Saturday, September 27, 2003

First solo flight

I did my first solo flight this morning.

After doing three takeoffs and landings with my instructor, then an unplanned go-around (from my point of view, my instructor yelled out "Go around, NOW!" when I was about 100 feet up off the runway), he got out. Without his weight, which is barely 130, I'd guess, the plane leaped off the takeoff. I flew around the pattern and landed smoothly.
Then the traditions... I bought a meal for the tower controller, and a case of beer each for the firemen. Now, I'm told, they'll put me out if I crash on the runway. I had wings pinned to my shirt, and the instructor and several of the school's staff and students dumped creek water over my head as I knelt beside the propeller.
They said I would have "diplomatic immunity" from their other tradition, the instructor urinating into the water first. I hope I'm not jinxed for missing that.
Check here for pictures.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Well, last weekend seems dull compared to yesterday, but anyhow...

9/24/03: Last weekend was still fun, so here's what we did.

Friday night, Ian and I went out. We scrapped the overnight stay at the Manila Hotel, even though it was a freebee. It wasn't worth it with the way Nicholas handled our evening out last time, and this time he still gave the housekeeper a bit of a hard time, though no more screaming. I think he was better prepared and I kept reassuring him that when he woke in the morning we would definitely be there. If I couldn't say that, I'm not sure he would have let us leave the house.
So, Ian auctioned off the hotel room to the highest bidder. In this case, it was the guy who offered several loaves of homemade bread. What has happened to us that bread will now beat out $50 or babysitting in a heartbeat?
And off to the movies we went. "Pirates of the Caribbean" was so much better than I anticipated. If the pirates weren't quite so scary, I'd let the kids watch it. It was funny, action-packed, great music, no one died (ok, well, that's a bit of a stretch), just those dang pirate ghost zombie creatures. I think the monkey freaked me out enough. Two thumbs us, and we'll probably buy it on DVD. Two thumbs up for the theater at Greenbelt also. Even better because the volume wasn't set as high as at Powerplant. My ears weren't bleeding, hurrah!
Following the movie was dinner at Nu-Vo, a cleverly shortened name standing for Nuevo Vogue. Ah, so chic. Dinner was amazing and for around P1800 we each had a salad (mine was crabmeat, avocado, mango and more yummy stuff), Ian ordered a lamb dish and I had a "tower" of asparagus stuffed with cheese, scallops and prawns. It was so so good. And look, no bile.
We couldn't leave before checking out the bathroom. No, I'm serious. Folks from the Embassy have eaten here and they comment on the bathroom. So we did our duty and went. In fact, it's quite clever, as there are no sinks and the faucets stick out of the wall like misplaced piping over a flat counter. Turn the head of the pipe, water pours out, and flows backwards off the counter into the wall and disappears. Ah... SO chic! OK, enough with the cleverness of the bathroom, the rest was typical and thankfully had toilet seats and paper.
With a little free time left, we wandered the shops, bought some pastries for dessert later in the evening at home, and balked at the $80 Calvin Kline jeans.
We got home right on time, and heard the details about the kids. All had gone well, and we'll hopefully get to do this regularly. Afterall, the movie tickets were $5. Total. Too bad we missed The Matrix: Reloaded when it was out, but we won't be missing the next one. Of course, our next evening won't be a fun one as we're invited to the Ambassador's residence on Monday, but that will hopefully be quick and painless. And done before the kids go to bed.
So Saturday rolled around (oh yes, the pastries were excellent!), and we ran some errands, including finding the only pet store around to buy the single can of kitten food, getting Ian's eyes checked at an optometrist and ordering new glasses. In fact he bought 2 full new sets since his left eye is going wonky and his frames broke. I guess it was time.
After dinner we all went to the playground for a bit to let the kids run off some energy, only somehow it ended up being just us at the park, and we all got roped into a game of freeze-tag at dusk. The kids had a ball and I remembered why I hate running. So how did we end up playing it again Sunday evening only now with a bunch of other kids in the mix? I don't know. I guess we were just all having fun. Or maybe it's just hilarious tagging Nicholas and hearing him scream "HELP!" as he waits patiently for someone to unfreeze him.
Sunday was church of course, and Katherine has taken a keen interest lately in the parts of the Mass so throughout we were chatting about what the priest was doing and what the different parts of the Mass were. Rebecca has been following along in her Mass coloring book too, and I'm very glad to see that as she's had little interest in church until now. I think that a young adult missal is definitely a gift for Katherine's First Communion. Now to see if such a thing exists. She has her own missal, which is perfect for now to help her follow along and know the responses, but it doesn't cover anything about the readings and doesn't explain as much as she wants to know about the Mass. She enjoys my missal, but it's thick and has loads of other stuff in it that bogs down the basics of the Mass. I'm on the hunt.
After naps, we went to Tesoros, a handicraft store. Ian wanted to get my birthday present. Yes, my birthday was 2 months ago, but he said I could pick an inlaid box and I hadn't had the opportunity to find one I liked. There were 2 in the shop, but neither completely grabbed me. On the other hand, there were gorgeous mother of pearl trunks (for twice the price) that I might consider sometime in the future. While I passed on the box for now, Christmas shopping has commenced and we've purchased for Ian's mom and brother and started other people, as well as getting plenty of ideas. The store carried some gorgeous daggers from Batangas. The real draw for us was that the sheaths were wooden and the blades almost silky. Just lovely and now we have 2 for our fledgling collection. Ian insists that they are necessary, for home protection of course.
One completely off-the-wall purchase I made was a Christening gown. Completely ridiculous actually, as we have no plans for additional children. But I just couldn't pass it up. Made of the fine banana fiber that formal barongs are designed with, I bought a long gown complete with cap and booties. I have no idea why or who will ever use it, but now it's mine. I'll have to take a photo and put it up to show you.
The kids in bed after another evening of freeze-tag, I got to watch the start of the new Survivor season. Woohoo! Pearl Islands, I am here. Of course, the very beginning was missed with bedtime stuff, but it was all good and Ian took notes. I *heart* Survivor.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

