Sunday, November 30, 2003

22-24 November 2003, Puerto Galera, Atlantis Resort

Atlantis Dive Resort – We headed to the beach with a detour to the Embassy to pick up some spending cash, went in circles around the airport and finally hit the South Superhighway to Batangas where Lea Beach and the boat pick-up would be to Puerto Galera. Two days later we were return, ready to face city life again.

Just as a warning, I'm long winded. Like you didn't know that already.

Day 1 - The drive was actually quite enjoyable. For a (very short) time we were flying on the Skyway and the sensation of moving faster than 25 mph for longer than 15 seconds was so liberating! We drove to the end of the South Super and made our way for another hour along roads with stalls selling buko (young coconuts), carved wooden furniture, vulcanization services and everything in between. Following the directions off the resort’s site was an exercise in patience and until the road was traveled did we realize that they had done the best they could. Well, they could have been a bit more specific in distances, but the markers were what they were… for example, “turn left at the lion monument” meant just that, a small concrete statue of a lion under a sign for the local Lions chapter. Until we actually saw it though, we would guess if various oddly shaped markers were the ones we were looking for, which provided plenty of amusement.
The kids were excited about our trip. I think the city was wearing on them as well and Nicholas especially was talking about the beach the days prior. Did he remember what a beach was? I’m not sure, but it didn’t matter, his excitement was infectious. So after a few wrong turns, a couple of harsh bumps and plenty of amusement provided by Ian when he thought we were looking for a flower mill instead of a flour mill as a checkpoint, we arrived down a tiny dirt path at Lea Beach. Goats abounded, boats were lazily rising and falling with the passing waves from other boats and there was no where to park but on a little patch of scraggly grass next to an open hut. Trusting our vehicle to the goats (I didn’t trust the men who seemed to be permanently planted inside the hut), the resort boatmen loaded our bags, we said a farewell to our wheels and headed into open water for the hour long voyage to Atlantis. We were only 2 hours late.
Jonathon had gotten weary on the drive and true to form had fallen asleep about 15 minutes before we’d reached Lea Beach. Ian has the remarkable ability of picking up a sleeping child and transferring them without waking them. I’ve mastered it from the car to the house, but he managed to get Jonathon onto the boat, through the boats roar to life and onto the cushie seat with a sweater for a pillow. He slept the entire hour to Sabang Beach. Nicholas was understandably wary of the whole thing. None of the other kids had been on a boat before and Nicholas reacted as expected, with great thrill as long as he was firmly attached to his parent of choice. This would change over the next couple days to being content as long as a parent was easily accessible.
Armed with our suitcase filled with 5 changes of clothes for everyone (3 day trip X 6 people X beach sand = gobs of clothes), the beach bag of swimsuits/sandals/floats/sunscreen/sunglasses, my backpack with books/camera/medicines/directions and Katherine’s backpack with school items and Barnaby Bear, the engine died and we floated quietly up to Sabang Beach. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. The water was littered with boats of all sizes. The beach was angled, small, and rocky, with strips of black dirt and streams of runoff pouring down from the shacks that butted up right to the sand. Where was our hotel? Oh, behind the ramshackle strip of restaurants, sari sari stores, gift shops, and SCUBA rental fronts. So my first impression was of a dirty non-swimming boat beach with a waterview-free hotel room. Ugh.
We were staying at the Atlantis Resort which I discovered (obviously) is not a beach resort, but a SCUBA resort. Big difference. People in SCUBA gear all over, all day and nary a beach bum. Our room was the Flyntstone Room. It is tough finding a place that can house six and this was no exception but we made it work. With a queen for the adults and a set of bunk beds, (the girls were on top and the boys on the bottom) once the kicking stopped bedtime actually went quite smoothly. We were all exhausted enough each night to sleep like rocks. Well, mostly. One night Rebecca had a bad dream which had her (and me) up repeatedly, and another night it got too cold with nothing but a sheet to cover up. That was remedied the next night when the power kept going out and eventually the air conditioning unit quit working altogether. The town of Puerto Galera is powered by, get this, a power barge. The one providing power during our visit was not functioning, so the resort was relying on generators which were not constant. The water supply was also questionable. It wasn’t unusual to be unable to finish a shower with hot water or flush the toilet at all. All quirks of island living in the Philippines.
Bags unpacked and bunk beds dutifully explored via the tree carved ladder, we had some lunch at the resort restaurant before changing into swimsuits and setting out to find a beach. A beach that was swimmable and playable. Asking at the front desk wasn’t all too helpful from what we could figure. We were told it was a 10 minute walk… that way. There was the boat beach, there was a path. Do we go on the path and through a big rock? Is it 10 minutes by foot or by boat? We started walking and because we were clueless, we succumbed to the hailing of a boatman. All aboard and we set up. Past one beach, past another beach, into a bay and out again. I wasn’t pleased. With no idea of who these people were or where we were going, with minimal English skills on the part of the navigator only the constant reassurances we were going to “white beach” which was always just around the next bend, I convinced Ian to tell him to turn around and take us to the La Laguna beach near Sabang. It was far from ideal but it was close by and I knew we could walk back to where we started. Forgive me for being untrusting, but I read the Gracia Burnham book and no matter how unlikely it was for us, I didn’t feel that chances were worth taking. We are, after all, Americans and that is no longer a safe thing to be in any part of the world. Where it once offered a level of protection now it is more like a target for more than the beggars.
It would turn out later in our trip that Long Beach is a strip of white sand, also called White Beach, and that it was just around the next bend where families went to play. Not like the folks at the hotel desk told us that when we asked this first day where a good beach to go was located.
So La Laguna it was. Not a white beach but room for us, plenty of shallow water even Nicholas could get through, and more beach treasure than we knew what to do with. It’s the first time I’d been on a beach littered with coral of all designs and colors and while it made digging painful (the “sand” was mostly slivers of broken shells and chunks of coral), it was gorgeous to sift through. The water was extremely salty and swaths were filled with seaweed that led to great screeching fits by Katherine saying she’d been bitten by sea worms or sea sponges. Jonathon stayed in the shallows closest to the beach and even though he had a couple tumbles into the sea, he had a great time floating in the water as though he was doing push-ups.
A couple hours later we trekked back to our side, changed up and entered the Relax Thai restaurant for dinner. It was the night of the great England-Australia Rugby World Cup and the pub across the alley was showing the game, so periodically we were treated to raucous cheers, followed by musings on who was actually winning. The food was good, even if Rebecca did have spaghetti. Again. Barnaby Bear (the 2nd grade mascot who’s the luckiest of the crowd as he tags along for all the trips the kids take) shared Katherine’s meal of glass noodles and finally we were too exhausted to do anything but get some soft serve ice cream from the German shop down the way and then head to bed.
Atlantis Resort Day 2 – We were supposed to wake up at 5:45 to get a boat and go dolphin watching (No Guarantees!). At 6:30 I shook Ian and we agreed that we’d put it off for Sunday. Five minutes later, a knock at the door told us that the boat was waiting. That is one small drawback to a population built on the service industry. You almost can’t get away with not doing what you said you’d wanted to do in the first place. Well, with the boat waiting we shook the kids awake. Jonathon responded with “Boat? Yay!” accompanied by a little happy dance and clapping. Did I mention how tolerant all the kids were of our trip activities? All four of them were exceptional.
Onto the boat with some breakfast in hand from the minifridge and we looked for dolphins. OK, we knew what dolphins looked like from Virginia Beach, but were these the same? Not quite. We were looking for black dolphins, with the adults the size of our boat. Not easy to miss and I guess I didn’t have to squint at the water like I was apt to do, as though they’d be flying fish. It was a pleasant boat ride, but with the late hour and the slightly choppy water conditions, we saw three dolphins. That’s only if you compile all our “sightings” as the one I saw no one else did, the one Katherine saw no one else did and the one the guide saw no one else did. It was a bummer.
Back at the resort we had a real breakfast then relaxed for a bit in the room before our next stop, SCUBA introduction for the adults! We needed someone to watch the kids while we were SCUBAing, so the front desk provided a live body (someone’s sister I think), and they all hung out by the pool while we had a little classroom time on the basics of “Don’t do this or you’ll die”, then donned our suit and flippers and goggles and weight belts and 4000 pound jackets with all necessary tubes and gauges and, oh yeah, air. The kids were well-behaved during our prep time and thought we looked pretty funny.
We subconsciously understand at all times that humans do not breathe underwater. When you put in a mouthpiece and breathe from a tank above ground, you know that you aren’t breathing the outdoor air. You can actively think that the tank is providing what you need. You can even tell yourself that as long as you continue to breathe through a tube, it doesn’t matter where you are. But there is a part of your brain that still reminds you that you are in the open air, and you are breathing the way you should be.
With SCUBA, perspectives change a bit. Your face goes under water. Not too bad. Followed by your head. OK a little weird. Then the instructor says to kneel on the bottom. Suddenly, you are surrounded on all sides by a substance that should be making you choke, but you aren’t. It almost gives you a sense of claustrophobia, or feeling off balance and a fright of turning around and feeling lost, or maybe the thought flickers by that without that little tube you were be drowning. No matter what passes through your mind, there is little else to say other than it really takes getting used to and Ian and I both experienced moments of panic when we realized what the heck we were doing.
