Thursday, August 28, 2003

Jonathon's check-up part 2 and other things about him

Today Nicholas and I took Jonathon to the doctor's office once again, this time to get blood drawn for a lead test, cholesterol test and I asked for an iron level (but we'll see if it gets done since I didn't see the nurse actually write that anywhere).


At first the nurse was going to have him sit in the blood-letting chair but since the arm rest goes to his nose, we all thought better and moved to an exam bed where he could lie down. The first try on the left arm did not go so well. She poked him and he started to whimper. Tears began to roll and soak the paper. About 30 seconds after she started I looked over and she was still digging for a vein and my poor boy was being so brave. She quit on that arm, gave him a lollipop to take his mind off it and switched to his right. He had to be coaxed to take a couple licks, otherwise he just stared at her. No fighting, no screaming, no crying now, just layed there and stared at her while I continued to gently hold the lollipop arm and tell him how big he was. I think it made her a bit uncomfortable. Finally they tried on his right arm and it went right in and he knew it. He let out a cry, and the tears streamed down his cheeks again but he never fought, never moved. Nicholas stood by him and was a great big brother support, telling Jonathon that yes it hurt, and Jonathon should say Ouch, which he dutifully did.
And finally it was all done. With a bandage on each arm and a lollipop in hand, Jonathon was more than ready to leave. (The girls could learn a few things from their brothers in dealing with shots and needles. Both of them get themselves completely worked up and in tears before the needle is even near them. I guess that's the price for knowing what's coming next and remembering back to last time.)
In other news, I'm not so concerned about his iron levels anymore. I do want them checked to make sure he's no longer anemic, but he has finally taken to meat. He'll eat almost anything he can dip in ketchup, he likes hamburgers, fishsticks and chicken nuggets and get this, he'll eat a couple hard-boiled eggs a day if we let him. He has the bad habit of putting the entire yolk into his mouth, which obviously fills up all the room and takes a few minutes to chew and get down. I keep reminding him to take bites but it doesn't sink in. He'll also eat fried eggs. I made scrambled eggs once but he wasn't sure about those.
Of course he's hit the stage where he wants to do everything himself and hardboiled eggs are a great food for that because they peel so easily and are a quick snack he can do on his own. I've started keeping 1/2 dozen eggs at a time in the fridge and he helps himself though I do make sure he keeps it to one or 2 a day.
Periodically he's waking up dry. Tonight he woke up just before midnight and when I checked him he had taken his diaper off at some point, but his bed was still dry. He's still doing well with the potty when naked, and he's getting better when he has a diaper on too with telling us he needs to go.
The other day when we were getting ready to go out, he tried to put his pants on all by himself, and yesterday he was very intent on getting his sandals on without help. Yes, he did eventually need mom assistance, but the fact that he's finally willing to try himself is wonderful. The only part that has become difficult is teeth brushing. He used to have no problem with getting his teeth checked and letting me do a once over after he was done, but no longer.
He's very much into books now, mimicking everything we say and actually trying to correct his pronunciation when we repeat words slower. The more time passes, the more he closes the gap on Nicholas.

I'm finally impressed

I didn't really think it could happen but an item of Filipino-unique foods has gone beyond the call of duty in impressing me.

At PriceSmart I bought a bunch of latundan bananas. A variety of banana that grows specifically in the Philippines. On-line they are described as small and sweet. Each is the perfect size for the kids and will fit easily in lunchboxes. After dinner last night, Katherine grabbed 2 for dessert, I took one, Rebecca took one. Katherine took a big bite of the first one.

She freaked out. She started yelling that her mouth was frozen and she couldn't move it. Well, they did come out of the fridge so I figured they'd be cold, but frozen was a bit of overkill. So Ian took a bite. After the first second or so, he started to hack, he made odd convoluted faces and looked for a place to spit it out. OK, I'd opened one, it looked fine with no bruises, smelled fine, texture looked good. What on earth?

Everyone looked at me. Ian insisted I take a nice big bite. I didn't. I took a little corner. I chewed. The banana that seemed perfectly normal turned into the consistency of.... heavy powder. Which mixed with spit turned into a gluey mortar like substance that made it hard to chew and almost impossible to swallow. Ah, now I understood Katherine's exclamation of a "frozen" mouth. Her chewing ability was immobilized. It tasted like nothing, but a really bad nothing and certainly not like banana. The best description we could come up with was that it was dehydrated. Oh, sure it looked like a normal fruit, but it was just pretending.

Once I'd choked it down, I had to take some out that was stuck in my teeth and I examined it.

Ever eaten paper?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Jonathon's Check-Up

Last week Jonathon went in for his 2 year well-baby. He is 28 pounds and 33 1/2 inches, perfectly average across the board.

He looked so big, standing straight and tall on the scale and was patient and accomodating during his exam. The doc asked if he has around 50 words and while I've never counted, he's adding more words every day.
Along with the check-up it was time for shots. Now that he's old enough, he can catch up with the HepA series and the Typhoid vaccine. I'd tried to prepare him beforehand. He's seen all his siblings getting immunizations and he did great with the TB test a couple weeks back, so I wanted him to know what was coming up. Unfortunately, that meant the whole drive to Seafront he was saying "No ouch" and once we were there he kept trying to leave after each step. Not screaming or complaining, just an "All done" and I'm outta here.
Typhoid is a literal pain and I was a concerned that they wanted to give him a full adult dose at one time. The protocol states that it's OK, but there's a greater side effect of fever. Balancing that against the other option of giving him 1/2 now and 1/2 later, I felt that some doses of tylenol would be easier to handle than giving him a second shot. And luckily his thin little arms weren't going to work, so he received one shot in each leg. Less chance of him favoring the appendage and not working out the soreness.
He's the strongest 2 year old I know. The Typhoid got an "ouch" and a small whimper (it stings going in) until the needle came out. The HepA got an "ouch" and nothing else.
I did have a question on a sore that I see periodically on his private parts. I'll know not to do that again as I totally disagreed with how they (she brought in the RMO) examined him and what their sidebar conclusions were. Unless he has a true problem, they aren't going there again.
So, unless he's sick for any reason, he'll be back for his HepA #2 in 6 months, right around the time that Katherine finishes up her TB meds.
Speaking of TB, our housekeeper had her medical check-up and she is clear. It seems that Katherine is a freak case of TB exposure.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Most Popular Guy at the ATO

So I'm taking flying lessons in a Cessna 150, a little two-seater plane that looks like a budget coupe with wings. Since I'm getting my license here, that means I have to get a medical clearance and apply for the license from the Philippines Air Transportation Office. And this, like everything else here, was not normal.

