Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Speaking of Christmas Cards

I participate on a bulletin board with others who are living in countries not their own, many short term like us. The topic of Christmas cards has been covered from every angle. How many do you send? How many do you receive? And why the disproportion? Who do you send to? Do you send photos or letters? Do you make or buy?

And the biggie, why do we bother at all?

Some send out a handful. Some folks send out dozens of cards each year. Some send over a hundred. But it wasn't uncommon for them to expect 10 in return. No, I'm not kidding. I've been paring my list each year. If folks don't bother to send us a card over 3 years, off they go. It all seems to go agains the spirit doesn't it? Only sending in order to receive? But consider if that is that really the case. I send cards to let people know what is going on in our lives, and to update them on where we are and our contact information (well, we do move often). We're reaching out and saying "Hey, you're important to us, let us know what's going on with you." If over three years we don't hear from them, it seems obvious that we have been dropped from their radar and our cards are either disappearing to a black hole or considered a nuisance upon arrival. I figure that by crossing them off, we're saving both sides from unnecessary annoyance. It hurt to cut off some people I'd considered friends, but times have changed all of us and there was a definite sense of liberation when I acknowledged and accepted it.
I'm pleased to say that this year we sent about 25 cards (some in with gifts), and have received 13 so far. Greater than 50% return!
So what say you? Are cards outdated in this time of e-communication? Is it killing too many trees? Is a 37c stamp too much (we have an FPO after all, so it's like mailing in the U.S.) or is it the idea that if you send to one person you feel you have to send to everyone? Does it take too much time?
Or have we just fallen off your radar?

Have a Happy and Prosperous 2004

Happy New Year everyone.

I've made my "resolution" which is to become a better cook. With the help of Alton Brown (and the why's behind cooking and how things work) and the cookbooks I own but never use, I hope to provide better planned meals that my family will enjoy. I plan to make weekly menus, shop with a plan, improve my variety, and force spinach and shrimp down my kids' throats. Can it be done? I'll check back in NYE 2004.

In the meantime, I'll be generic and post a New Years poll that's making the circuit. I know you care. You really do.