So that's where the ER is!

9/23/03 - Katherine, Katherine, Katherine. Need I say more?

Did it really take this long to find out where the ER at Makati Med is located? Amazing. And yet, no one should be surprised that it was Katherine who made the discovery necessary.
After a longish morning out at the AWCP bazaar with Laura, Jonathon finally fell asleep on the drive home, an hour late (noon) for his nap. We arrived home, nuked some food for lunch and just as Nicholas and I were settling down to watch The Phantom Menace, my cell phone rang.
I'd been expecting to hear from the Speech Therapist for Nicholas, so when the woman introduced herself as so-n-so from the ISM Clinic, no red flags popped up. Then the words "We have Katherine here...
Her fingers were slammed in a door"
"Are they broken?"
"We don't know. We are taking her to Makati Med for x-rays, can you meet us there?"
"I'm on my way."
I called Ian, told Nicholas to turn off the TV, scooped up sleeping Jonathon and back in the car we went. Traffic was miserable, and I learned that you cannot get to Makati Med from Ayala. Oh no that would make too much sense for a hospital to actually be accessible from the roads around it. Every break in the island has a No Left Turn sign and/or No U-Turn. Forget that, I turned left at a light after I'd already missed the hospital entrance. Ack! I found myself on a perpedictular road that not only has the No **Turn signs, but traffic cops too. There went the hospital behind me, until I found a break that had the sign but no men in the road and I forced my way into the opposite traffic, crossing over a set of railroad tracks. OK... now I know to always take Pasay if I want to actually go to the hospital instead of just cursing it as I drive steadily past.
Another little prayer said when we enter the parking lot and I was thrilled to find several spots available. Which left the task of actually finding the Emergency Room. I knew where the old ER was and the front entrance from when we were here for Katherine's TB tests, but the actual ER? No clue.
Thankfully, it was even closer to the parking lot than the front entrance. With an outdoor waiting room. I'm not kidding. Rows of chairs, outside, next to the outdoor triage closet, with a desk in front of the doors manned by a guy who would not let me in unless I had a patient with me, but couldn't tell me if my daughter had already arrived. The triage nurse seemed to have a bit more of a clue and said that she wasn't there, so we took some seats to wait. Not 5 minutes later, an ambulance was backing its way to the ER doors and my little blondie popped out, pale, serious, scared, on the verge of tears with her left arm tied to a board and her fingers wrapped in a pound of bandages.
Next to her in the ambulance were two ISM clinic nurses and oddly enough, another little girl a couple years older, who had an entire arm wrapped.
I sat to fill in papers, and Katherine was taken to an ER bay where we quickly followed. The other girl shared our bay and the ISM nurses stayed with her as her parents hadn't arrived. I was so upset for her and with her. I know that Katherine would have been so frightened if I wasn't there when she arrived, and to see this child laying on her hospital bed with no parents there was heart-breaking. It was good that we were in the same bay, but when the x-ray team came for Katherine and the other girl's parents still hadn't arrived, I was torn. Yes, the ISM folks were there, but it still felt like abandoning her. Katherine was x-rayed and by the time we returned, her parents had arrived, thank goodness, though after her x-ray we learned that she had indeed broken her arm and was still in so much pain. She would be there longer than we were.
Down the hall to the x-ray room and back, and we saw that Katherine had fractured her middle finger on her left hand. The bandages were taken off and I finally saw the mess her fingers were in. OK, this was not my shining moment. The room got very hot, I started to sweat and everything got a little darker than it should have. I dumped my backpack, put Jonathon on the floor, whipped out our water bottle and tried to get some air from further into the ER room to avoid passing out.
OK, my own little crisis over, Katherine layed on the bed and had her hand cleaned, followed by the exam by the doc. OK, so the middle finger was fractured and purple, what of the other 2 damaged fingers? At first, it seemed that the entire nails had been broken and flipped up from under the skin and were laying on top, being held on by the skin on the sides. After being numbed (the absolute worst part, if Katherine's reaction was any indication), and some clipping to try to return the nail to its proper place, we discovered that the nails hadn't actually been flipped up... they had been completely bent and destroyed with the impact of the door, and the skin covering the nail bed had been entirely ripped off. *sigh* The nails will die and fall off, and hopefully new nails will come in properly and the skin will repair itself. She'll be on amoxicillan and motrin for a while.
I had been keeping Ian updated by cell, and he went home so that Rebecca wouldn't be left standing on the doorstep or stuck at school. We did make it back just after 3, and spent the rest of the afternoon retelling the tales of the day.
It's going to be a long recovery of many weeks.
Some other notes about the ER. I had situated the boys in a corner on a blanket with a pile of cookies, some lollipops, gum and coloring stuff. Who knew how long we would be. But when I picked up Jonathon from the floor, his legs were red and splotchy. Almost as though he'd been bitten by a dozen little bugs or contracted a funky disease. Who knew what was on that floor *shiver*. Thankfully the spots were gone by the time we went home.
After Katherine's hand had been patched up, an orderly came by to sweep up around the bed. A gauze had fallen from the box used for her fingers, and he picked it up and put it back in the box. This is an ER, right? Remember Jonathon's legs? *shudder*
An ER is not a place for children (who aren't sick). Especially not one where everyone is crammed into too small an area and young eyes are introduced to aged people being pumped, infants being IVed while screaming, people shivering under thin sheets and giant bandages on the old and the young.
And to think that tomorrow I was supposed to go on a CLO tour of the various floors in Makati Med. I cancelled.
Ah, one more thing. Before leaving, I had to pay the cashier. As we were waiting, I was figuring how much cash I had and if it wasn't enough I checked to make sure they took credit cards (they do). Grand total for the ER visit, the suture kit and the x-ray?
P1850. About $36.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Nick-O-As can say BooK