We passed our practice in the pool understanding and using handsignals, the kids went off the room for the ½ hour we’d be in the open water, and we waded out to the point where the sand and seaweed dropped off.
Not far from the shore a floating bar was positioned directly over where the coral reefs began. Looking down through the water, the two dimensional image is one of clear water interspersed with shadows and shapes of all sizes. Taking the plunge with our gear in place, it was like opening a pop-up book. Spiny sea urchins the sizes of our heads were nestled in among the vast purples and pinks of various corals and sea anemones. A moray eel would poke out its head while schools of striped butterfly fish went by, interspersed with shimmery blue fish and long, thin, needle-nosed fish. We were allowed to touch a blue starfish while trying to avoid touching (aka knocking into) anything else.
We discovered the hardest parts of SCUBA diving for beginners like us. Getting down to the bottom was a huge challenge and we finally succeeded with much help from our guide forcibly dragging us down. Once on the bottom, staying there was difficult in the beginning and moving about was nigh impossible without flailing about and succeeding in scattering all the fish. We finally calmed down and were able to enjoy the surroundings once the instructor took hold of my arm and I consciously tried to avoid kicking Ian. At one point as Ian tried to evade my frantic flipper movement, the back of his hand met the surface of some corral and was scraped pretty thoroughly. It provided a great story opportunity for the kids, of a shark that attacked us and daddy beat it off with his bare hands. I have no idea of the kids actually believe the tale, but it still lingers in their minds. It was more interesting than the tale of daddy being bitten by something. Neither the teacher nor I believed him and yet a week later the spot was a red oval that still pulsed with heat. Hmm, maybe he wasn’t kidding.
After 30 minutes of awe (fuzzy awe in my case as I wasn’t able to wear my glasses), we resurfaced, removed our flippers and walked back to shore through the fields of seaweed. I staunchly carried my tank as far as the steps then wimped out and had some aids help me get it off so I could climb up. I was wiped out, Ian was not. It was a great adventure, one I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do. Me, the future marine biologist 10 years ago, has decided that boats are not my thing, water is too cold and wet and while fish are pretty I don’t really want to spend gobs of time studying them in the field. Perhaps a lab position would have suited me with fish in a tank.
So we changed, paid the babysitter, had lunch and put the boys down for a nap. At 2, I shook the girls because now it was their turn. Rebecca was still iffy on whether or not she really wanted to do it, but putting the ball in her court with “You don’t have to, Katherine can do it by herself” sealed the deal. They donned their miniature gear (Rebecca’s rolled up at the wrists and ankles) and proceeded to the pool for their SASSY introduction. Scuba Assisted Surface Swimming for Youth is exactly that. The kids don’t go below the surface, but with their face masks and air tank, they can see the underwater life. The pool session went well, with Rebecca doing better than I expected, even if she continued to swim so she could see the teacher and that meant she kept swimming directly into him. Katherine had some issues with her mouthpiece but discovered later it was that she wasn’t creating a good seal with her lips. They both did well enough to go out to the floating bar, and spend a ½ hour swimming around while I sat in a little boat and chatted with the boatman. The kids came back and I was so proud of both of them for taking the chance and experiencing something truly new both physically and mentally.
Back on dry land once more, the girls changed and we decided to go to the Bondi Beach Bar for dinner. It was right next to the hotel with a view of the water and dusky sky. The food was excellent and everyone ate very well. The boys though had been kept watching everyone else have fun all day, so a promised dip in the pool followed our meal. The kids and Ian were only in for about 30 minutes as a dinner party was being set up pool-side and we didn’t want to be around when the guests showed up. Bedtime was looming, Katherine had some homework to do (a saga in and of itself as she hadn’t brought a pencil, we couldn’t find one anywhere even at the front desk, and she didn’t want to do her work in pen on some practice paper to transfer later. It was frustrating for everyone and eventually we said she’d just have to do it at home), we had story time, and everyone crawled under the sandied covers and conked out.
Atlantis Resort Day 3 – Another beautiful morning greeted us as we finished packing up most of our items and stepped out at 7 a.m. This being our last day we wanted to spend the time at the beach. The same boat that had taken us on our failed search for dolphins would be taking us to a small strip in a cove for a few hours before departure. We meandered down to the German shop and bought a bunch of cinnamon twists and a baguette for a beach breakfast. The boatman had told Ian the day prior that he would purchase some water and sodas as well. All was well and good until we clambered into the boat with our beach basket overflowing with items we didn’t really need, until he said that he’d forgotten the drinks at home and we’d stop by on the way.
OK, let’s go back to the other trip where the boatmen were saying the beach was just around the corner.. and the next.. and the next, until I convinced Ian to tell them to turn us around and go somewhere I felt more secure. With a bunch of kids and completely out of our element, we are taking huge risks by using these boats and trusting other people that they’ll take us where we want to go, and that they’ll bring us back. Call me crazy (I know you want to), but there was no way we were going to stop at this person’s house, no matter where it was, and I was going to be OK with it.
Ian prevailed this time though, and off we went, even as I glowered and repeated that we simply could have brought our own water bottles. As it turned out, his house was just around the bend, he did indeed have the drinks he said, and our next stop was a patch of sand that presumably would be our own for the morning but for the vendors that would float by.
Oh yes, vendors. Vendors on boats that would stop at the beach peddling their wares. Giant shells, coral necklaces, barbeque, massages and hair braiding. Nothing was odd or unavailable. I spend a good amount of time smiling and saying No Thanks, and eventually the tide dwindles to a few staunch men and women who kept a place at the line between the beach and foliage. While Ian was in the water with the kids, I did request that the girls get their hair braided (here this meant a small section of hair wound up tightly in some vibrant string), and the boys each had a bracelet made with their names. It was all going well until Nicholas’s bracelet was done and it was spelled wrong. The creator showed me the paper I’d written on and wouldn’t you know, I spelled my own child’s name incorrectly. Hey, it has charm and now there’s a great story behind it. Nicholas noticed right away though that his name does NOT have two Os in it but he allowed me to put it on his wrist anyhow.
The water was shallow rather far out, so while I could convince the boys to stay fairly close in, the girls and Ian were all over. Katherine had a real trial holding on to one of her floats and at one point we thought it was lost as each step she took toward it the float moved further out to sea. Ian did manage to rescue it but not without getting stuck in some seriously heavy seaweed muck and snapping a strap on his sandal. Next time, she gets only the board with the wrist attachment.
Everyone had been well sunscreened, so when the time came to leave our little piece of paradise, the only thing the kids took back was a level of exhaustion and contentment. OK, and a few thousand pieces of beach treasure. Well, everyone was sunscreened I thought. Turns out that the one who was in the sun the most only did what he could reach by flinging his hand over his shoulder, and his belly. The rest of him was scorched and he was a good bit uncomfortable the following days. Live and learn I suppose. He suffered the same fate as I did in Hawaii.
A short boat ride back past the hills of towering palm and coconut trees and under an expansive blue sky, we preordered lunch, hopped in our communal shower, completed quick pack-up and check-out and we were back on the boat to retrieve our car. We hoped, or as Ian would say “Nothing we can do if it isn’t there!” Jonathon slept the whole way back as I planned in my head the various alternatives for the possible absence of our van. A helicopter ride back to Manila would be quite an ending to our little foray to Mindoro Island. If we ever go back to Puerto Galera I definitely want to make it to Tamaraw Falls. It’s a full day trip as it is 20km away from the waterside town and just didn’t fit into our plans this time. We did the touristy thing of buying t-shirts and a couple souvenir postcards (actually, we’d planned on mailing the postcards but we should have done it day one instead of attempting it during the check-out rush).
Barnaby Bear had come along for the trip. He is Katherine’s class mascot and goes on all the trips with the kids. We took pictures of him at the beach and having dinner. The newer the adventure the better as he’s been around a while and has a notebook where his days are recorded. I’m sure he’s been to Puerto Galera before, but since no one else was traveling that weekend, he came along with us. Actually someone else was traveling that weekend. We knew that Ryan and Laura were heading the same way we were, but it was only afterwards that we learned they had stayed at Coco Beach, right next to La Laguna where we’d been the first day, and the spot that Katherine kept asking to visit. I’d told her that it was a resort beach and we couldn’t just play there. Seems that Laura and Ryan had come over to the little town Saturday night looking for us in the hotel restaurant. Of course that night we’d eaten at the Thai place. They’d also gone dolphin watching Sunday morning and had as much luck as we had, and they’d done the SCUBA bit on Sunday by the floating bar. Maybe next time our paths will really cross! Until then we chuckle at all the near misses. Nicholas really wanted to SCUBA but he’ll have to wait until he’s 5. It’s a long time to be patient for a little guy.
Obviously our car was there or this would have been a huge rant and for the P50 parking fee we were released from the scraggly patch of grass and herd of goats to head home on a pleasant 2 hour drive.
And until next time, we’ll keep in our minds the images of crystal clear waters and a stunning array of beauty off the coast and on of Oriental Mindoro. The kids had a great time and Ian and I returned to our home city (well, for another 18mo or so) rejuvenated.