I took the day off on Thursday to do this. I went with Joseph, who works at my flight school, to the ATO. The organization was pretty typical Filipino: A maximum number of offices, minimum efficiency so you go to each one many different times, and no one's in a particular hurry to do anything. First I went to the main office, where the lady gave me a little piece of paper so I could go to the cashier across the hall and pay for the process. So I paid, and brought the Official Receipt (like the freakin' Holy Grail in this country. Everyone speaks of the Official Receipt with such reverence. You must get your Official Receipt!) back to the woman in the main office. (Later, I paid the Main Office Lady for the doctor's fee, and some other unexplained fee. Perhaps it just went into her purse. It's hard to argue with the entire cash outlay for the day was less than US$8.) She then sent me to the optometrist.
Before we walked in, Joseph said, "Be careful of the depth perception test. It took me 7 tries." Great.
Perhaps this woman was an optometrist. Or maybe the older guy who hovered around was an optometrist. She didn't say enough for me to know. I sat in a chair and she covered my left eye and said, "Read those," referring, I could only assume, to four letters on the opposite wall, even though she was looking at the floor. I read the letters without trouble, then she did the left eye. And I noticed how much my eyesight has degraded in that eye... I need to go to a real optometrist.
Then the woman pushed me into a dark closet, and I braced myself for an elaborate kidnapping scheme designed to trap middle-class U.S. diplomats interesting in flying. Then turned on one of those lighted eye test machines, and said, "You have a pen? Here is a paper. Write down on each line which is floating." "Huh?," I replied, as I stood alone in the dark.
I had a little blank slip of paper, I noticed as my eyes adjusted to the dark. I looked into the machine, and saw the numbers 1 2 3 4 on the top. None seemed to be doing anything. Then there was a grid with the letters A through H vertically on the left, followed by the numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 on the rows. Still, none seemed to float. So there I sat in a darkened, overheated closet, with a pen and little slip of paper, looking at nothing that floats, overhearing the staff talk in Tagalog about the latest allegations that the First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo, hid a bunch of his wife's campaign contributions. (I can understand that much Tagalog, just enough to make sure they're not talking about me.)
Eventually I figured that in each row, a number would float. But still none floated. So I wiggled my head around, and tried other little tricks. Staring at them didn't help -- eventually they _all_ seemed to float! I wrote down my "answers" and gave them to the woman. All wrong. Great. I gave her some excuse that I didn't understand _ which I didn't _ and tried again. After more headaches and straining, some did seem to float. Sort of.
I know I really do have depth perception. It's not like I walk into walls ... my kids do, but I don't.
I got more right than wrong. Which seemed to be Good Enough. Then she took me back into the closet to determine to stick a device in my ear to see if I could hear.
After that, it was urine (involving a cup and a corner. Which in the Third World, is the definition of a clean bathroom.) and dental. Surely you don't need teeth to fly, do you? Turns out the only boxes on that form are "OK to Fly" and "Extraction Needed." So the test was to make sure I don't need a root canal at 2,000 feet.
During these jaunts, the secret has gotten out. I'm a Diplomat. Worse, I'm a U.S. Diplomat. The dentist asks me for "help" with getting a visa. I'm eager to "help" all I can, by giving advice.
By the time the doctor has checked all the tests and declared me fit to fly, I had a little party in the main office. The Main Office Lady, the Dentist, and the Pretty Urine Girl. The MOL has a sister in the States, and I have to tell her that it will take about 22 years to get an immigrant visa, assuming her sister petitions for her now. MOL also has a son who is not pleased with me after MOL remarks that I'm younger than he is, and look what I'm doing. The dentist brags to the rest how I said that she has a good case for a tourist visa. Then she asks how she can immigrate. She has no immediate relatives in the States, so... I suggest Canada. It's a beautiful country. They get the little joke. All of them ask for my business card, and I hand them over, wincing in advance about what calls I might get. Pretty Urine Girl just sits there, smiling at me. Perhaps she is thinking about getting in via the Fiancee visa, and hasn't noticed my ring.
It would never work. I just handed her a cup of warm pee.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Newspapers that aren't News Papers

We get the Philippine Daily Inquirer, well, daily. More precisely, we bought a 6 month subscription, and thankfully in October our time runs out.

There are several sections to the paper but the first is the only part that holds anything resembling news as the back sections are often 2-3 different sets of "Lifestyle."
One Lifestyle is usually the success story of a rich person who continued gaining wealth. There are some that started poor or moderatly poor, but the page is always a grand success story of the currently wealthy. Another Lifestyle is geared toward the late-teen/early-20s age group (cool new fads, new texting options, what to do when you only have P50 until payday). There's often a wedding Lifestyle, chatting all about the recent wedding/reception of a, you guessed it, wealthy couple. And another Lifestyle often focuses on a resturant (often one of a chain), a menu, a chef, or a cooking school. You see the pattern there. All in all, interesting to read through the first week, deathly boring by month 4.
The first page of the paper has huge headlines of "very important stuff", the only problem being that they use nicknames for every person and throw in Tagalog words seemingly at random. Inside, there is a section for world news, and a section for Metro Manila. Opinions get 2 pages and 6 opinion writers. There's usually one railing against the United States, and there's a long side column entitled "Young Blood" written by a different young person struggling through the tribulations of running out of texting minutes or picking on a kid at school.
All this is well and good, but wha't missing? A weather page. There's no forecast either in the paper or on TV. I take that back. There is a dedicated weather channel, but when it isn't on the logo, it shows the weather from today. Yes the weather that has already occurred, and no predictions for tomorrow or the rest of the week. Oh sure I could assume it'll be hot and muggy, and we carry umbrellas all the time anyway, but still! So if there's a storm brewing we use internet web sites (Yahoo! weather isn't too bad and on-line satellite images.
The other part that I desperately miss is a culture/arts section. There are festivals, bazaars, concerts, ballets, live entertainment in restaurants, visiting entertainers, and a myriad of other things to do in easy driving distance, but if we're lucky we hear about them after they've occurred. The cultural center is on the way to the Embassy but its sign doesn't offer much information other than the day of a performance. We rely on books we bought back in the States and word of mouth from other expats about zoos, islands, beaches, day trips, water/amusement parks, World War II monuments and a variety of tourist traps. How much are we missing because the newspaper doesn't bring these places of interest to our table?
UPDATE: It seems there is in fact an Entertainment section in the paper at least once a week. It's on the reverse side of the Sports section which I obviously don't read. A full page for movie theaters and new releases, a few box ads for some entertainment around town (Jim Brickman is playing in our mall on September 11), and little else.
In October we're going to try the Star.
And for real news, we have the International Herald Tribune. Definitely worth it.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Sometimes you just need to hear their voices

Every weekend we talk to my parents. Either they call us or we call them (IVG line is free to the 202 and surrounding area codes), and it’s always so good to hear the news. E-mail is nice, but sometimes nothing beats a phone call. Which is why later in the afternoon I called up, Jeff. Yes, it was the middle of the night in D.C., but he’s a night owl so I knew I wouldn’t be waking him. It was so good to hear his voice and chat about his upcoming trip to Hungary and Serbia. When Ian got home, he told Jeff about work and his flying lessons. Every once in a while, it’s nice to touch base. I wish there were more people in the area to call at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning!