2003 In Review
1. What did you do in 2003 that you'd never done before? I moved to Asia. Never planned to come here, but here I am until Spring 2005. I tried SCUBA. I drove in Manila. Hired a housekeeper and gardener. Made rice pudding. Bunch of other things I'll add if I remember.
2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? See above for this one. I have no idea if I bothered making a "resolution" last year.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Sadly, no. I do know of several people who had babies, like Theresa, Michelle, Elise and Jeff's sister (who I've never met, but it made him an uncle and that's pretty darn cool). But I barely know them, so it doesn't affect my life any. I wish it did, but what can you do?
4. Did anyone close to you die? No.
5. What countries did you visit? Just the Philippines. 2004 should be quite different.
6. What would you like to have in 2004 that you lacked in 2003? I'm not allowed to say, and it won't happen anyway. So... I'll go with our R&R trip to New Zealand, which is happening in June.
7. What date from 2003 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? March 28, the day we landed here.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Moving here. Oh, and doing an intro to SCUBA.
9. What was your biggest failure? Realizing that I -really- don't like being wet. And cold. And wet. But that's not really a failure is it?
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Only over my birthday. Don't know what it was, but it was MISERABLE. Ear clawing, can't swallow, feverish misery. Oh, and the sunburn in Hawaii. Goodness that made for an unpleasant visit.
11. What was the best thing you bought? The idea that we don't have to have a physical house back home.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Nicholas. Not really behavior, but his advances in speech have made us so proud.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Won't say. Too many people read this stuff. Are you wondering if it's you? Hmmm.
14. Where did most of your money go? Moving costs.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Learning to drive with confidence in this city.
16. What song will always remind you of 2003? Jesus Christ, Superstar soudtrack. Why? Because my kids have seen it, loved it, and it's opened some great discussions.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Don't know. I could say happier, but I wasn't unhappy last year.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. I've gained at least 5 pounds.
iii. richer or poorer? Richer.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Read.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Eat Filipino food. Yech.
20. How will you be spending Christmas? Um, that's done. But next week we'll have Second Christmas. When my parents arrive!
22. Did you fall in love in 2003? Almost every day.
24. What was your favorite TV program? Survivor and CSI
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? There are plenty of people I dislike or pity, because of how they've treated me, or how they've treated others. But I don't hate anyone. Takes too much energy.
26. What was the best book you read? I have many favorites from this year, and all for different reasons. _Siblings Without Rivalry_ is a great focus book. _The DaVinci Code_ helped me question my religion. _The Poisonwood Bible_ was a wonderful summertime read.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Bond and Maksim (two separate CDs). Oh, and VeggieTales :)
28. What did you want and get? A Philippine narra wood with pearl inset chest. Got it for my birthday. OK, in September, but still.
29. What did you want and not get? I'm not allowed to say.
30. What was your favorite film of this year? Probably "Pirates of the Caribbean".
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was miserably ill. Turned 29.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Ah, again, I'll skip this one :) Getting curious?
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2003? Jeans are the only practical clothing for me. But I've switched from giant logo type t-shirts to more tailored solid/pattern tops. It's more befitting a nearly 30, mom of 4 and "diplomat's wife". Well, that last part is a stretch. You wouldn't believe how many people still think I'm the big sister.
34. What kept you sane? My husband.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy as in find attractive? Jeff Probst... handsome and witty, IMO. Ian knows ;)
36. What political issue stirred you the most? Not stirred, but directly affected.. the military standoff at "our" mall.
37. Who did you miss? My parents. Jeff. And I miss the opportunities to continue building friendships with others who I had more than an acquaintance relationship with. The saying "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is a lie, unless there is a deep bond already present. For 98% of people I'd have called friends while living in the States (or something between acquainatance and friend), the adage "Out of sight, Out of mind" is much more fitting. People can't bother to reply to e-mail, send a Christmas card or write a letter. We moved 8000 miles away from home, to a place we'd never even seen, to live in a foreign culture for Ian to do jobs he'd never done before while the kids adjust to a new school and I have my own things to contend with... and no one but those listed can bother to keep in touch on a regular basis. Can you tell it's a sore spot? Sorry for dumping.
38. Who was the best new person you met? I'll say re-met, for Christine. She's been wonderful at keeping up e-mail correspondence weekly with me over the past few months, and I can't say enough with how thrilled I am to hear about her life and get a feel of home. The new people here are Ryan and Laura. It's been great getting to know them and having them with us for Christmas.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2003: We actually can take care of ourselves.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas!

Two quick scenes, before I tell you about our holiday.

1) There was a discussion recently on a board of women living overseas (primarily in Asia) about how many Asians feel no qualms about taking photos of strangers' kids. Several people chimed in on how their kids had either been photographed alone or with strangers in the picture. I could have commented on how people tend to trip on themselves to stare when we're out in public but that no, no one had ever stopped to take a picture. Well. Yesterday on Christmas Eve we needed to pick up some last minute items from the grocery, so we went to Powerplant Mall and took a snack break with some pretzels. Sitting there, minding our own business and a young Japanese woman appraoches our table. You guessed it, she asked if she could get have one of us take her picture with OUR children. It actually happened and we were too flabbergasted to say anything but "uh... ok" and snapped away. Our kids will now be stars on a page in some strangers photo album.

2) Ian wanted to buy the new TIME with Saddam on the cover. There's an article in there on the Gnostic Gospels that was of interest to us, but when we found the magazine on the shelf, the girls said almost in chorus "It's Hagrid!"