The day after.

The day after Thanksgiving, the parents of the 2nd graders put together a small party to celebrate the holiday with the kids. Of course it too wasn't a holiday so we congregated in the Little Theater at ISM. Us and nearly a hundred 7 and 8 year olds.

First impression, they are astonishingly well behaved. Second impression, they put up with our wacky parental ideas of "fun" very well.
On the Tuesday prior, I gathered with some other moms to cut out parts for Indian headbands and Pilgrim hats. I had also attended a planning meeting where we'd discussed what sorts of activities were going to be held. I didn't tell Katherine I was doing any of this. The kid has to be surprised about some things (much like the charade we're pulling on how the Chamber of Secrets computer game really isn't worth buying for Christmas, even while it's been sitting in the closet for well over a month. We get almost a daily update on Why This Game Is Great from her).
I arrived in the Little Theater with boys in tow and the kids had already filed in and were listening to a small presentation on the history of Thanksgiving. I was helping man the Indian headband table as the kids also rotated through a Thankful Tree station, a pamphlet of facts/jokes/seek-n-find from early America, a taste of modern yet traditional foods station, and an area for Pilgrim games. Once everyone was wearing the headress of choice, had eaten some turkey and apple pie and finished up at each table, each class split themselves into two rows, faced each other and did a version of the Virginia Reel. OK, so they'd practiced this is music class before and the music wasn't exacly early American (more like a Scottish Jig), but it was fabulous to the point of me laughing until I cried.
It just made me smile to glance into the playground on the way to the car and see little Indians climbing the monkey bars. The kids had a wonderful time, Katherine came home telling Ian that "Mom was there too!" and I'm still trying to figure out who had more fun... the kids or the parents.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving!