Nick-o-as can say book, but we're still calling in reinforcements.

It's time to look into alternatives for helping Nicholas with his speech. I'm not cutting it and he's just not making the progress he should have by 3 1/2 years old. When he did finally start to talk, we didn't correct his language for fear of discouraging his use of words. But now, that has backfired to a point. His pronunciation is terrible and his grammar is worse. We have finally reached a point where hearing "me yes" and "I" run 50/50 but it's been over a month to get this far. It is taking days to get a single word pronounced properly, like booK vs booT. There is a speech specialist at the school but she's only for the students enrolled at ISM. Of course, I'll be calling her outside and will hopefully either work with her or get an alternate recommendation.
He does have a fabulous sense of humor though, proclaiming things his favorite (My Beh-It!) or so funny (Dat So Moooonnney!).
He's doing well manipulating the mouse and going through computer games, zipping through Freddi Fish and Pajama Sam after watching his sisters play them. He also enjoys Blue's 1-2-3, Elmo in Grouchland, MathBlaster and Reader Rabbit Phonics. For Christmas he'll receive the new Finding Nemo game.
The other day I wrote down his name and we were talking about the letters and how they compared to Jonathon's name. He still feels it unjust that Jonathon gets 2 Os and 2 Ns to his own 1 of each. But he can recognize the difference between the 2 names. And he practiced writing his own string of Ns, Hs and group of Os. Mixing all the cards up, he got them right. So we added Mommy and then Daddy and he got them right too. A bit of sight recognition can go a long way! Thanks to some recent Manila arrivals, Laura and Ryan Koch, we are also currently small letter magnet enabled, so we'll be having lots of fun this week. Thanks!

What Jonathon is up to

Computer, tricycles and diapers, oh my!