So, you're either shaking your head or chuckling mildly. Either way, here's all about our Christmas.
The night before Christmas Eve we took the kids out for a night time drive to see the lights in our neighborhood. We were supposed to go caroling with Ryan and Laura but with 3 of us having coughs it didn't seem like a wise idea, but hopefully next year. I made snickerdoodles which didn't turn out right and brownies that are OK. I should quit trying to do this cooking stuff. Even straight arrow recipes just don't work right for me. After nearly 7+ years of trying, I accept that I can not cook. Or bake. I don't understand how foods cook or what the proper order in creating foods is. Unless it's something directly out of a jar I am completely handicapped. It's liberating to understand and accept that.
But there is hope. One of my gifts was Alton Brown's _Heat + Food = Cooking_, and perhaps he can enlighten my clouded brain on the matter. The kids, bless their hearts, say that I am a great cook. Well, at least the best cook in the house. That's something, even though Ian doesn't cook and the kids aren't allowed. I guess it's OK to be first in an area that no one else is competing in. Right? Oh, and before anyone gets the idea that Ian is trying to tell me something (which he probably is but that's beside the point), I had put this book in our amazon cart many many months ago. I've known I need help for a long time. I wonder how much cooking classes for dummies cost.
Back to the holiday. Christmas Eve morning, and we were awoken by the sounds of a very miserable and furnace temperature Nicholas at 4 a.m. Instant thoughts were of the flu, but now that we're into day 2 and his fever seems mostly gone I'm guessing it was a 24 bout of a nonspecific virus. What I've read about the rabies vaccine doesn't lead me to believe that fever is a common side effect. Either way, it seems to be done and Nicholas was able to enjoy his gifts and play at the playground this morning.
After our trip to the mall on Wednesday morning (read above), we prepared for the arrival of Laura and Ryan. The plan was to have grilled burgers, french fries, corn on the cob, macaroni salad, fruit salad and enough desserts to choke a horse.
Without matchlight briquets, the grilling was off to a bad start. First Ian tried to start the charcoal as it was. No go. So he and Ryan stopped at Rustans to get lighter fluid. Three bottles of lighter fluid later and still no flame, we bagged it and broiled the burgers in the oven. The corn that had begun in the microwave had been forgotten half way through and when the burgers were done, they were still uncooked. Thankfully the macaroni salad I'd done earlier in the day so we did have something as a side. With the oven busy with meat, the french fries were put aside and we substituted chips. And though there had been thoughts of fruit salad, seedless grapes are what we ate. The burgers were good. The macaroni salad was passable. The grapes and chips were a hit. Thankfully with Laura's background in making extra yummy goodies, dessert was covered with an assortment of homemade cookies, chocolates, fudge and minicheesecakes. She said that they'd used 10 pounds of sugar and I don't doubt her one bit. Yum.
Then the debate began. It was 7:30 and Mass was at 10:30. Oh you silly people, you. Did you really think that Midnight Mass would be at -midnight-?? Pshaw. So, it would take 15-20 minutes to get the kids in bed. Then we'd have to get them up around 10 to get ready if we wanted to get there just in time. At most, they would have about 2 hours to sleep. Would that work for or against us, we wouldn't know. Jonathon was being cranky, so he was easy. With no nap during the day one was definitely called for now. At about 7:45, Nicholas said he was tired and wanted to go to sleep. OK, that was 2. Rebecca was tired but didn't want to go to her room, so she curled up on a chair and fell asleep. Hmm, that was easier than I anticipated. Katherine was the only kid awake and seemed determined to stay that way, so we dusted off Scrabble and had a game with Katherine and I forming a team.
Ryan and Ian have been playing chess on-line for weeks now at RedHotPawn, and Ian wins more games than not. That was not the case here and it became quite evident as Ryan started rattling off acceptable 2 letter words that sounded more like Tagalog than acceptable English. And even though Ryan's first attempt at a word ended with forfeiting his turn (for future reference, sog is not a word, verb or otherwise), the game ended with everyone within 6 points of the lead. Katherine did well for her age, coming up with plenty of words and even some places to put them.
Katherine was winding down when Scrabble ended, but it was time to go to church. Ryan and Laura are Mormon but had expressed an interest in attending Midnight Mass. They made the mistake of asking us what to expect and we honestly couldn't say. Previously Ian was talking them out of the idea since we've been less than impressed with the services at our church. But we figured, what's one more adventure? Unfortunately we didn't get out of the house until 10:20 and while there was talk about how this was a Catholic country and therefore attendance shouldn't be too different from a regular Sunday, it quickly became apparent that we would be standing through Mass. In the back. With hordes of others. Thankfully the service was short at just over an hour and had plenty of Christmas carols thrown in. Even better, the collections were being donated directly to relief efforts for the Leyte landslides. Unfortunately, the string ensemble from the Philippine Philharmonic and choir were barely audible, the soloist/cantor would drop out midway through songs, and the director chose some musical versions of prayers that I'm unaccustomed to singing. I was standing next to Ryan and singing what I could between coughing fits, but Ryan has a lovely tenor voice. He'd be a good addition to Saint Michaels.
Back home after our blessing from the priest, the kids finally got their second wind. It was time for hot chocolate and if we could stand it, presents. That's a post for later.
This morning Jonathon was up too early with everyone awake by 8 and revived enough to play. Ian took the kids to the playground, but for Katherine who was too tired to behave properly. Brunch was a baked french toast casserole (again, passable but not great) and scrambled eggs. Now, it's rest time as we're all really too tired to do much else. Finding Nemo and SW:ANH have kept the kids occupied, at least those who have managed to stay awake (*ahem* Ian). But now it's time to get going.
At 4 p.m. today we're meeting Dr. Judy to have the 2nd rabies vaccine administered to Jonathon. Wish us luck.
Oh, and Merry Christmas :)