As our day draws to a close, we wish all of you in the United States a family focussed, relaxing and treasured holiday. Don't stress about the turkey, just enjoy the people you're with and the opportunity to reconnect and enjoy the presence of loved ones.

As far as we can figure, this is the first Thanksgiving we've had, just our little family. It was not a typical holiday as the girls had school today (while yesterday was a holiday for the end of Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr). Ian was home though. With our vacation this past weekend (I'll write about it, promise!) I hadn't thought a stitch about Thanksgiving preparations, so today was the day we went out to get dinner fixings.
We prepared a meal that was good, if not traditional. A just right sized chicken, some homemade smashed potatoes/carrots/squash with garlic, peas with cheese, corn on the cob, fresh baguet. And for dessert, fruit salad with a dollop of whipped cream.
The kids made a paper Thankful Tree yesterday. Leaves of handprints with their thanks written down. It's growing near our front door, with Rebecca's Halloween bats and pumpkin with it. Come Christmas time, we'll moves the leaves to the bottom, add some cottonball snow and Christmas balls. It just might turn into a yearly tradition.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Sibling Love

Sometimes, they really do like each other.

Last night we had scheduled power outages for, well, something. I really don't know why. But they did tell us prior to the occurrences. Anyhow, twice in the middle of the night the power shut off for 1/2 hour and when it would come back on various things would beep, rev and otherwise makes too much noise and wake us up. Jonathon is the most sensitive to these changes. I didn't hear him and honestly didn't even think about it, even though he has always awoken before when the power restarts.

This morning I went to wake the girls for school and was thoroughly confused. There lying next to Katherine was a conked out Jonathon. When Katherine was coherent enough to answer me, she said that she had heard him crying and brought him to sleep with her. And he took right to it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Oh the Places You'll Go

We're off to the beach for a much needed break from the Manila sprawl.

First, pray there's no typhoon heading our way.
Second, we're going to the beach this weekend! It's supposed to be a 2 hour drive followed by an hour boat ride, so we'll see how it really turns out and how miserable the roads and traffic are. The specific beach is Atlantis Resort in Puerto Galera. You can see it at Atlantis Beach Resort if you're so inclined. Of course, we'll have photos and details of our own adventure as soon as we're back.
Our future plans are full and busy as I know everyone's are. Here's a brief overview.
03 November: Atlantis Resort followed immediately by a trip to Enchanted Kingdom anda small Thanksgiving
03 December: Christmas of course! Busy in its own right.
04 early-January: My parents visit for 9 days. A joint birthday party for the girls.
04 early-April: Spring Break/Easter/Trip to Hong Kong
04 June: 2-3 week R&R to Sydney and New Zealand
04 mid-July: Visit from Jeff, plans to see Corregidor, Bataan and I'd like to go to Leyte.
04 October: Trip to Thailand
I also want to get in a vacation to Bohol and a trip to Banaue (to see the rice terraces).
Anyone want to take bets on if we'll be successful or if we'll all spontaneously combust long before the end of our tour?

Poor babies

The littlest monster has an ear infection. And everyone else is shifting in their illnesses.

My sweet boy has disappeared once again into a whiny, crying monster and I've really had it. OK, I know I'm supposed to be sympathetic and I am trying, but when he wakes up whining, spends all day fighting and crying with Nicholas then whines all the way to bedtime I just get plain tired. Thank goodness he's not arguing with taking the amoxicillan. In fact he takes it a little too readily, rubbing his tummy and pronouncing it "Yummy!"
But add to that, Nicholas has what sounds like laryngitis coming on and his whining has doubled, the two of them make quite a pair. At least Nicholas's cough has diminished considerably and I'm not wiping up snotty noses too much anymore. They aren't finishing their snacks and barely touch their dinners. Nicholas is often complaining of his stomach. Jonathon has been saying his right knee hurts for a long while now. I'm attributing it to growing pains but I don't know how long I can do that.
Rebecca is UTI free but now growing a frog in her throat, so whatever Nicholas has, he's sharing.
I guess the sickies have shifted zones.


A fieldtrip to the International Rice Research Insitute.

I'm going to have Katherine write up a little summary of her trip to the Rice Institute. I didn't get to go on the trip, but it sounded like she had a great time. She came home muddy enough!
Here's her story, a project written in class:
That is the farmer's life
By: Katherine Hopper
On 11\18\03 two of the grade two classes went to IRRI. In the morning I had to wake up at 5:30 as usual and drove to school. When we were getting on the bus I just remembered I forgot my glasses. We only had 5 minutes, so I climbed out of the bus and grabbed my glasses. We were off to IRRI. THe good thing was that I thought it would take 2 hours, but it only took 1 hour and 40 minutes.
When we got there we saw many weather instruments that IRRI was using. We saw a wind vane and instruments to see how much heat the sun was releasing. Then tere was a rain gauge, and an evaporation tank which was really cool. The tank was full of water and the people there were really trying to evaporate all the water, finally, the humidity thermometer.
We had to do lots of field work. Even though it was hard work, it was fun. We all got muddy and sweaty. We all thought it was too fun to stop, so we tried to make the teachers let us stay longer but even the teachers were having so much fun so they could not hear us at alllllllllllll!!!!! We all saw many good bugs and many bad bugs. Some big mosquitoes got me. I was itching all over. I got to plow behind the carabao. It was really cool! It plowed the mud really well. Yuck, but then the carabao did a pretty good job. Then we had to walk in algaw which was on top of the mud. It looke dlike dark, green slime! Ha!
Then we got to use a plowing machine. That is what threw mud in my face. It was fun anyway. After w got washed up we had a good peaceful lunch. Finally we headed home! It was a fun time but we just can not stay forever! Maybe we can go back next year!
Woudln't you like to be a Farmer?

From Presidents to VeggieTales

It never ceases to amaze me how the topics flow around here.