Finally, Jonathon can pedal his tricycle. Of course, it goes faster if he just pushes himself along the ground with his feet, but he can pedal and practices around the house. It's so cute to watch his little legs go.
He has been introduced to computer games, but after several weeks still hasn't grasped the idea of the mouse leading the arrow on the screen. I don't recall it taking the other kids this long. I know he'll get it, but in the meantime it's frustrating that when the game doesn't go his way he shuts the entire computer down. Don't ask me how.
He's fully day trained to use the potty. Even for naps he can be left in underwear, but a night time diaper still gets wet. That's OK by me, I can handle changing a single diaper each morning.
And I'm sure there will be much joyful shouting on this one, he's weaning. Not quite there yet, but he's heading that way.
He's been really cranky for a couple weeks saying his mouth hurts, so it's 2 year molar time. That of course has been accompanied by a fluctuating fever, some nasty tummy reactions and an inability to take a joke. He's been napping early, from 11 to about 12:30 or 1:00.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Oh, Katherine

She's dropping Tae Kwon Do and I can't say that I'm surprised. If she had really taken to it, it would have been fine, but she didn't and so she'll drop it in favor of piano lessons. Once we find a teacher.

She's still enjoying after school chess. Last week she won against a 4th grader. This week she won against a 3rd grader. It has done loads for her self-esteem! She also attended her first CCD class and it seemed like the halls were teeming with ISM kids. I sure don't see all these kids in church! OK, OK, so there are loads of Masses, but still. Thankfully, she knows one of the girls in her class.
Girl Scouts hasn't begun yet. Her troop leader is in the States until October sometime, so we're hanging out until then. Another leader had hoped that we could combine troops for a while just to get things started, but our leader wasn't too keen on that idea. Rebecca did have her first Daisy meeting last week and was thrilled to finally start. She changed into her cousin's passed on Daisy uniform and everything. Which reminds me. I still need to get Katherine a Brownie vest and transfer all her patches. Why I didn't get her vest the first time, I'll never never know.
How is school going? Well, I need to talk to her teacher. Katherine is an extremely bright kid, but if she's not reminded over and over again, she forgets just about everything. And she brushes off what needs to be done. Last week I decided to let her do her homework on her own. She assured me it was done, and yet when she brought her homework home on Monday, I discovered that for the previous week she hadn't written her spelling word sentences, she hadn't studied her spelling words for her test (she got a 6/10) and she'd only done about 1/2 her math pages. I can tell you that this week was completely different. I explained to her what each day would entail. Monday she was to complete everything that she'd ignored previously. Tuesday, she was to study the spelling words she'd gotten wrong last week and was to write the sentences for this week, along with writing her science paragraph. Wednesday was off because of CCD. Then Thursday would be for studying all her spelling words for Friday's test.
She left her homework bag at school on Thursday. ARG! So I know that while all the other assignments were done, she'll probably do loudy on her spelling test again.
I do have to mention her Science paragraph though. Their current topic is weather, so she was to look for an article or picture that covered an aspect of weather. There was the recent typhoon in Korea on the front page of the IHT, but I told her that was probably going to be a common clipping for her class. So I flipped through some old National Geographic magazines and found a nifty short blurb on a lightning compilation of the world. We read through it and discussed the article and the map (just like her homework instructions said, I'm not doing her work for her!) and then she sat down to write her paragraph. She wrote about the most dangerous areas for lightning strikes, why people are scared of lightning, then she expanded to include some old information she remembered. She talked about how Thomas Jefferson used lightning to discover electricity! OK, I really wanted to correct her, but I refrained. This was her work and I was really pleased that she recalled some history that we hadn't discussed in a long time. Yes, she got the name wrong, but in my book, that's OK. She put an addendum on her paragraph on the basic safety rules of being around lightning. We hadn't talked about that either, so somethings are sticking in her brain.
Last week was the Open House. Ian went so I stayed home with the kids. He attended the 2nd grade portion mostly as the 2nd grade and ECLC programs were held at the same time.
In other news, Katherine has completed her first month of tb preventative meds. She had her first blood test last week as well and got herself so worked up. She was literally walking down the hall white as a ghost and practically in tears. We have a pretty decent phlebotomist though and once the needle was in, Katherine peeked out from behind her hand muttering "Hey, that doesn't hurt very much". The worst part was taking the needle out. But goodness, she's going to give herself ulcers!
I'm not really kidding that much either. There was an evening a few weeks back where we'd put the kids to bed, but Katherine kept getting up and going to the bathroom. After a few too many times, she came out of her room on the verge of tears, saying that earlier in the day she had lied to me. The child can not handle a falsehood and while I'm pleased that her conscience is so finetuned I worry that it's really going to make her sick. (I just wish her sister had gotten some of that, as Rebecca has no remorse over consistent heavy duty lying. Unless she gets caught of course, which is every single time.)