Let's go to the movies....

This weekend, we went to see our first movie as a family.

Ian has taken the girls before, my parents have taken the older 3, Ian and I have gone, but never before have all 6 of us seen a show together. That’s been changed, thanks to “Finding Nemo” For less than $20, we each got a chosen seat (it’s like going to the theater!), 6 drinks, a bucket of popcorn and a bucket of nachos, supreme style (don’t ask me what it tasted like, as far as I know it had meat, some cheese goo typical of movie nachos and a garlic sauce, but the girls ate both buckets of snacks so the rest of us can only dream what they were like).
The theaters at PowerPlant mall are really nice. Clean, air-conditioned, and tiered-seating, the only drawback was that it was really loud. So loud that our noise-sensitive child wanted to leave as soon as it began. Jonathon got up and headed for the door but with some convincing, a mommy lap so he could lay against my chest, and a sweater over his head, he was able to avoid most of the movie by falling right to sleep and staying conked out for an hour. He awoke when the turtles were swimming across the screen and was happy to see them, but the instant the scene changed he was back under the sweater just waiting out the storm. Poor kid, I guess we won’t try that again for a while. Of course, children change so much from month to month that he might be just fine if we make another attempt in October.
If you haven’t seen “Finding Nemo”, we all gave it thumbs up. The digital animation is astonishing, especially in the opening reef scenes, and later when we pan through Sydney I honestly had trouble deciding if it was animation or real images blended in. Truly stunning. As for the storyline, there are definite scary parts. Nicholas wasn’t thrilled with several parts (sharks anyone?) and sat on Ian’s lap through most of it, but I found myself laughing out loud at several spots.
[Side note: While waiting to get our tickets, the girls sat in a nearby café and played a game of chess. Gotta love a country with chessboards set up around every corner.]

Shopping Galore

So why did Rebecca give Jonathon her Barbies? This was a –huge- gift from her. Rebecca is totally into them and has been for the longest time. They have their apartment building, patio set, driveway and car and all hidden in one of the girls’ closets. The doors can be shut which makes it all mildly bearable. If I have to step on one more Barbie shoe or try to squeeze another Barbie into some too tight leggings, I just might toss the whole deal out though. No, I won’t, but it sure is tempting. Rebecca just purchased (yes, with her own allowance money) two new Filipina Barbies. Originally she could only afford one but as luck would have it, there was a buy1/take1 sale. Lucky girl.

For some reason, Ian had it in his head that he had to get Nicholas a new toy. Something Spiderman. Nicholas is still on a huge Spiderman kick and I admit I didn’t help it any when I purchased the Spiderman pajamas last week, complete with cap and pull down mask. But he looks so cute! So, Daddy is helping him along too with the purchase of a motorized motorcycle spiderman. What happened to our resolve against toys that move and make noise?

At the same time that we picked up Jonathon’s train set, we bought a new backpack and lunchbox for Katherine. Sadly, it was time to put the Harry Potter bag to rest as the bottom four corners were all torn. The new bag didn’t have a roller, but the magic of mom put the old roller on the new bag. Now she is Scooby Doo enabled because there was not a single Harry Potter replacement to be found, and she’d sifted through the Barbie bags, the Tinkerbell bags and every Looney Tune and Cartoon Network option. It was depressing. Along with the bag we picked up the matching over-the-shoulder bag that is used as a lunchbox. Over the 4 months that we’ve been here, she’s managed to lose her Jurassic Park lunchbox, break the Harry Potter lunch box and choose as the replacement, a baby Tweety lunchbox (which is SO not her, and she had buyer’s remorse the next day when she realized that it was –baby- Tweety. Well sweetie, that’s why we asked you over and over again if this was really the one wanted).

All are happy now.

No more babies in the house

18 August 2003 – Happy Second Birthday, Jonathon! I can officially state that we no longer have a baby in the house. Well, I suppose I could extend it just a bit, maybe until he’s weaned at least? Yes mom, I can hear you from here :)

When was the last time the house was all 2 and over. Not since Rebecca was little and that was for 4 months until Nicholas arrived. I’ll admit I completely miss having a baby in the house. Internet friends are adding on to their families left and right (another a couple days ago and he is beautiful) and I can’t help that ache that will forever live on.
If you ask how old he is, he’ll tell you he’s three and hold up four fingers.
He completely dug his birthday cake. We ordered from Goldilocks instead of Red Ribbon. Both chain bakeries make delicious cakes, but Goldilocks had more decorating options. [Side note, if you want decadent cakes, go to Sugarhouse]. While I’d intended on getting him a zoo or jungle theme, none were to be had, but I stumbled across a train cake. How perfect! We’d bought him a first train set as his gift with a little motorized engine. I ordered an 8X12 sheet cake, and while that’s what we got I hadn’t expected the 3 layers. While most foods are done small here, the desserts are not.
After cake and presents I set up the track in the boys’ room. It’s a neat little set and of course it can be enlarged with other sets. Now I remember why we never got a train set 7 years ago! Eventually we won’t have any floor visible. The grandparents sent him an animal bowling set which has already seen plenty of action and is sprinkled all around the living room. His favorite being the dog. Rebecca was very giving and offered Jonathon one of her Barbies and the Barbie unicorn. And Katherine had made her own lift-the-flap card. Very creative and thoughtful.
I was going to take the kids to “Kids at Work” at the mall, and indoor playland, but they weren’t all wearing socks so we couldn’t go in. It took until many hours later when I told the story to Ian that he asked “You were in a mall, why didn’t you buy them some?” Um… uh…. Instead, I got them each a balloon, an ice cream and they played that little indoor playground. Not as fun but it would have to do.
All in all, a good birthday and a big boy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The fall of De Beers? We can only hope.

Kudos to Ian for pointing out this story on Wired.