Katherine asked her teacher if she could bring in her VeggieTales CD for the class to listen to and her teacher said yes. That's fine and good but... we got into a long talk about different beliefs and how some parents don't like kids being exposed to different faiths. We talked about how not everyone believes in God, and even those who do believe often believe different things about God down to the point of calling God by different names. Was Jesus a real person? We said that he was, but his role and the role of his mother are disputed depending on who you talk to. It spread to a discussion of the Bible and whether the books in it were bonafide true tales or lessons to teach the reader. We brought up that she is being raised Catholic, but that our main goal is to teach her. Not just about Catholicism or about Christianity, but as she gets older to expose her to a wide variety of faiths. We also admitted that when she grew up she may decide that she believes different things than the Catholic faith. That would be up to her.
The entire discussion understandably confused her (heck, it confuses us) and to the questions pertaining to what is true and real with regards to God I could only answer: "That's what we believe". I'm not sure that it satisfied her but it did stave off the questions. Until next time.
Tonight the term "set a precedent" crossed the table but Katherine misheard it to be something with President. A common error to be sure, but she asked if we had a new President and we said that next year we'll be electing someone new (or not). The obvious next question.. "What does elect mean?" And off we go! It was a straightforward explanation of voting and elections until she went off on how President Bush should be re-elected because he's a nice person. Oh sure, SHE meets the big cheese once and suddenly she knows all about him!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Quick car update

The Shell station had the car all day Tuesday, looking for a replacement radiator fan relay (I sound knowledgable, don't I?). It's a little piece that is smaller than the palm of your hand. Miracle of miracles, they found one, replaced it, and drove the car to the house. We had time to get groceries before dropping Katherine off at Brownies, and thankfully have the car for parent-teacher conferences Wednesday morning. All is good.

How do we survive parenting?

So the question came up on Quartz, what do we do as parents that other people object to?

The answer of course is Everything.
Because no matter what you do, you're doing it wrong in someone else's mind.
Let's scan through the big issues.
Feeding -
If you choose to breastfeed, that's just gross. You grew up just fine without being nursed. You're dooming yourself to being at your child's beck and call for hours, days, months. And don't even dare think you'll continue past a month, 6 months.. a year. No, only freaks nurse past a year. Your milk is bad, that's why she's crying. You can't know how much she's eating!
If you choose to bottlefeed, how dare you poison your child with that subpar stuff. That breastpump isn't the right one. That formula is causing reflux.
Bottlefeeding is so easy, you know what they're getting. Breastfeeding is so easy, no cleaning, no prep. Bottlefeeding is so hard, I'm too lazy. Breastfeeding is so hard, I could never do it.
My child was chewing on chicken at 2 months old and he's fine. You can start solids at 4 months. Holding off until at least 6 months is the smartest thing. Babies don't need anything but breastmilk until a year old.
Sleeping - Family bed? Cradle? Sidecar? Carseat? Crib? In parents room? In kid room? If you sleep with baby you'll suffocate him. Leaving a baby in the crib can bring on SIDS. We never owned a crib. Our child never slept with us. You can't let a child sleep in a swing.
Staying home or working - Staying home? You're losing yourself, becoming a slave to kids and house and worse, you're husband. Going to work? I can't believe you can just abandon your child like that. You must be heartless.
Schooling - Don't send your childrent out to school, there are crazy people out there, the teachers don't know what they're doing, there are bullies, have you seen the testing scores? Who decided to stick kids of one age all together when they all learn so differently at different speeds? Don't keep your children at home for schooling, you have no experience or qualifications to teach, you're denying your children social interaction and they'll grow up socially stunted. There aren't enough safeguards to ensure you're teaching your kids anything of worth.
Then some of the other ones.
Choosing a name - Someone will always hate the name you've chosen. The name is either boring, old fashioned or too weird. Best to save it until baby has arrived. But no matter what, you're dooming your child to a hellish life of spelling correnctions and pronunciation exercises.
Dressing your child - The clothes aren't girly enough, it's not boyish enough, the baby will get cold! He has to wear socks. Where are her mittens? Put a hat on that child!
Bathing - You have to bathe your child every day. Don't bathe more than a couple times a week. Babies don't need baths, just general wipedowns.
Crying - Let him cry or he'll get spoiled! Pick her up, you can't spoil a baby.
Shoes - Every child needs to have shoes on from day 1. Shoes are needed every time the kid leaves the house. Babies don't need shoes until walking and even then only outside. Our kids run around in barefeet all year long.
TV - Tv doesn't hurt in limited amounts. No TV for my kids at all! We leave the TV on all day, they don't always watch it. And if you try to restrict it kids will just wonder what they're missing and rebel. What's a few hours a day?
So... either we're all doing everything wrong, or the reality is we're doing everything exactly right. Just depends on who you talk to.
Or don't bother talking to anyone about it. Do your own research, examine your own family needs and desires, and customize your parenting. Like every single child is unique, so should the parenting decisions be for that child. Love your kids, try your best, and you'll be doing everything Just Right.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The moment I start feeling a tiny bit competent...

It all just come crashing down anyway.

Yesterday morning I was all set to head out with the boys to the grocery, the FPO and the Embassy. The car was dead. Seems someone didn't close a door properly or messed with a light switch leaving the indoor lights on all night.
So I called Ian to tell him I wouldn't be making it to the Embassy in the timeframe I'd planned. Then called the Shell station to have someone come out and jump the car. They did so and told me we needed a new battery. I think not, it was just replaced in June and I showed them the receipt and warranty. So they took the battery (left the car) and charged it at the station, then put it back in. All set, feeling competent, we decide to head out and drive the car a bit to make sure the battery holds its charge, and go to the Embassy.
Pull into the car corral at the Chancery to the tune of dinging bells, the Temperature light on and the Temperature gauge past the H. The car is overheating. Into a parking spot, pop the hood, the coolant is to the top of the reservoir and boiling madly. *sigh*
Ian came out with the check I was picking up, took a look at the car and succumbed to my begging him to drive the car home and drop us off at home or driving directly to the Shell, whichever the car demands. We drove along Roxas Blvd. and turn on the a/c. The temp gauge shoots back up to the H. Turn off the a/c and it works it's way down to normal. A ha!! We have a clue. Only as we continue to drive, choking on the exhaust of every car, bus and jeepney around us, the temp slowly works it's way back up, the dinging restarts and we pull over 1/2 way to home to let the car try to cool down. After 10 minutes nothing had changed so we forged on and went directly to the Shell station where we sit through one diagnostic after another. They think it has something to do with a malfunctioning fan or a relay to that fan or.. something. We pulled out the full-sized manual we'd bought in the States for just this sort of thing and eyes light up all around as the car is decribed in intricate detail in this book. The garage doesn't see Dodge Grand Caravans besides our own. Perhaps this will save gobs of time for everyone.
So we left the car at the station and took a taxi home. They called later saying there's a new part needed, they think, but that they will call around here first to see if it can be found. There's a Chrysler dealership around here somewhere, we should really find it. If the part can't be found, they will rig it so that the fan runs continuously, and the the car functions enough for immediate driving needs until we can get a part. This should be fun.
In on-line communities there are sections to write things we're pleased about (known in some places as triumphs, others as compliments) and other sections to complain about things (vents, gripes or tribulations, for example). Here are mine for the whole car thing. Gripes to me for being a complete ninny when it comes to car troubles. I can't believe how incompetent I am when faced with anything out of the ordinary from the one vehicle we have. On the flip side, Comps to Ian who was willing and able to quit work early to get us home, and then walk to the station yesterday afternoon when they called with the diagnosis.
When we buy a new car, we're getting a Toyota. Or a Honda. Or something that's not completely foreign in the foreign lands.