Monday, September 15, 2003

Bopis and Pomelo, and we're not talking about food.

9-15-03, Meet the cats: Last week a set of kittens arrived in our yard. We're not sure how they got there as Ian and I have our differing theories (He thinks mom cat moved them to our yard from elsewhere, then went off and died. I think someone found them in their yard, saw the white family across the street with the passel of kids and dropped them off. But anyway.) There were 5 that we found, 2 have ended up in our residence. Guesstimates are they about 5-6 weeks, give or take.

We had the mobile vet come out and take a look at them last Friday. They've had a deworming medicine and we feed them kitty milkshakes (1 cup milk + 3 egg yolks + dash of salt + tbsp oil) along with some Poly-Vi-Sol infant vitamins. We never gave our own offspring Poly-Vi-Sol, sheesh. They used to have terribly goopy eyes, a sign of a common viral infection that can be fatal to kittens, especially dehydrated, starving, sick kittens. You can still see the obvious signs in one of them. Honestly, we didn't expect them to survive the first night. The vet didn't seem all the hopeful either, but here they are. If they do survive, they'll get a second deworming in a week, and in a few months they'll get their vaccines and spay/neuter.
The black, orange and white one is Bopis. She's the healthier of the two as far as I can tell, probably because she was outgoing and took to the dropper right away. She's totally into being dropper-fed the milkshake and does the whole lunging with paws holding the dropper bit. Hopefully she'll figure out how to lap it from a bowl soon.
Pomelo is the orange and white scrawny one. In the beginning there was no way I was going to touch him. When I started feeding them, if I got too near to him he'd lash out with a hissing and a swat of a clawed paw. He didn't eat for 2 days while Bopis was chowing down and I really figured it would do him in. He's a tough guy though and by the time I agreed that we could keep them and give them a chance, he was too weak to put up much of a fight anymore. He started licking the drips out of the dropper. He never got ravenous about the milkshake, but he did try some of the kitten friskies we'd softened up. No luck yet finding kitten canned food, so I opened a tiny can of adult cat food. One sniff and he was growling while devouring. He'd even eat it directly from the bowl instead of off the spoon. Hopefully this will put some weight on him. His skin is stretched tight over his bones so he has a long way to go.
First they lived in a box in the carport. Currently, they are living in our small locked storage room off the kitchen. When we moved them into the house, the 2nd kitchen seemed like a good idea with the low cabinets as a natural semi-enclosed house for them. But there are 4 doors to the room and it's where the housekeeper goes in and out to her room, where she irons, stores supplies, etc. The kids could open the door from the main kitchen, which they often did. And two of the doors went to the outside. OK, I think you get the picture. It wasn't an ideal place for them. So, now they have the storage room, where it's warm, dry, not so big, everything is out of reach and the first step out is high enough that Bopis can't quite climb onto it yet, though she does try. This house is too huge and they are much too tiny to let them have the run of it any time soon. I know they'll get tired of being in the storage room, but it's for their own safety at this time. They need to put on a few pounds and be more self-reliant before being freed.
One cool thing is that they took to the litter box right off. Since they've had it, they've used it and there are no wayward messes. The litter is pretty cool actually. It looks like little clay balls. No dust, scoops easy and if they manage to flick some out, it's no problem to pop it back in (the box is small and is on a towel).
What do I think about all this? Well, when we first found them, I had all my reasons in order as to why there was no good reason to keep them. I just know you want to hear them so here they are...
1) Pets are expensive. Enough said.
2) Pets require a lot of time (especially sick, young pets) that I thought was taken up with raising 4 children.
3) Any pet will be -my- pet, and -I- do not want pets. Oh sure, -they- all want the animal(s), but when it comes down to it, who has to purchase all the supplies, who has to remind other people to do pet chores (or just do it myself), who has to take them to the vet, who has to monitor all the time the kids are with them, who has to make all the decisions?
3)We travel a bit. Pets are a trouble to deal with. When we leave on vacation we have to consider what to do with them. When we move posts, we have to deal with quaratines and 18 hour flights. We're planning driving cross-country... not with 2 cats we aren't.
4) Travelling with pets is stressful, on both parties. And there's always additional cost to flying an animal somewhere.
5) If we do take the cats with us to next post, what happens if vet care is even more questionable than here? And if we don't take the cats... ok, I won't think about the trauma there.
So why do we have them? I was 1 head battling 5 hearts.
What do the kids think? They think obvious kid thoughts on how cute the kittens are, and for the first few days it was all about hoping that mom would let them keep them. It actually came as a shock to the girls when I said yesterday that they were ours. They insisted that the kittens belonged to the mother cat and were still hoping that we could keep them (I've trained them well). When I told them that the mother had abandoned them and that we'd adopted them, they were wary at first, then thrilled when they realized that yes... the kittens are staying. Of course I still remind the kids all the time that the kittens are sick and there is a chance of them dying, but we're going to help and if they become OK, they can stay.
As long as everyone washes their hands after petting them. With soap.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Just call me Han

...cause I'm ready to Solo.