Monday, December 22, 2003

What happens when you get bitten by a dog

Is the drama from living in the Philippines, or is it simply the reality of having kids?

Sunday evening was the Ambassador's holiday party. Lucky us were invited, so at 4 p.m. we left, with the kids and the housekeeper at the playground. Sometime between 5 and 5:15, Ian's cell phone rang.
Ian took the call as Katherine announced that at the park Jonathon had been bitten by a dog, was bleeding, and the housekeeper was "completely overreacting". Ian hung up and told me what she said. My questions... where was he bitten and how badly (thinking about stitches) and was the dog with someone (thinking about rabies). No idea, so back on the phone he talked to Katherine again and we learned it was on his knee and the dog was with people. At least it wasn't a stray. We wouldn't learn more of the story until arriving home.
Putting together bits and pieces, we learned that no one had actually seen Jonathon get bitten. The dog was a puppy, but not one I remember seeing at the park. It had no collar or tags, but when the housekeeper asked about vaccinations they said it had them. That's unreliable at best. No one knows if Jonathon was bitten or scratched, but the marks are teeth distance apart. The people with the dog said that it was not a bite. Again, that's unreliable. The marks themselves are tiny, both covered by a little bandage. It's unlikely that the dog is carrying terrible diseases as it was with people, but without knowing its immunizations or knowing its habits (do they leave it outside for long periods? Has it ever wandered the neighborhood? Was it a picked up stray?) there were too many questions.
OK, disjointed bits here and there, the decision I made last night was to take Jonathon to the clinic first thing in the morning. The doctor said it didn't matter if it was a bite or a scratch, the fact that it broke the skin was enough. I hadn't had any of the kids receive the rabies series, so in the office I decided not only to have Jonathon vaccinated, but the other kids as well. It's lifetime immunity for them, a one time 3-shot series. With all the dogs they come into contact with here and in subsequent posts, it makes sense. Why didn't I think this 6 months ago? Chalk it up to stupidity and a misplaced reliance on luck.
Anyhow, the older three have all received shot #1. Jonathon has as well, along with a gammaglobulin injection (in his bottom no less, a -huge- shot that was quite unpleasant for the little guy). He'll get shot #2 on Christmas Day. The third will come next week, the fourth the week after and the 5th 2 weeks after that.
Tip for the day: If you live in a country where rabies is prevalent and you like animals, get the vaccine series. Three shots are better than six. Just ask Jonathon.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Rebecca's first ever report card.

OK, report cards. Semester one is done and on this, the last day, we see where things stand.