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Reading Rebecca

A quick note about Rebecca. A while back my mom had gotten Katherine an easy reader book filled with stories that only had a line or two of words on each page. It's geared for preschool to 1st grade learners, so Rebecca is smack in the middle of that age group.

Last night I pulled it off the shelf and handed it to her for her quiet reading at bedtime. Until now, quiet reading time meant looking through the pictures and telling her own story. This time, she read.
I was so proud, I had tears in my eyes.
Then this morning, she came into the den with book in hand, and finished the story. And read another story. Of course they are stories she has heard before, but this wasn't a book that we've read to death like any number of others. There are a couple favorites but plenty of other options and it's just her speed. I think when she's done we'll pull out the Disney easy reader and see how it goes.
When Rebecca gets big enough to read all these entries herself I want her to know that I'm very proud of all she's learned.
10 November 2003: Rebecca read _The Carrot Seed_ today, with help on about 1/2 dozen words.

Haven't heard much about Jonathon lately.

It's not because he hasn't been doing anything, instead Jonathon has been doing so much in little bits it's kinda tough to keep up with him and remember the small details.

He thinks he's a gymnast. His favorite thing lately seems to be to climb on anything that's about 2 feet off the ground (coffee table height), plant both feet, then jump and stick a perfect landing. "ta dum!" Unfortunately, this has translated to stairs and no amount of reminding that hopping down stairs seems to be sinking in.
He's talking more and in longer sentences, but still in sloppy toddler speak. If he wants me to do something, he'll say "show you something". I try to get him to use words for what he wants in those cases. If he actually does want me to go somewhere he'll say "follow me". We tried to teach him Becca, but he's come up with Becba instead.
He has a cold so the crabbiness quotient has tripled. At least he's sleeping well. Today he took his nap from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and crawled into bed readily at 7:10. He could have done with a second nap this afternoon.
His nursing has cut drastically down. Today I asked him if he was getting too big to nurse and he started by shaking his head no, then changed it to a yes. I do think it's getting to be that time and I'm OK with it as I think he is. It's been a good 27 months.

Our Weekend

Yes, we have a serious buyer for the house.

Our property was put on the market on the 1st, by the 8th (our time) Ian checked mail the moment he woke up at 6:15 a.m. and my parents had just e-mailed us a few minutes before saying to call ASAP. Upon doing so we heard that we had a buyer for the house. By 1:30 a.m. the 9th (ugh) we had a contract and by 9 a.m. this morning (the 9th) it was faxed back to the agents. Settlement is scheduled for the 25th. Yes. Sixteen days. Provided it all goes without a hitch of course.
Around the chaos of the house, we went out to see Matrix: Revolutions on Friday night. Ryan and Laura were kind enough to come over and watch the kids for a bit. I should say that we -tried- to see the movie. It was Friday night. There was a rally or something at the Ayala center at Glorietta. There was a fashion show or something at the Louis Vuitton store (complete with live people being Blue Man Group statues in the window). And oh yeah, did I mention it was a Friday night? We drove for 45 minutes around the Glorietta/Greenbelt area desperately looking for a parking spot. Most of the parking lots were just plain closed from being full, but that didn't keep people from lining up down the street to wait. So we decided to go to Powerplant, and it took 45 minutes to get there. At 8:45 we were finally parked and the 9:10 showing of Matrix had 2 seats left. One in the very front row. One in the very back row. The first time open that we'd be able to sit together was at 10:30 and not get out until 12:40. OK, I admit it, I'm old. The thought of being out until 1 a.m. was so far from appealing that we had a nice dinner and went home. We did pick up a couple mini cakes at Sugarhouse before leaving the mall. One for us and one as payment for Laura and Ryan. You know, they really are such pleasant people to be around. The kids really enjoy them and even more, they seem to really enjoy the kids. We love to have them over, and should do so more often. And I don't mean as babysitters!
Saturday, Ian finally badgered the Village Association into giving us our car sticker. He practically had to promise blood if we didn't hand deliver the dues check on Monday. We also had the car inspected at Seafront and now own our very own set of (required!) reflective road triangles. Yeehaw.
And today we went to Landmark at Glorietta, because you really can get anything there, and for cheap. Ian decided it was time to start padding his suit wardrobe to prepare for the Staff Aide position starting December 1st. He'll be a suit-wearing guy for 6 long months. I don't know that he'll survive. But it's given him the excuse to search out a respectable haberdashery (I just said "haberdashery" with a straight face!!) and.. get this... have some suits tailor made. Egads, what are we coming to? Anyhow, he bought a 1/2 dozen new ties ranging anywhere from $3 - $18 each, and 3 new shirts. He went in saying he was going to get a couple white shirts. He came out with a medium blue shirt, a very dark blue shirt and a tan shirt. Whatever. At least the ties he bought will match them well. I wanted to get him a funky tie, but the closest they had were Winnie-the-Pooh and Scooby Doo. He didn't go for it. As an aside, last Christmas my dad gave Ian an Hermes tie. Ian mentioned today that a day rarely goes by that he wears it someone doesn't comment how nice it is.
Oh, back to the Matrix thing. Tuesday is Veteran's Day (a salute and thank you to all the Veteran's out there, including my dad) so Ian has a holiday. The girls have a half day. Then Wednesday is a school holiday for parent/teacher conferences. Ian thinks he feels a cold coming on that day and a definite Matrix call. It'll be the first of the 3 that we get to see in the theater and yes, I'm pretty excited myself.