I arrived at the flight school office at 6 a.m., the earliest we've ever flown. Even over Manila the weather was great. Smooth air, nice and cool. We flew up to Plaridel and I was ready to do some landings. My instructor, Jay, had already said that I had a goal. Do three flawless landings in a row.
But there was something I didn't expect. The wind was going the opposite way.
You see, runways go both ways. A single airstrip headed toward 170 degrees would be called Runway 17. But in the opposite direction, it heads toward 350 degrees, and would be called Runway 35. The runway direction that goes into the wind is always used, since it's best to take off into the wind. Well, when I was in Plaridel before, the wind was always going north, so I'd use Runway 35. This time it was headed south, so Runway 17 was in use, the tower tells me.
This may not sound like a big deal, but I have a very tenuous grasp of the traffic pattern. I know the directional route, but landmarks are very important. In my mind, it generally goes like this.
1) Take off. 2) Climb to 300 feet 3) Retract flaps 4) Continue climbing, and head east at 500-600 feet toward the big Ralston Purina plant. 5) Continue on the downwind leg until the McDonald's Curly Fries roadside billboard is obscured by the left strut. 6) Turn left toward the billboard. 7) When perpendicular to the runway, turn on final leg to runway. 8) Land.
So everything was backwards. Still, I caught the pattern toward the Purina plant and headed on the base leg. Despite a very short final leg (meaning I was too close to the runway when I turned right to land, which meant I had to lose a lot of altitude and speed, which is not so easy to do at the same time), I landed smoothly. Then I did another.
When I took off for another attempt, the clouds opened up. It rained hard, like it does in the Philippines. Jay took control, did a 180, and put us back down quickly on the runway. Then we hung out at the bustling metropolis that is Plaridel, Bulacan Province, for about an hour.
After buying out about half of the baked goods in the sari-sari store, we took off again. (Sari-Sari is literally, "point-point." It's the Philippine version of a convenience store, a small rusting shack with all kinds of stuff. No English there, it took me forever to explain to the proprietor that I didn't want one package of bread rolls, I wanted all of them. With all of that, plus a drink for me and a drink and pack of cigarettes for Jay, the total was still 130 pesos, about $2.50. It took slightly less time to tell him I didn't want change for 200, he could keep it. Michele and I allay our guilt about the extremely low prices here by tipping high. We've made people dance before. Our driver in Cebu, after we tipped him, hugged me and kissed our children for the high tip.)
Anyway, we did a few more takeoffs and landings and I practiced go-arounds for when you are seconds away from landing and something goes wrong, like someone or something on the runway, or an in-flight problem. Essentially punch the throttle and keep going.
After returning to Manila, we had another bit of excitement. I turned to final approach at Manila Domestic, started pitching down to the runway, and noticed a really big Cebu Pacific DC-9 taxiing right into the exact spot where I was going to be in less than 30 seconds. (No, a DC-9 isn't that big. But anything between your little plane and the runway is huge at 80 mph.) I radioed the tower, saying simply, "Manila Tower, this is RP-C87 on short final Runway 13." Unsaid was, "Hey, you told me I could land there. Why the hell did you put a big speed bump full of jet fuel in my way?"
The tower told me to pull over and wait. (No, not really.) They said, "RP-C87, do right 360 on final." Which means they wanted me to do a little donut right where I was. Whatever, they're the tower. By the end, the DC-9 was out of the way and I put the plane down.
I am now approved for solo flight, which I'll be doing the next time I fly. We will drive to Plaridel and fly there. It's a big deal at the school. They'll pin wings on me and have a little party. The biggest part is dumping water on my head. As another flight school employee told me, "Water from the creek, with, how do you say, urine."
They warned me to bring a change of clothes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Like I don't have enough to think about

Just getting everything together in a reasonable fashion is enough to occupy my days. (I can't imagine if I were homeschooling too.)