The report card is graded differently than I'm used to. An E = Established, meaning that she is consistently meeting and exceeding expectations. A C = Consolidating. She's getting there, but has days where it's out of her grasp. A D= Developing, or the requirements have been set forth but she has consistent troubles meeting them.
Because this is ECLC (knows as Kindergarten in the rest of the civilized world), the homeroom class doesn't give these grades, but comments on each of the areas from Personal Development to Theme Studies. Structure and rules are her guides and as long as she has instruction she is content.
Overall, she's doing well in school with hesitation in writing. She doesn't like making mistakes so writing is a big hurdle, but as she learns that she can correct and rewrite, her abilities are flowering. Art class is not a problem for her. Anyone surprised? P.E. is not a problem either. Here, I'm surprised. I've noticed that she has become much more agile and poweful since school has begun. She'll take more risks on the playground than I imagined, and just today I saw her playing and throw herself bodily into the sandpit. The little princess doesn't mind exerting herself and getting dirty. Who'd have thunk it?
The only area of issue is Music. I guess it's more my issue than anything. I find it amazing that they can grade 5 and 6 year olds on their ability to hold a pitch (the 2 Ds she received) and on whether she can move to a steady beat. OK, I admit, she received Cs in all the rest, but participation. She loves to do all this stuff, but just isn't up to snuff for the teacher. I don't get it, because I hear her singing at home all the time and am amazed at not only how well she follows a tune, but also of how her voice is developing. Perhaps it's a mom's pride getting in the way, but I think she's doing just fine for her age and her personal abilities. I'll try to take it less personally. It is "just" Kindergarten. I mean, ECLC.

Today being the last day of school for 2003 means....

It's not only vacation time but the end of the semester and, uh oh, report cards.

This wasn't too much of a concern and few surprises for Katherine because I had made an appointment earlier in the year to speak to Ms. Bayly, followed by mid-semester conferences. The topic was the same each time, Katherine is extremely bright but has a hard time listening and being organized. Her report card reflected that and not just in her main classroom, but in her music class as well. It all stems from her difficulties in listening. She can't get organized because she didn't hear all the directions and she can't get started on tasks because she can't remember what was said. It's frustrating, not just for her teachers and us, but for her as well. She says that they give too many instructions in a row and after the first few she forgets what the rest are. At home it's often the reverse, she catches the last direction and neglects the first three or four.
I've explained how, when the teacher starts speaking, she needs to stop what she's doing completely and listen intently. Having her write everything down is a non-starter as she wouldn't be able to find a pencil to do so, but would easily waste 3 minutes looking and miss all the comments anyway. Maybe having her repeat the directions quietly to herself as the teacher is saying them? I need ideas!
The report card is graded differently than I'm used to. An E = Established, meaning that she is consistently meeting and exceeding expectations. A C = Consolidating. She's getting there, but has days where it's out of her grasp. A D= Developing, or the requirements have been set forth but she has consistent troubles meeting them.
Thankfully, in the specified curriculum (Language Arts, Math and Social Studies/Science) she has Es in everything but the very first. A "C" for listening. Like I said, not a surprise. The last section labelled "The Child as a Learner" (where do they come up with these things??), she has mostly Es, many Cs and *gasp* a D. The D, not suprisingly (insert *sigh* here), is in the area for taking care of her belongings and other classroom materials. OK, the kid can't keep track of -anything-, and it's a constant source of frustration at home as well.
Now, outside of her homeroom, the other class she has troubles in is Music. Grandpa would not be pleased. She has Cs in the three areas singing related, from knowing the words for 10 songs to matching pitch. She also has troubles identifying instruments by their sounds.
OK, I scanned the report card, I see all the Cs (and that one D) and I cringe. Then I read the actual items being graded on and I just can't take some of them seriously. How do you objectively determine is a kid is using a "singing voice" and then grade them on it? I guess that's a good excuse for me not being a teacher. I couldn't imagine telling kids that they don't have a good enough singing voice in second grade. How does she get an "E" for "Listens Purposefully" and a "C" for "Listens Effectively"? How does she get a "C" for participating in music class and using her singing voice, but in the comments have it written that she "has a lovely singing voice and participates well"? Who knows.
Overall, I think she did great. We have a lot of work to do yet in listening and organizaion. Now that we have several weeks at home, I need to make a conscious effort to slow down my directions, get her full attention, have her repeat things. She gets on my case for picking on her and not doing these things to her sister, but you know how it goes. Rebecca doesn't need the constant reminders and she automatically does things like put her shoes away and change her school clothes. I imagine it's very difficult for her to hear her name repeatedly being called to complete tasks.
That's life.