It's been a thing of mine for the past 5 years or so, since learning about De Beers and blood diamonds, that I will never buy another mined diamond. In fact, just today I asked Ian if he would be truly offended if I had the diamond in my ring replaced with something less offensive. If only I'd known 8 years ago what I know now, I would have veered from the norm and chosen something offbeat and easier on the conscience. Perhaps when we make it to Africa we will find something stunning, and have the talented local jewelers set it into my band.

These companies just might revolutionize the diamond world. Let's encourage them however we can.

[If the term "blood diamond" caught you off guard, I strongly suggest you do a search of that term, or "conflict diamonds." It'll open your eyes.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

How did I not know this sooner? Oh.. right...

Before now the girls have generally eclipsed what he was learning and how capable he is.

Nicholas can count to 7, recognize some letters and numbers, knows a bunch of colors, can color almost in the lines, and can follow a maze (and cheated only at the very end). He can dress and undress himself, knows all the chess pieces, can bounce/roll/throw/catch, can do a rung on the monkey bars by himself, rides a 16" bike with training wheels, uses a napkin, says Excuse Me, Please and Thank You without prompting, and can buckle himself into his carseat. Yeah yeah, I know there are some kids light years ahead of him, but with no direction for the past 3 years but what he picks up from around the house, I don't think it's too shabby.
So today we watched Bear in the Big Blue House and their Numbers episode. We also colored in his Spiderman coloring book and played with magnet letters to write out his name, his sisters, baby, mommy, cat, dog and horse. He asked me to tell him each letter, repeated it, and found other letters in the pile that matched. We need a few more sets of letters though. There is a set from when I was a kid and obviously missing some letters, and though I've bought a new set to add to it since then, there simply aren't enough to write out all our names at the same time. And many of them don't have magnets on the back so they can't be fridge art. Must fix that soon since he's interested. And of course wherever we are, Jonathon is too so he'll reap some benefits from this as well.
I'm definitely thinking this was the right choice for us. The thought kept rolling around our heads to put Nicholas into preschool (AmeriKids at Seafront, $120/mo, 9-1:30, M-F) but today I thoroughly enjoyed having just the boys, doing fun little kid stuff and talking with Nicholas. Yes, talking, as he's a chatterbox and full of ideas. I can also spend quite a bit of time each day correcting his grammar and pronunciation. Now we don't have nearly the number of interruptions as before and I can really focus on him. It's a huge deal that he can now say "one" instead of "uhf" and "pott-y" instead of "puh-ee." I'm still working on correcting words like "maf" for "fast", and fixing his grammar. He has an extremely difficult time integrating the "k" sound into any word. With effort he can make the sound alone (but often will revert to a "t" sound instead) but putting it into a word hasn't occured but for once instance of managing "beh-kah" instead of "beh-ah". He seems to flip consonents around a lot. And rather than saying "I" he'll use "Me yes." He chatters non-stop but it's like listening to code. There is a drawback to this, as Jonathon is picking up a bunch of his poor speech. I'd like to fix it all at the same time and I have high hopes as Nicholas is already correcting himself in some situations.
I'll have to record some of the things he says. Especially at dinner time, it's rare when I don't break out laughing because of a response he gives. Many of his quips are 3 year old humor (having to do with bodily functions usually), but some of them are priceless.
He is still the charmer, even in his 24-hour Spiderman PJs (complete with hat and pull down mask) that we found at the nearby ShoeMart for $6. We went in and looked through all the Spiderman Ts, but not one of them would do. He didn't want a t-shirt with Spiderman on it, he wanted to BE Spiderman. And luckily enough they had them. I'm wondering if I shouldn't get a second set.

Rebecca is officially part of "the system"

The first 2 weeks are short day weeks with class running from 7:30 to 12:30, but after that it will be full time to 2:30 and she'll be on the bus home with Katherine.

Yesterday was her first day. She jumped up at the whispered "Time to get up for school" at 5:30 a.m. and was giddy with excitement. She looked so grown up in her yellow ISM polo and khaki skort, pulling her roller Barbie bag holding her brand new Power Puff lunchbox. OK, she's a walking consumer ad, but be comforted that she owns nothing else that is Power Puff related. Barbie, well, we won't go there.
So the rumbling bus came down the street at 6:30 and off the girls went amidst much giggling. Katherine promised that she would sit with Rebecca and from reports, she stuck to it. She even guided Rebecca to her classroom, apparently asking every student and faculty member in sight. The buses drop off right next to the playground, which is right next to the ECLC and preschool classrooms. It's not terribly confusing, so they did find it, and big sister released her to Ms. Cater before finding her own way to Ms. Bayly and 2nd grade.
When asking Katherine what the best things were in Kindergarten her first day, we had stories of recess and snack time. True to form, Rebecca told about center time, where she was able to choose her own activities and picked play-doh, painting and dress-up. What more could a kid want?
The boys and I went to pick her up at 12:30 for her first day, but today she took the bus home. There's a new bus company this year, and it's been taking the kids a full hour to get home. The school is barely 15 minutes away. Bus mothers come directly to the class room to pick up the bus kids which is very reassuring.
All in all, she had a great day. Today was "not a great day as yesterday." No free center time! The horror!

Saturday, August 9, 2003

We *heart* Netflix

It's the only way we can possibly attempt to keep up with video releases (forget going to the theater just yet, even though they are clean and very cheap). Ian watched "Once Upon A Time in America" and said it was slow and very long. Glad I missed it. Actually, I slept through it and periodically would wake up and ask if anyone had spoken yet. The TV was always silent. He also saw "Minority Report" and declared it passable but not great. Then we received "Signs" and "Vanilla Sky". General consensus was that we'd enjoy "Signs" much more, so we watched it first and were sorely disappointed. Talk about a blah story with a boring ending! Spoiler... couldn't the girl have at least been an alien? So I didn't have high hopes for "Vanilla Sky", only to find out that we both enjoyed it pretty well. Strange, but intriguing. I'd recommend it for an evening if you have nothing else to do.

Kindergarten (er... ECLC), here we come!

Friday, Rebecca and I hopped over to ISM to finish off getting her prepared for school.