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Be vewy vewy quiet

SHhhh. We've had a bite on the house. Details to come when the deed is done.

Friday, November 7, 2003

Is the week over?

I'm ready for the weekend. Not that it means much, but there's something about waking up and thinking "Hey, it's Saturday" that makes a difference.

People are going through our house. No one has bought it yet! It's been... nearly a week! Ack! Sell sell sell.
Here in Manila it has been an errand week. I let thing pile up to do them all at once, since each item has to be done in person and every errand is in a different place.
Wednesday the girls were off to school at 7:30 (late start day). Before 10, the boys and I had hit the road. We went to the DVA office to get the new car sticker. They won't issue us one because the house dues haven't been paid. *sigh* So we walked around the to onsite medical clinic and dropped off a box of donation stuff for the fire victims. Have I mentioned that here? There is a squatters neighborhood adjacent to bus terminal on EDSA. The bus terminal was shut down by the mayor for some reason. A couple days later, it was a pile of burning embers, along with the entire squatterville in the gully. A couple days later, the squatters had moved into the burned out bus terminal. I guess it's flatter there at least. Anyhow, collections are going on. We donated a bunch of toys, books (shhh, I didn't tell the kids), shoes and food. I still have a bag of clothes the kids have outgrown. When I go back to get the car sticker, I'll bring the bag along. I've been stopped several times at the gates already because of that sticker.
Anyhow, then we went to Seafront to mail out a Christmas package to Germany. I have one that needs to go to Australia also, ack. Don't tell the USPS, but I accidentally used a Priority Mail box for the Germany parcel. But wow, the FPO has a brown paper wrapping station with paper, scissors and that really cool brown paper sticky tape. So I covered it up right there and voila. All set.
After the FPO, the CLO's office to pick up tickets to see the Nutcracker at the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) on December 14th. It'll be a girl's day out at the ballet.
Then to the ARC office to sign up for something else. I would tell you, but then it wouldn't be a surprise :)
Since it was almost lunch time, we called up Ian at the Embassy to see if he was free to have lunch with us. So, lunch at the Liberty Grill. The food is passable there, but I think Ian is getting sick of it. Of course, nothing says he has to eat there every single day but I guess packing a lunch is soooo elementary school.
Back home we went for a whopping half hour. This was a day where neither of the boys achieved a nap even with all the driving around.
Off to the school since it was our day to bring snacks for the Daisy troop. We were actually on time! Early even! This is quite a red letter sort of thing. You know, pancakes make a great snack, all the kids love them as they're so portable. We made it through Daisy's by letting the boys play at the playground while Katherine ate her afterschool ice cream. What better thing to purchase when you find P40 forgotten in your pocket? Daisy meeting over, we head immediately off to the church for Katherine's religion class. We were late. I suppose we had to be to offset the thrill of being early to girl scouts. Our regular tour by the chapels and through the crypt (no wedding today to sit in on in church), then off to the Rustan's to get some fruit and bread, and Katherine was done with class.
Then we had today where Ian missed the shuttle so we drove him to work. Rebecca's medicine was running out (for a 10 day course, we only got 5 days worth so got a second bottle) so yet another stop at Seafront medical unit. We're in there so often we owe the office a bag of lollipops.
But after that, there is absolutely nothing open at that time of morning so we came home. Shortly before 10 our car left the driveway yet again, first to go to the Destiny Cable office to pay the internet cable bill. Then to the Essensa Towers to drop off Katherine's Girl Scout registration for her Brownie troop. She'll actually be starting next week, yahoo! Then, as promised for the boys, off to McDonalds for lunch. Blech, but they love it. And the Happy Meal toys are Matchbox cars which are always a hit.
Now, we're home again and Jonathon is napping. Nicholas has a new found hero in Indiana Jones which in my opinion is "way cool". Of course we're all sporting bruises from where Nicholas's whip (any belt he can get his hands on)gets a little out of control. He has promised not to touch anyone with it again. We shall see.
Once the girls get home, we have about an hour+ for them to change and play with the cats before heading out (yes, again) to their first piano lesson. I hope the teachers are good. The lessons run and hour a week for 12 weeks. I know that this will be excellent for Katherine as a guide, and I hope that Rebecca will learn enough to spark an interest at home. She does play some pieces from her lesson book but as in everything, once she gets frustrated she'd rather quit than struggle through it.
I think Katherine is an anomaly.
Tomorrow Ian is off to Plaridel to fly. If the weather is good, the kids and I will have a picnic next door. Then he'll take the car to Seafront from the mass inspection. And we have to figure out Rebecca's birthday. It would seem that she's going to have a party of some sort, but what? Ian suggested inviting a couple classmates to go to the movies then over here for some cake. I think that's a great idea! Now to see if we can sell it to the munchkin.

Christmas Idea

If you're trying to decide what to get a kid who's oh, between 2-8, we can recommend the VeggieTales Christmas CD. Aside from Junior Asparagus (who could shatter glass, my poor ears), it's all good. My favorite is the 8 Polish Christmas Foods. You have to hear it (and be partly Polish... ok, that's not really a requirement) and you'll get a good laugh. Even better, it's Oscar! you remember Oscar, right? Think Larry's Lips. If you're a Veggie fan, you'll understand.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Relief from Immigrant Visas...

So, I get to leave Immigrant Visas a month early. And there was much rejoicing.

After Michele's last post, I'm almost hesitant to say that I did indeed get the Staff Aide position. So I'll be working in the office of the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission. Writing and editing memos and talking points, handling correspondence, tasking different sections, scheduling travel and visits, etc, etc, etc.

While it's bound to be a high-pressure job, it will be nice to have a better view of what our embassy actually does. It'll also give me staff aide experience, which is great for the resume and tenuring process, so I won't feel the need to do a one-year staff aide tour back in Washington. I start on Dec. 1.

So, potential Filipino fiancee immigrants: Make sure you're there on my last day, Friday, Nov. 28th. For that day only, I will make my decisions entirely through the use of Tarot cards. If I pull up the "Lovers" card, I believe you're really in love and you get your visa. If I turn over a Joker, I think you're a stinking liar and you're off to the Fraud Unit. And if I unveil the "Death" card, it opens a trap door under your seat and you drop into a bottomless pit.

[Yes, I know there's not really a Joker in a Tarot deck. And as far as you all know, we really _do_ adjudicate visas based on a tarot deck.]

Wanna play chess?