So, the Girl Scouts troupes are forming. Only the Brownie leader is in the States for a few months with her son's surgery. So, looks like I'll be helping out with a combined troupe until she returns. I should go to the troupe leader meeting on Saturday morning to figure out what the heck it involves. The first meeting for the girls has been scheduled for Tuesday evening. Then there's the Daisy troup with their first meeting scheduled for afterschool on Friday.
Of course, today Katherine has Tae Kwon Do after school. I have to pick her up directly from there to go to the Medical Unit so she can get a refill and a blood test to check on her liver function. Followed immediately by picking up Ian at the Embassy. Then one of us will dropping the rest off at home in order to attend the ISM Open House. How one person is supposed to attend both the 2nd grade and ECLC room presentations, I don't know.
Add to that, a cat had kittens in our yard. Tuesday I collected 3 and called the FMO to pick them up. The kids never knew and that's how I wanted it. Wouldn't you know, Wednesday 2 more appeared, feistier than the first bunch. I boxed them, but still feeling guilty from the first batch, I'm totally confused. One is pretty mean, the other is cute and rather friendly. I know which one I'd keep, if I wanted to keep one at all. But the time, expense and logistics of owning a pet are all pushing me to Just Say No. Ian wants to keep one and take it to the vet. But who's going to have to take it? Me. Who's going to have to find cat litter and cat food? Me. Who's going to have to clean the box? Me (I won't let the kids do it, and I know Ian won't do it regularly... he didn't the last time we had a cat). Who's going to worry about taking care of the cat when we're not here? What about when we leave post? I'm not travelling cross-country for 2 weeks with a cat in the car. I don't want the additional hassle of looking for temp housing that allows pets. I don't want to worry about an animal messing up someone else's home.
All this and the guilt is the only thing holding me back. The kids would love a pet, I'd do something humanitarian (and not feel so heartless towards lesser creatures) and I just might grow to like it. Maybe.
I have to decide by this afternoon.

Monday, September 8, 2003

Keeping the kids busy, maybe too busy

Katherine 9/9/03 – Katherine started her after school activities this week. Yesterday was chess and she came home beaming. It seems she won her first game, playing against a 4th grader. She was deservedly pleased with herself and as parents, of course we were thrilled. Today is Tae Kwon Do and we’ll see how that goes. I really don’t think she knows what she’s getting into.

We realized that we really wanted her to take piano lessons as she has an excellent ear and has begun picking out church tunes and playing music with both hands that actually makes sense. But there’s just no time around what she already has scheduled. Ian and I are secretly hoping she’ll ask to drop TKD, but I don’t know if we’re being realistic. This will still allow us to search for a piano teacher for Rebecca. If we are going to a French speaking post next, which is most likely, we’ll also be looking for a French teacher for the kids.

I still need to register for Brownies and Daisies. The Brownies troop forming here in the village is small and will be lead by someone we know. She's out of the country for a bit, so it seems that another mom and I will be starting up the troop over the next few weeks until the real leader returns. I have no clue!

I know this isn't sane

How is it possible to have 4 children and yet not feel complete? How often does a mom of 4 do a quick count walking out the door, and yet feel that everyone isn't there yet?

How frustrating.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

Diaper Free in 2003?

Jonathon 9/5/03 – It seems that Jonathon is well on his way to potty-training. Seriously this time. He’s been naked trained for a while but didn’t stop to think when he had anything on his bottom. Now he wears underwear even out of the house and around town, but for the times he’s sleeping. And even after waking after nap he’s pretty dry. Can’t tell you how proud I am of him, and he just turned 2 last month! Having 3 older siblings certainly helped in that respect and the warm weather doesn’t hurt either. I don’t expect him to be night-trained for a while and that’s just fine with me.

When this is complete, it's going to be strange for a while. I've had a baby (or 2) in diapers for 7 1/2 years.

An observation or two

A few more observations – What are the pots for in the bathrooms? Ian mentioned one evening, thinking maybe I had a clue, that in the restrooms at the Embassy there are long handled pots. Can anyone enlighten us? When he brought it up I could honestly say I didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. Now of course, I see them everywhere. When we stopped at the Medical Unit restroom, there it was. When I went to a neighbor’s house, there was a sort of watering can. At the nearby McDo there’s a complete sprayer set-up. What gives? The only thing we came up with was a rudimentary bidet. But can we get a collective “ew” for that idea? It’s bad enough having to work around toilets with no seats and the absence of paper (unless you’re prepared and either pack some along or buy a pack before hitting the stall), but now we have this to ponder. It all gets to be a bit much sometimes.