Months ago, I'd been told that there was a New Student Orientation to go to, but discovered when we arrived 20 minutes late, that it was for grades 1-5 and not ECLC. Oh well, we had other stuff to do also, so this eased the morning rush a bit. Figured we'd check on the ID cards (not ready yet), and then stop by her classroom and meet her teacher. Ms. Cater knows Katherine, she taught a different first grade last year, but this year has been switched to ECLC. While Rebecca poked around the classroom a bit (they have a dress-up corner that she migrated to), Ms. Cater and I talked a bit about where we were from. Wouldn't you know, she's a '94 Master's grad from Marymount. She mentioned that I looked familiar but acknowledged that she hadn't been on campus much.
So who can believe that Rebecca is starting school? She was so ready last year, and now that she begins in 2 days, she's beyond excited to ride the bus and be a big kid. She'll be one of the older kids in her class, turning 6 in December. The first 2 weeks will be short days with school ending at noon and I still don't know if I need to pack her a snack or 2, or give her lunch during this time. We'll figure it all out and the first day I'll pack enough food for an army.
The next big step will be losing a tooth. She insists they are wiggling.
Anyhow, this will leave me home with the boys, and Nicholas will get to be the big cheese at home for a while. We have the option of putting him into preschool at AmeriKids for $120/mo (9-1:30 M-F), but I'm really looking forward to having him with me. Just 2 kids at home, how will we spend our days!?

Friday, August 8, 2003

Some good news, relatively

OK, so here where we are. We went to the hospital to pick up Katherine's blood test results (she was so brave at the hospital, I was so proud even though I told her it would be just fine to cry and say Ouch, she didn't shed a tear) and then walked across the puddles next door to the Makati Medical Center to visit with the pediatrician, Dr. Butler.

Now, I've heard horror stories about her, and in fact yesterday was warned by the Clinic doc that while she's great with kids she has no tolerance for parents. I steeled myself. We walked in and immediately Jonathon started in with "Toy! Toy!" as the waiting room had a stack of toys. Cool. We were brought right into the office with Dr. Butler and she took a look at Katherine's arm, pronounced her definitely positive (her test site measured 12mmX14mm and anything over 10mm is considered a positive reaction in moderate risk groups) and then we talked about what a positive reaction meant, what medication and how long, why medication, what the side effects are, what the follow-up care would be and what risks there were to others. The doctor was great. Down to earth, straight forward, answered my questions, helpful and reassuring.
A positive reaction means that Katherine was exposed and has been infected by tuburculosis. This doesn't mean that she has the disease.
She will be on a course of INH, isoniazid preventive therapy, for 6 months. It seems that there's a continuing discussion of the protocol length between 6 and 9 months. It's a single pill every morning.
Why should be take medication at all if she's just a carrier? TB is a slow and stubborn disease. At present, she is merely a carrier, but if left untreated she would have a 20% chance of developing the disease in the next 5 years.
The side effects are harsher on adults than kids, but the risk is there that the INH can affect her liver. Which is why a test was done to check her liver function as a base line and she'll be monitored monthly to make sure no damage is being done. There is a chance she could be allergic to the medication, showing up in a rash. If so, she'll stop taking it and be switched to an alternate.
She is not contagious. She does not have the disease so she cannot spread it. How did she get it? It's something that usually spreads through prolonged contact with individuals, but she has spent very little time with our housekeeper (and those of us who've spent more time are negative), who would be the greatest risk to our family. We'll never really know where it came from.
Katherine will be just fine.
(And so will I. Last night, I just wanted to cry about what she'll be going through, but I know that she's stronger than this. In the grand scheme I keep hearing "Oh, it's no big deal." It is for me, this is the first time one of my kids has been sick with something so out of my control and I can't help but think "If we had stayed in the States...")

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

It's been a long day.

We had our TB tests read today and while mine is red and sore, it was declared negative. Katherine was not so lucky. Hers measured 15mm across and it is sore, raised and red. We go tomorrow to the ped for a second opinion, but the general consensus in the clinic is that she has been exposed and will need to be treated. At the clinic she had x-rays taken of her lungs and we went to Makati Medical Hospital to have blood drawn for a CBC, a check on her liver function and a couple other tests. If the ped agrees with the diagnosis as we expect, we'll go back to the clinic to pick up her medication (INH primarily), which she will take daily for 9 months. There can be side effects of fatique, nausea and liver trouble. She will be monitored and checked regularly.

I should have expected this living in a country with a 50% disease rate in the population. I fervently wish it had been me instead of our little girl.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

I really don't want to see more of the Clinic

Monday morning we had our TB tests done. Monday night Rebecca came down with an ear infection that kept her awake a good part of the night, crying, tossing and moaning. So back to the clinic we trekked Tuesday morning and with an ear infection, a fever at the time of 102.8 and one side of her neck completely swollen (the nurse commented about Mumps, but let's not go there) she's on amoxicillin for 10 days and motrin as needed. The poor kid was shivering in the outdoor heat. As we were walking out the door, the nurse glanced at the TB test on my arm and I had a small red patch. She said there was a chance it would go away before the allotted reading time. Today, I took a look at all of ours. Ian, Jonathon and Nicholas are in the clear with little bruises where the shots were. Katherine and I are not so lucky. We both have swollen, sore, hot, red patches about the size of dimes. If my reading is correct, we'll have chest x-rays and be on a course of medication. Chances are good this is an exposure reaction and not the actual illness. Of course, all morning I've had trouble breathing, and have since the house was disease ridden with strep and whatever I had. So, either this TB test is telling me something, or I'm completely psychosymptomatic. Well, we'll find out tomorrow when we go, yet again, to the clinic. Rebecca will get her ears checked, and we'll all have our TB tests read.

If you have an extra prayer laying (lying?) around, send it on this way.

I've also asked our housekeeper to get her medical check updated.

Cebu Day 3

Sunday morning arrived much too quickly and as we listened to the church bells tolling and the roosters crowing around the city, we hemmed and hawed about going to Mass.