Thanks to Ryan Koch, another consular officer here at Manila, for showing me, a free correspondence chess Web site. It's free, responsive and very easy to use.

For people unfamiliar with correspondence games, it works like this: You make a move, and your opponent gets an e-mail saying a move has been made. They move, and you get an e-mail alerting you. It's very low-pressure. You can make many moves a day, or one every few days.

If you play, please send me a challenge. My username is "ihopper".

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

OK, so aside from the illness and Christmas, what's happening in the Hopper house?

What's going on? A quick rundown.

Ian had his interview with the DCM today for the Staff Aide job. Wish him luck! He's the only one who applied so... we can't figure out what to think about that.
-If he gets the job, it is because he's qualified or because no one else wanted it?
-If he doesn't get the job.. whoah, let's not go there. Serious blow to the ego.
-If other people (finally) apply, and he gets the job, does that mean he's best suited for it or they took pity on him?
-If other people (finally) apply, and he doesn't get the the job, well I suppose it would have to do.
We had the piano tuned on Monday. It sounds good.
We've signed up the girls to take piano lessons on Fridays from 5-6. They'll be taking lessons at the Yamaha Music School nearby. It'll be SUCH a pain to get to as Fridays are notoriously difficult for drive around. But it's only for 12 weeks and I can do anything for a limited time. I may grumble, but I'll do it. If they like it and are learning well, we'll sign up again, but this is a good beginning. There's a class offered for Junior music students, but it starts at age 4. Nicholas has been invited to sit in on the class on Saturday.
Katherine has lost her bike. No, I'm not kidding. I'm guessing she left it at the playground one time and now *poof* it's gone. Anyone have recommendations on how to handle this? It was a new bike, one she used a lot and truly enjoyed. But I truly believe the portion of her brain marked for memory is damaged somehow. She didn't even know it was gone until I remarked that it wasn't with the other bikes behind our house. I just don't know what to do with her. Perhaps I should take stock in the Sharpie company and mark everything she owns in huge block letters. Actually, that's not a bad idea.
A storm blew through last week that seemed to have (temporarily) wiped the skies clean. The air was clear, almost brilliantly so. But as visibility increased, so did the temperature. It became stiflingly hot outdoors and the air conditioners inside have been having some difficulty compensating unless they are all running at the same time. Today though, the haze and clouds have settled back in. I wish it would rain again.
Away from "home", our house in Virginia has been put on the market as of November 1st. Everyone, cross your fingers and say a little prayer that we find a happy buyer soon. The MLS# is PW4667497. You can find it on, and hopefully the rest of the MLS search sites (i.e., will be up-to-date soon. Oh, the photo is still old, waiting for the new one to be put up. Our place looks quite a bit better with the green shutters my dad painted.

Why is it the only thing kids share is germs?

So last week the girls had off from school. Any plans we had went out the window.

Ten days ago I wasn't feeling up to snuff. Enough so that I missed church in order to, ahem, hang out in the powder room at home. Monday came and so did a visit to the Medical Unit. I got some meds for what I suspected and was finally better by this past weekend.
Katherine came down sick right at the beginning of the week and progressed to being feverish with finally burning like a furnace Wednesday night and being a zombie most of Thursday after the fever broke. By Friday she was still a walking germ bomb, though feeling loads better. I still wouldn't let her go to a birthday party she'd been invited to. Exhaustion was written all over her face and it wouldn't have been right to expose everyone else to her, just in time for them to get sick when school started up again. Not to say that she didn't get her germs -from- school, but that's not the point.
She was OK to head back Monday with just a lingering cough that always seems to end an illness. I wonder though, did she have a cold with a fever? The flu? Or something else entirely?
Whatever it is, Katherine was kind enough to share it with me so I've been all stuffed up, sneezing, sleeping on an incline and relying on Nyquil. Both of us figured Nicholas shouldn't be left out, so now he's got the faucet nose, watery eyes and exhaustion that has him napping each day for a bit. I should prop up his pillow tonight. He was doubly tired too from not sleeping well and that's largely my fault. Last week he'd got his comforter wet so I'd put it to be washed and tossed a couple light blankets on his bed instead. The kid was up every night, climbing into our bed, waking up his brother who would also join in, and let's face it, no one was sleeping. Then it hit me... he was cold. So I finally washed the comforter, put it back, and last night he slept wonderfully and is feeling loads better today. Still sniffly though.
Of course, Sunday evening Rebecca said she wasn't feeling well and was still hurting on Monday when she arrived home from school, so we jumped into the car to get to school before Katherine got on the bus after chess. Just barely made it, but the roads to Seafront were clear and by 5 p.m. we had a prescription for Rebecca. No cold here, instead she has what I had last weekend. She'd mentioned a few days back that her ear was hurting, but that seems to have passed without intervention. Well, the meds she's on now will help with that as well.
Knock on wood, Ian and Jonathon are still in the clear. How long will it last?

Halloween is over, it's time for Christmas!

Well, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here as far as I know, so the next big Christian holiday is Christmas.

And they've been getting ready for a while now. Decorations in the stores by mid-September, songs on the radio by mid-October. And now that all the spooky stuff has been disasse,bled, Christmas has taken over. Of course at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a smattering of Thanksgiving things around. There's a healthy American population still residing in the Philippines, largely leftover from when Clark Air Force Base was still up and running, and frozen turkeys aren't that hard to find.
I'm doing an exchange on a couple of internet boards, so this has actually worked out to my benefit. Bazaars packed with gifts and wrapping paper haven't been hard to come by at all, so we are prepared to mail our boxes this week and next to ensure timely arrival for the holidays.
Every weekend there are several bazaars going on, and this past weekend was the semi-annual USEC Bazaar at the World Trade Center here in town. Of course we went.
We almost finished our shopping there, with just a couple tail end items to pick up, but the kids came prepared with the money they have saved over the past 6 months from weekly allowances (plus 10% interest). Katherine purchased for everyone in the family, I was duly impressed with her willingness to part with her hard-earned cash, and her careful decisions about what to get for each person. Rebecca had spent a good chunk of money a couple months ago on some Filipino Barbies for herself, so she was down quite a bit, but still managed to buy gifts for everyone she wanted to. Even Nicholas brought his money and purchased a gift for a sibling (and a couple for himself).
It's still so early... and frustrating for the kids to be told time and again that Christmas is a long way off. Katherine wants to wrap her presents, Nicholas wants to open his, I want to decorate the house. It all has to wait.
I'm kind of getting into that spirit, though.
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?