


Toronto Half Marathon Map
Race Details


Thanks to all who support not only my cousin, Jeff, in this marathon and his projects at the Halo-Halo Village, but the arts community on a whole.

How Harry Potter Has Infiltrated Our House! 04.26.2012

How Harry Potter Has Infiltrated Our House!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

It seems Harry Potter is more than a fictional-character-turned-movie-star! He’s slowly, but surely infiltrated our house—and just in the past few weeks.

First, I won an impromptu giveaway contest from Michele at Just a Lil’ Lost. And what fun little item did I get? My very own Potted Potter Harry Potter glasses!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in hardcover and the Potted Potter glasses.

And then my luck grew with the kind generosity of David Abrams of The Quivering Pen when he snagged a Kindle for himself and decided to give his print copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince away. It was up for grabs and my name was pulled out of Harry Potter’s magical hat. You know it, don’t you? The Sorting Hat! And it picked me!

The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter.

I entered another contest just in passing (the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop at The Book Garden) since I follow a number of book blogs and must have had some lottery love and pity for me because when it comes to Rafflecopter or, I very rarely win. But I won!

I received a beautiful necklace pendant of my choice from Pretty Little Charms, UK on etsy just yesterday. It’s a quote from the young wizard:

"You'll stay with me?" "Until the very end," Harry Potter pendant from Pretty Little Charms, UK. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

And then last night, while in my home office tidying up, my two-year-old daughter who I had already put to bed says, Alohomora!”—and saunters into the room. And poof!

The Alohomora incantation is used to open and/or unlock doors! Lucky for her, the door to my home office isn’t bewitched!

And what does she do? She decides she’s Harry Potter. Not Hermoine, not Ron, not Dumbledore, not even Luna Lovegood! (I LOVE Luna. If I could be any wizard in the Harry Potter series, I’d be her.)

Luna Lovegood. My favourite character in the Harry Potter series.

Seriously. I did not coerce her. She climbed out of her bunk bed, put on her old brother’s black jacket, wore his old school tie (which I tied for the photograph), and sported those glasses like she was indeed Harry himself.

“Harry Potter wond!,” she said. (That’s how she said it. Don’t worry, I know how to spell, wand!)

M. dressed up as Harry Potter. (HER IDEA.)

Yup, I had to lend her my Chinese art brush because she doesn’t have her own wizard wand yet. Will have to change that.

M. compromised with a Chinese art brush as a wand in lieu of a promise to go shopping at Diagon Alley.

Now, if we could only find Diagon Alley so we could go shopping! This would explain my inherent attraction to owls and the crow as my totem animal. I just don’t have the heart to tell my little one that she’s a Muggle since her Daddy is clearly not a wizard—unless of course, he’s keeping that to himself!

A special thanks to all the book bloggers: Michele, David, and Birgit (and Leigh of Pretty Little Charms, UK) for sharing their Harry Potter love. It’s made a difference to me and especially to my daughter, the wizard-in-training.


Who’s your favourite Harry Potter character? Who do you most identify with? 

Which is your favourite magic spell?

If you attended Hogwarts School, which house do you think the Sorting Hat would put you in?


Special Post: It’s Maki’s Bday! (+ “One Pup’s Up” Review): 04.23.2012

It’s Maki’s Birthday!

(+ One Pup’s Up Review)

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Eleven years ago, a little puff of a puppy came into the world. She was born half Shih Tzu and Poodle (a Shih-Poo) mix of a large litter belonging to my sister’s boyfriend’s family. Already a connection was there.

She was at the beginning, a birthday present for my sister from her boyfriend at the time. Don’t worry, it’s a happy story between the two of them since he’s no longer her boyfriend, but her husband and my brother-in-law! Yay, for love!

In my sister’s excitement she brought the puppy home to show her off to my parents, whom we were all living with at the time.

My Dad was none too pleased since he wasn’t expecting a new addition to the family, let alone a pup. And a nameless pup, at that.

But, she had a way about her that squirmed her way into my father’s strict sensibility. She was set on the bed, just a fur-roll of a thing, small, round, and cute, literally giving us her best “puppy dog” eyes.

Little Maki as a pup. Her stealth mode in the backyard.

Dad softened quickly and suggested a few names, but my sister disagreed, already set on a name. My sister decided on calling her Maki since her black and white coat and small features reminded her of one of her favourite delights: maki sushi.

Trust me, we don’t remind her of the fact that she was named after a roll of rice and seaweed. Though the rest of the family calls her Maki, my affectionate name for her is Macqua or Max.

Everyone loves their dog, but in all honesty, I have to say, I’m actually and innately a little scared of dogs. I always was. But, not with Max.

She really has such a loving, gentle, and extremely obedient nature. She is a good dog.

When we go for walks, she’s always happy to greet her fellow canine friends with a strong bark because she likes to pretend that she’s a tough pup. But, in fact, she’s really shy and a little nervous when she meets new people. And God help her, when there’s a thunderstorm. It’s Armageddon to her!

Maki and Bee

(Okay, Bee isn’t technically a canine, but a gerbil. Still, there was a lot of love between them both!)

She doesn’t ask for much except a lot of love and a good belly rub now and then. And though she can’t catch a Frisbee as expertly as some of her German Shepherd buddies, she will make it known that her dog toy is hers and hers alone.

And it’s wonderful timing that she’ll be staying with me and my family for a while, just in time to celebrate her 11th birthday (that’s 77 in dog years).

I even won a book giveaway contest recently from of the book, One Pup’s Up by Martha Wilson Chall and illustrated by Henry Cole!

ONE PUP'S UP by Marsha Wilson Chall and illustrated by Henry Cole.

My two young ones, plus Max, enjoys its counting story and its fun, rhyming narrative that starts, “1 pup’s up, 2 puppies tumble, 3 puppies roll in a fuzzy puppy jumble…”

Sounds just like Maki’s autobiography and humble beginning!

It’s a positive children’s book with a large font print for children to clearly associate numbers with the number of puppies and a great, rhyming read for children and parents (and puppies) to enjoy together! It’s a book filled with the joy of being a puppy! And being part of a family.

Which Maki is and has been for more than 10 years.

Happy birthday, Girl! You’re a big pup, now. A real Lady…

Maki, the birthday pup with M. April 23, 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

Hope you can join me in wishing her good health (she’s having a little trouble with her eyesight because of her age) and lots of “puppy” love.

(After my son comes home from school today, Max is going to get some extra birthday treats, while me and the kids will work together to bake, eat, and enjoy some homemade, birthday cupcakes in her honour!)

Woof! Woof!


We love you, Macqua!