We’d already eaten breakfast and it was only 7:30 a.m. Our flight didn’t leave until 3 and check-out was at noon, so what else were we going to do until then? Ian wasn’t keen on the idea, but I’ve always found going to church in completely different environs a wonderful way to immerse neck deep into the culture. It only makes sense. St. Therese was down the street, so we crammed into a cab and took the 5 minute ride down, only to arrive 20 minutes early and wander around the open air church reading all the bulletins and newspaper clippings. A pastor came out and seemed a touch confused by our presence. He told us repeatedly that Mass would be at 9 and it would be in English, but the 10:30 Mass would be in Cebuano. We assured him that we were here to attend church at 9 and he seemed to accept that. I’m not quite sure what it was all about. But a few minutes before the service started, we took a pew only to discover after sitting down that a stray dog was napping underneath. That’s what you get for a church with minimal windows and wide open doors all around.
The music ended up being mostly English with an electric keyboard, and a mix of Cebuano and gospel touches. The homily was in English, except for every punch line (we’ve noticed that in newspapers too). Katherine did her best to pay attention but the woman next to her kept asking her questions which even she found distracting. After Mass we realized that we didn’t have a taxi home, but the weather was overcast and cooler than normal so we walked back to the hotel. Ian and I both commented that breathing in Cebu was so much easier than in Manila. The air was clear and bright, the traffic was bearable, there were actual sidewalks, and overall the pace in Cebu was much more pleasant.
The time arrived to check out of our hotel. The kids were sad we were leaving, they really do enjoy hotel living, but mom and dad were ready to get home and not move for a few hours. Even though we were gone all day Friday, we’d asked the housekeeper to come in and pick up so when we arrived back it would be to a relaxing, stress-free house. We picked up a few last minute souvenirs in the airport lobby and finally took our seats on the plane. Jonathon conked out before the snacks arrived and Katherine finally won a prize, for saying a tongue twister. Flying out of Cebu was amazing as we could finally see the city and the surrounding waters from the air. Wow, clear blue-green water and long reefs. It was gorgeous. We’ve promised ourselves that we will go on a beach and SCUBA trip at some point during our stay here. Afterall, the Philippines so have some of the best beaches and SCUBA sites in the world, how can we not see them?
I have to say that the kids did amazing for the whole trip. From getting up before the crack of dawn on day one to touchdown on day three, they were fantastic. Our family is a spectacle no matter where we go, and this was no exception. I was so thankful at the end of the trip that they had all behaved admirably. We certainly like an adventure.

Cebu Day 2 - The Tour

Saturday morning arrived and oops, we’d forgotten to order breakfast the night before. Well, we thought we were supposed to order room service. We discovered Sunday at check-out that the buffet downstairs was our meal and would have been great, but we survived just fine with full meals delivered right to the room.

It might help the hotel a bit to either leave something in the room that says these helpful tidbits, or at least mention it on check-in. Oh well, no harm done, and we set out on our day long adventure with full stomachs.
The first stop with our guide, Litoy, was Beverly Hills. Barangay Beverly Hills was home to the Taoist Temple and it was a gorgeous structure. We climbed the moss covered steps, passed the replica of the Great Wall and took in the view from the terraces. The buildings themselves were true works of art and inside they were stunning as well. There was a turtle pond and a little cave that Litoy said housed a giant snake (but later admitted he was kidding). Inside, Katherine was interested in the kidney shaped wooden blocks used in prayer so we read the directions for their use. Once you are spiritually prepared, hold the blocks in front of you on flattened palms. Ask your question and drop the blocks. Depending on how they land (both on the curved side, both on the flat side, or one of each), there is your answer. Each position either means Yes (you asked a good question and that’s the answer), No (No, or you asked your questions poorly, or you need to go out and prepare better before asking the question again), or Maybe (your question is unclear, rephrase, clarify, simplify and ask again). If you’re like us, it’s reminiscent of using a Magic 8 Ball. Katherine really wanted to try them out, but while it may seem like Magic 8 Ball to us, to the Taoists this is their faith and we weren’t about to let the kids go and play with their religious tools. In order to help the kids understand when disappointment crossed their faces, I told them that while it wouldn’t do any true harm to handle the blocks, it could be offensive. Consider this, someone walks into our church, takes down a cross and begins playing with it like a sword. Is anyone going to get hurt? Most likely not, but you’re going to offend those who believe in the sacredness of that item. I think they understood.
We did allow each child to light a joss stick (aka incense) and place it in the ashes urn to burn down. The intense scent and curling smoke, hushed voices and cool breeze through the open doors enveloped us. Watched over by breathtaking painted and sculpted dragons it was easy to see how believers would find respite and peace in this amazing place.
When it was time to depart we hated to leave, but there was more to see in Cebu and the surrounding areas. We were off to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine. Our guide had warned us that it would be quite a hike and we readily agreed without a clue of what we were getting into. He took us off the paved road into a village and at the end of the muddy strip, there was a set of stairs that led straight down into the valley. As we exited the car and stepped nimbly around the puddles, we were called back. Some of Litoy’s friends had appeared out of the woodwork and informed him that a new road was complete and could give directions. Four grown men piled into the front row seats and we backed our way out. Up and down, around twists and turns we drove for 10 minutes (what a walk this would have been) to a little shrine in the side of one of the hills. It was recently designed into an outdoor chapel, but the original shrine is in the cave where a relic was discovered ages ago. I wish I’d recorded the actual story to get the facts straight, but it went something like this. There was a relic in Spain. A copy was made and brought to the Philippines. During yet another battle between the Spanish and the locals, it was hidden in the cave to keep it from being destroyed. The relic was forgotten. Ages later, a wild chicken hunter was wandering the hills and came upon the cave and the relic within. Now the cave is considered a holy place and masses are held there. In fact, just as we arrived, they were preparing for the 9 a.m. Mass so we couldn’t wander in and take photos. It was a serene place and once the Mass began, it echoed with the deep sounds of Cebuano Catholic worship.
We escaped the twisty roads of the Cebu hills and arrived back in the city where we did a driving tour of the Provincial Capital building (with a quick stop to see the statues of LapuLapu and Osmena) and we drove down the oldest road in the Philippines, Colon Street. As we approached Katherine commented that yes, it must be the oldest “Because the street lines are so very faded.”
The Cebu Cathedral was our next stop. Being a Saturday, we couldn’t take pictures because of the wedding in progress. The girls really wanted to watch for a bit and it didn’t seem to offend anyone as a majority of the people in the church were dressed as we were. It later became apparent that we were all interlopers. The actual guests and wedding party were dressed beautifully with women on one side in cream colored gowns, men on the other in formal barongs and the wedding party on the sides. We didn’t stay very long and instead headed over to the Basilica Minore de Santo Nino, the oldest church in the Philippines, built by Legazpi (the guy who founded Manila) in 1565 and considered the seat of Christianity in the country. It’s named after the relic presented to Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon (who later converted to Christianity) by Magellan in 1562, a statue of the infant Jesus in full royal robes.
It was very dark inside both from lack of lights but also from the blackened walls. I can only imagine they came as a result from all the hundreds of candles lit for personal intentions each day. While one side of the courtyard was being lit up, on the other side men were working to scrape up huge gobs of melted wax for future candles. Several signs along the walls warned of pick-pockets and with the throngs of people, it was no surprise. There was also a spring within the walls where the faithful lined up to fill bottles with holy water.
Walking out the back gates, Magellan’s Cross. He planted the cross on the shore on 21 April 1521 and was killed 27 April 1521, but not before planting his cross, have Mass celebrated and getting 400 locals baptized. The cross was partially destroyed but restored 40 years later and is now encased in a protective cross and stored in a small open air gazebo. The ceiling is painted with images of Magellan’s landing.
All around the plaza were vendors or religious artifacts and handmade guitars. Cebu is known (at least on this side of the world) for the quality of their guitars, and Ian was swarmed with young and old as he pulled out his wallet to purchase an instrument of his own. He originally wanted a bright blue one, but I talked him out of it and now wish I hadn’t. Blue would certainly be a topic of conversation. We walked off with a new guitar and case, and a hoard of beggars. It’s so difficult explaining to kids why we can’t give out money to everyone without seeming heartless.
Fort San Pedro is the oldest and smallest riangular fort in the Philippines. While it wasn’t completed until 1738, ground was broken by Legazpi in 1565 and since its completion it has been used as a stronghold by every occupying force. There was a small museum with bits from the galleon San Diego and a guard/guide who was more than willing to expound on each display case as best he could. After, he was kind enough to take a family picture, the only one of our trip.
Next stop was the Family Park. What a wonderful break. No crowds to jostle, no telling the kids to hush and nothing for us to explain or worry about breaking. Just a huge open area with swings and slides and see-saws all around the perimeter, and the kids ran and played. Oddly enough, in the trees on one end of the playground, was a mini-zoo. Ian didn’t get to go with us to the Manila Zoo but I had explained what we saw. Now he saw it first hand. Monkeys kept in cages the size of end-tables. Birds with barely enough room to stretch their wings. Deer, civets, and other creatures all cramped. Lunch for all the animals was fried chicken. The kids thought it was fascinating.
After a good stretch of our legs, it was time to think about lunch. Actually, we’d been thinking about it for a good long while, so we crossed the Mactan Bridge to LapuLapu City and found the memorial to the local hero. This statue was even bigger and cooler than the first and he was Nicholas’s favorite for the whole trip with his gigantic sword. LapuLapu (Kolipulako) is the guy who led the first successful attempt to push back European domination. He was the Muslim leader from the area south of Cebu and had no intention of recognizing the sovereignty of Spain or the Christian faith. Read more about him at
Jonathon had fallen asleep as we were crossing the bridge and had stayed asleep in the sling at this stop, so we decided it was definitely time for food. Next door to LapuLapu was the chic restaurant Manna Sutukil. It’s the sort of place where you place your order from the piles of dead creatures in front of you, and then find a seat where food is delivered to the table. Being on an island, the fare was entirely seafood which really irked Rebecca. There was an option of calamari which didn’t offend her too badly, so we requested a plate to share along with some prawns the size of our hands. The meal was eaten off banana leaves and served with soup, piles of rice and a green vegetable we couldn’t quite pinpoint. It looked almost like seaweed but there were little gelatinous balls instead of leaves. I took a taste and pronounced it very “green” until our guide suggested we try it with the vinegar sauce provided and then it was downright tasty. Not something to have at every meal, but definitely worth it.
Jonathon woke part way through the meal and we enjoyed the view and the breeze and the live harp music. It was a relaxing, wonderful meal and both Ian and I were thrilled to have local Filipino fare that was delicious. I truly believe now that it is Manila’s food that has no direction. The food in the big city is confused. With so many influences working against each other, nothing tastes quite edible.
With no room for an immediate dessert, we departed for our last destination, The Top. The Top was, of course, the highest point on Cebu and we were literally in the clouds looking down on the city, the water and our hotel which appeared as a toy castle. The quiet, the cool breeze, no bugs, it was time for some ice cream. A perfect way to end our tour.
At the hotel we paid the car company the P2000 for the day along w/ an extra P500, just because. And we tipped our guide P500 which seemed like the least we could do for a full day tour. Total cost to us, $60. For this, he hugged Ian and kissed all the kids and left a very happy man.
If you can imagine it, all day long what the kids looked forward to most was swimming. So while mom and dad were completely exhausted, we changed into our suits and hit the pool along with all the kids from a 6 year old birthday party held in the same courtyard. Not only was there a little kid pool that Jonathon could be comfortable in, but the bigger kid pool had a water slide. The last of their energy was sapped. Finally! But still we trekked down to the Port restaurant and had ordered another seafood meal, this time with the distinctly Filipino flare of pancit and pineapple fried rice along side our salmon and lapu-lapu. None of the kids ate. We trekked back up to our room and everyone passed out.