It's that time of year.....

The kids are out of school. For nearly a MONTH. What are we going to do?? Well, let's see what's been going on lately.

Last week I was at the school for the holiday program in the Fine Arts Theater (yes, they shorten it to FAT). I went for the 8:30 program of the ECLC, 2nd and 4th graders. At 10:30, there was another program of the school choirs, and then in the afternoon a program of 1st, 3rd and 5th graders. Well, I should have just spent the day there, because when the kids got home, they were all abuzz about the other programs and how funny some of the songs were and how I really should have been there. How was I supposed to know!? Anyhow, I saw Rebecca on stage doing her lantern song and then the 2nd graders did a song in Dutch. Katherine even took the mic at one point to tell everyone where the name Santa Claus originated.
Then yesterday there was the party for Rebecca's class where they made snowglobes, did a book exchange in the form of a treasure hunt, and played snowball alley. Who thinks snowball alley (2 rows of kids with balls, facing each other while other kids run between them and try not to get pounded) is a good idea? And today was a party in Katherine's classroom, with pass the parcel and a Christmas quiz of questions that I had no clue what the answers were. Katherine guessed more of them right than anyone in our group, but since majority ruled she got outvoted and we lost several of the points. But hey, our team won against the three others, getting 6 of the 10 questions right. how many of you knew that the first Saint Nicholas was from Turkey and that people exchange Christmas gifts in Guatemala on the 2st of January? Nope, we didn't either.
Aside from kid parties we have the typical Embassy holiday parties (no kids allowed) that are in full swing. So far Ian has been to the consular section work party, and tomorrow will be at the Embassy wide work party (complete with skits). We have both gone to the Consul General's party at his home in a spacious penthouse in the center of Makati. Sunday is the Ambassador's holiday party. Monday is the party by the Chief of the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG, yes, like orange juice), but I think just Ian will be attending that one as we have no childcare set up.

Monday, December 8, 2003

Just a note

The Puerto Galera and IRRI entries have been completed. I know you've been waiting with bated breath.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

OK, so it was yesterday and I'm a day late, but it's still a date worth celebrating.

We have our own little Nicholas of course, who gets a thrill from a big day all his own. But oops, what a bad mom, I completely forgot to read the Saint Nicholas story! Does it help that they watch the short Saint Nicholas video all year round that the Bolognesi family gave us? I think that next year we'll do the story as a precursor to opening stocking gifts. Set the stage and bring the kids around to why we do what we do.
Elise had asked if we put gifts in the kids shoes. Well, if we had clogs I would, but can you imagine eating anything that had been sitting in your tennis shoes all night. No thanks! I think it would be hilarious if we did it in their sandals though, what an odd mix. Of course, it dips down to the mid-70s here now. At night.
So once the kids finally noticed their bulging stockings and everyone was awake, they enjoyed their gifts. Katherine had a Harry Potter snitch reading light and a small alarm clock, Rebecca had a watch and a Princess bead set, Jonathon had a quiet time book (one of those with snaps, buttons, matching, etc.) and a set of Color Wonder markers and paper, Nicholas had a new book and a watch. They also each had a little bag of chocolate coins and a coloring book.
At the same time, I opened a box I'd received from a cultura gift exchange, a lady in Switzerland, which was packed with neat foods to try and little gifts. In fact, the stollen, gingerbread, stocking full of treats and other sweets were our breakfast. It all fit in perfectly with our St Nicholas celebration.
Once breakfast was done, the tree was pulled out and all the decorations and we spent time putting it all together with white and blue lights. The kids enjoyed putting up their ornament collections (each child gets at least one new ornament per year, usually something that reflects the past year, this time it was shell ornaments). Unfortunately I realized too late that the white lights blinked and not a lazy gentle blink but a frenetic cacphony of light. I detested it, but everyone seemed to think it was OK. Later on, it turned out that 2 of the strings already died, so this morning I took every ornament off along with the lights and strung up 2 blue strings. It doesn't blink, it's calming and I think at night it will look lovely.
Now to switch topics, in the late afternoon Rebecca went to a birthday party. It was scheduled from 4 to 6 at a pool. Ian dropped her off and when he picked her up, it seemed that the party was a huge failure. Once again it was excessive. Decorated to the gills, too many people and Ian had been expected to stay. We didn't know. She didn't have anyone to sit with and was left with a couple of spare yayas. She'd worn her swimsuit expecting a party at the pool to be a pool party. No, it was a poolside party. There was food to feed an army and "professional entertainment". She had been told that swimming would be "later" but we figure that was said just to get her to stop asking. When Ian arrived to pick her up she was upset, and I don't blame her. She got enough party gifts to not need anything for Christmas.
Obviously we knew that parties here are not like parties at home but Ian had I agree that enough is enough. It's all just too much.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Rebecca Hopper turns 6!