Cebu Day 1

Yes, it's taken a while to put this up. Sorry!

Cebu – It’s a smallish island down in the middle of the Philippine archipelago and I do believe we’re the only people who can go to a little spot of land in the middle of a sea, and not go to the beach.

With a departure flight at 7 a.m., we awoke to the 4:30 buzz of the alarm and shook the children awake in the dark. A 5:30 shuttle pick-up dropped us off at the domestic airport which consists of 2 large rooms (one that holds the ticket counters, the other the waiting room with the 4 gates of double glass doors to awaiting buses). There are 6 steps before you can get from one room to the other with too many people at each step watching and double checking that everything is going right. It goes something like this… have bags scanned before entering building, stop at ticket counter and get boarding passes, stop at airport fee desk, stop at desk to make sure you’ve paid airport fee, go through another x-ray machine, get checked again to make sure you have boarding pass… exit to waiting room.
From taking the bus to the plane on the tarmac to getting snacks and playing games on the plane, it was all good. And I’m not kidding about the games, as on the flight out we were asked questions about the Philippines. The only one I knew was the first “What’s the 3rd largest English speaking country” but I was joking with Katherine and said Canada, so she whipped up her hand and said Canada and was… wrong! D’oh! Oh well, she didn’t win a prize on the way to Cebu.
The flight was uneventful but for the realization that I should have insisted that Jonathon have his car seat. He was wriggling all over and in my attempts to buckle and tighten he figured out the clasp and found it quite amusing that he could unbuckle anytime he felt like it. In retrospect I should have had Ian sit with him since he insisted not only on buying him a seat for a 1 hour flight, but also on not bringing the car seat to restrain him. Oh well, live and learn.
We arrived at the lovely Cebu International airport right on time and in the rain so we didn’t get to see much of the island or the surrounding waters on the descent. A “car” was waiting for us and Ian commented it was the first time that there was someone waiting in the lobby holding up a sign with his name on it. It was amusing. So we took the cab from Lapu-Lapu City over the Mactan Bridge to the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel where we checked in, Ian went to work in the Consular Office downstairs and the kids and I got comfy in the Lobby with our bags. See, when you arrive at 9 a.m. and rooms aren’t available until 2 p.m. there’s a bit of a wait. I had my big backpack and a suitcase and 4 kids. And no paper and crayons. How did I manage to forget coloring supplies? Well, I had brought some sticker books and reading books, so for about an hour we got cozy. There were some shops, we went window shopping and found a restaurant for dinner. By 11 we were hungry enough and bored enough to get some lunch. The kids were so good but by 12:30 we were worn out and I decided that enough was enough and we were getting a room. And after a little haggling, we did. An “Ambassador Suite” that was just barely big enough for all of us, but we were thrilled. Jonathon could nap, the kids could watch TV and I didn’t have to drag the bags around anymore. By 4 we were better rested and went down to the office to pick up Ian. Well, for a slow work place, we perused the periodicals and political library for about an hour before his work was completed. It wasn’t all for naught. Ian’s co-worker asked what we had planned for Saturday and honestly, we had nothing planned. I’d bought a map earlier in the day and figured we’d pick two or three places that looked interesting and just catch cabs around town. Instead, he told us about this friend of his (ah, yes) who had a car company and could provide a day long tour. Because we’d need a van, it would cost a little more, but we jumped on the idea. For the hefty sum of $40, we had a van, a tour guide driver and a full day of attractions planned. How cool is that?
Dinner that night was at La Gondola in the hotel. The food was amazing. My meal was breaded Lapu Lapu (a kind of whitefish, akin to a grouper), Ian had salmon while the kids split pasta and pizza. Rather than sit longer for dessert, we stopped by the bakery shop in the lobby and picked out several personal sized cakes to share up in the room. Oh, they were so good. Then we faced the task of finding space for everyone to sleep. The hotel room came with a king sized bed. We asked for a twin cot which the girls would share, but that left the boys. The “couch” was just the right size for Nicholas, so we took the cover off the twin and folded it like a sleeping bag for him, while giving the girls the king sized cover. Hmmm. Jonathon. What to do with Jonathon. He hadn’t slept in a crib for 4 months but it was the only idea I could come up with. I figured we could just take the mattress out and set it up on the floor. Well, the crib that arrived was about 50 years old and had a ½ flip down side. And the mattress, while huge, was very thin and in extremely poor condition. OK, change of plan, leave the mattress in the crib, fold down the half side but push up the coffee table so he wouldn’t feel like he was trapped in there, and voila, everyone was happy. In fact, there wasn’t a single complaint about bedtime. The all conked out and so did we.

Sunday, August 3, 2003

Ups and Downs, Part 2

After that first bit of venting, I figure I should mention some great stuff that has been going on in the past few weeks. If you've noticed in the list of links, there's a new one called Flashback ASN.

I went to middle school at the American School of Niamey in western Africa. It was the most amazing time of my life. I was in a class of 12, the school held about 130 total and our group included the kids from grades 5-9 (everyone in our class had siblings so we all stuck together).
Over the years, I've kept a handful of my friends linked up, first by snailmail and now entirely by e-mail. Living in the DC area has definite benefits for friends such as these, just about everyone has to hit the East Coast at sometime, either to live or in transit. It's a remarkable city. Google has been invaluable also, though the information tends to be outdated and it's more hit and miss. Knowing people in other countries seems to help some too. An on-line buddy lives in Canberra, and I'd lost track of Peta Fussell years ago. So I asked Suzanne to look in her phone book and wouldn't you know, there was a single Peta Fussell listed. She actually called her up and Peta is now back in our fold. It gets even better, because we will be in Sydney/Canberra next spring for our RnR.
But, the ASN website guestbook has been the best resource. One by one I've been picking new e-mail addresses off there and building a list and a few weeks ago, Patricia Coulter-Schiller (my best friend in the day) sent out a mini-quiz to the list to get update on where everyone was, what they were doing, marriage, kids, hobbies, etc. It got the ball seriously rolling. Henry Cowie offered to make a website for all of us and it's just wonderful to watch it develop. New alum who have been found are pulling out information for other alum. We're sending in recent photos as Henry scans our old yearbooks.
We still have a large list of the missing. The hardest to track down are of course the girls who've gotten married and moved away. It's impossible to find a Kimberly in Saudi Arabia or a Stacey in the South somewhere. But we have enough links to people to be able to work our way down the list.
And maybe, just maybe, we can get ourselves together to get a reunion going in summer 2005. At least, I hope they do 2005 because I'll be back in the States then!

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Up and Down Days

It's been one of those weeks. Some days have been busy busy and we've had fun and enjoyed ourselves.

Ian went flying for the first time yesterday and brought back some bread from Bulacan (I'm a carb junkie), the kids have been pretty good, the weather has been good, I talked to my parents yesterday and my dad is home and sounding sore but recovering, school is starting soon, I've met another mom who went to Annandale High School and graduated a couple years before me, I've been feeling more together and in general life is going along smoothly.
Then last night I was looking through some posted photos and found a bunch of links to weblogs of folks I've been acquaintances with for 7 years, so I spent time reading through some of them. It made me feel so sad. These folks all know each other, hang out together, help each other out. They write messages on other blogs so authors know they're reading. They laugh, joke, talk about their kids. They comp each other and thank their friends for being in their lives. They have a community. I felt really alone.
I've done this to myself before. Get all worked up and then fall into a short-term depression bemoaning everything they have that I'm not a part of... the friendships, the compassion, the understanding, the shoulders to lean on. I get upset and ask "Why not me? Why aren't I ever included? I'm part of the same on-line community, why don't they ask me anything? Why am I left out, an uninvited one?" Even when I lived on the East Coast, I was never part of the group.
Usually that just leads to a crying jag about how lonely I am and how I have no friends, but not this time. I've left before but always slunk back. It's like I'm trying on different personas and different levels of involvement to see what would be accepted, and none are. It's time to quit that nonsense.
I looked at the big picture. Many of them have known each other for much longer than I have known any of them. I was several states away at the closest, so it's not like inviting someone from the town next door. I'm not a fuzzy warm giving person on-line. Simply put, I'm not a *hugs* giver. I have very little in common with them. I guess over the years I'd expected that to be a point of interest, but it seems that folks really do search out like individuals. I've tried to offer other viewpoints but I'm seeing now that those were probably seen as jamming my views into other people's faces.
I think the hardest part is losing the folks we thought we were closest to when we did live nearby. There were a few. Even those people have dropped us. Out of sight, out of mind does apply.
I shouldn't be hurt that people haven't invited me into their lives. Proximity does play a huge role and I will accept that. When we go back to the East Coast, I don't expect anyone outside my family to notice.
This all sounds like I'm begging for attention doesn't it? Actually, I think I'm finally coming to grips that what I was hoping for won't exist there, and it's time to move on. The lifestyle we have doesn't open itself to long-term friendships, people are either just arriving or just leaving. But while we're here, we have fun. The shoulder thing will have to wait.