Tuesday, December 2nd, and we have a new 6 year old in the family.

She's grown up so much in the past 6 months, she honestly seems more aware of who she is, her boundaries and what proper behavior is expected. Of course there are times where she forgets and there's a screaming/crying fight, but we haven't had a temper tantrum in a long while and on the whole she's learned it's best to just give up something or offer alternatives than fight tooth and nail for it, especially when it's something like a piece of paper to draw on.
The morning began with her popping up in bed and annoucing "I'm six!" Then it was off to school with the expectation of a special show-n-tell. When the afternoon arrived, the boys and I packed off to ISM with a cooler of snacks and Pomelo. Rebecca had been asking for several weeks if she could bring a cat and what better day than her birthday. He didn't like the drive there very much and in the classroom he was happiest being held by me or hiding behind the teacher's computer yowling for his sister. Rebecca was happy, the kids thought it was neat and to top it off, we went to the library and checked out a stack of books and then stopped in the canteen and bought ice creams.
A trip to Seafront FPO and medical unit and we were home in time for Katherine to change and get dropped to Brownies. Rebecca had received a pencil from a classmate with princesses on it and she was repeating over and over "It's a nice pencil, a pencil is a good present, I'm happy with my pencil". It seemed that the day was done and she was accepting that there was no cake and there were no other presents. At least, no one had said anything to the contrary. Doesn't that show how much she'd changed? Not long ago she would either have asked outright or just burst into tears at the thought of no gifts.
So we sent all the kids upstairs to get ready for bed and Rebecca had her pencil. While stories were being read, Ian prepared the cakes (I'd bought 6 little chocolate cakes to form one big cake) by sticking two "3" candles in one (oops, mom loses points for forgetting a birthday candle), and we called her out to the den. She was happy. So I asked her what would make the day even better. Her sister piped up before she had a chance with "presents!" but since Rebecca had already talked herself out of expecting more gifts, her face lit up when we brought out a small stack of gifts.
Grandparents sent her a tiny set of American Girl paper dolls, complete with background scene and storage box, and a complete set of Felicity American Girl books. She said she just -knew- she'd get books, and was thrilled with the topic. At the library earlier, she'd asked to go check out the American Girl book section, "just to see them". OK, so she's a little strange too. She noted that the Felicity books were too tough for her to read now, so she was going to let Katherine read them first. Didn't I say she'd changed??
Following those, she received the "Barbie in the Nutcracker" movie from dad (though I think she was hoping it was a computer game. I guess she'll have to wait until her stocking!) and a shimmery orange dress from mom. To the dress she asked what it was... "A clown"? I guess I just can't win. But that's OK, she loved the other gifts and she said she had a great birthday, and that's the whole point.
Now she's just waiting for some teeth to fall out. Of course, it would help if they were even a tad bit loose first.