A completely different topic, but one discussed before, driving. Medians are popular. Without a median, any unused lane in one direction will be turned to the opposite direction. If traffic backs up, people have no problem with using one of the opposite lanes to get by. And not just to scoot around an accident or a flood, but to take over the entire lane. With the rainy season apparently on us, or perhaps just the fringe of the typhoon that recently smashed into China, we’ve had plenty of blocked lanes to circumvent and on-coming traffic is no deterrent

The rest of the weekend

The rest of the weekend 8/30-9/1/03 - Saturday was a wonderful day. The weather was gorgeous so Ian went flying and I took the kids to the playground for a good part of the morning and we had a picnic under the gazebo.

A memorable day also in that Rebecca decided she was ready to ride her bike without training wheels. She’s an extremely cautious kid when it comes to anything physical, waiting until she’s almost positive she can do it without too much failure. And you know what? She did. Her extra wheels are off and she can start, stop, kind of turn, and pedal. Yay, Rebecca! It was even better because Katherine was helping her get started in the beginning and whenever she’d get the first few pedals going, the park would ring with the sounds of Nicholas whooping and cheering his sister on. Whenever she’d stop he’d run over and give her a big hug.
It was also my parents 30th anniversary. Thirty years! A huge Congratulations to them.
Sunday after church there was a bazaar in the school building. A collection of sellers and their wares and all we bought was a bag of rambutans. A what, you say? Take a look at this link - They are very mild, juicy fruits that the kids enjoy largely because they are funny looking and fun to peel. Among the tables of clothes and vegetables, jewelry and snacks was a table of movies and music. Hey look, we can own "Finding Nemo" on VCD! Too bad it is still in the movie theaters and hasn’t actually been released on tape yet. Piracy, the bane of living in a poor country with a little too much fingertip technology. We realize the prevalence, but Ian was irritated that it was present in the church, surrounded by some of the richest neighborhoods in the city.
Monday was a holiday for Ian but not for the girls, so we went to the church (the offices are only open during the week) and registered Katherine for CCD. I’ll continue preparing her at home as well, but I think she’ll enjoy going to religion class again. One project that I keep tossing around is having the girls make a big wall-sized rosary. I’m still working out the specifics though. Oh, First Communion is scheduled for May 23rd.
Off to SM Megamall with the boys. We found a great bakery there and bought an assortment of breads. That mall isn’t a place we can get to regularly but when we do go it’s definitely a place to stop in. It smelled fabulous and was as hot as, well, the inside of an oven.

Our first night Out on the Town

4 September 2003 – So Friday we took the plunge and went out, just the two of us, in the evening. It wasn’t that much of a plunge, but we asked the housekeeper to come in later so that she would be here from 4-10.

We fed the kids and put them to bed and she was a live body in the house. Our barangay had arranged for the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra to play in the neighborhood park. They were excellent. I wasn’t quite sure how formal it would be and was pleased to see the musicians in black pants with black t-shirts and the audience was a mix of old and young dressed in all levels of comfort. The music was excellent, and the musicians seemed to truly enjoy their work. We did feel bad for the tuba though. During the first segment he played in a single piece.
On the invitation it didn’t say how long the performance would be so we’d planned to listen then get some dinner. Well, upon arriving we realized that the entire performance would last until 10. Hmm, we’d been lucky enough to be offered seats in the 2nd row even though the place was packed before we arrived. Would people notice if our seats were suddenly vacant? Probably, but only so far as to try to get the chairs for themselves. Some other Embassy folks were there as well with their children and bailed at intermission as we did, so we didn’t feel too badly. After all, we were allowing others to sit and enjoy as we had. So we went to the Fort, an eclectic mix of restaurants and expensive (even for American prices) stores in oddly designed buildings, named after Fort Bonifacio which is somewhere nearby. It’s an island in the midst of a bunch of nothing, though the nothing has great plans to be built up into a state of the art economic zone. After all, the street lights, park benches and works of art are already in place. It’s a strange place to drive through as you expect people to be around and yet, there are no buildings. It does already have a name, but I’m blanking on what it is at the moment. Anyhow, we walked around the entire Fort to see what was there. Ian had heard that Le Souffle was good but when we meandered by it was all decked out for a wedding reception in progress. So we settled on an Italian place called Trios, with outside balcony seating. You never know what you’re going to get. We had a plate of pumpkin blossoms. In the States that would be a cute name for an appetizer. Here, it’s literally pumpkin blossoms, as in flowers off the vine that haven’t opened yet, stuffed with a very mild almost tasteless smooth cheese and then deep fried. Interesting, not bad, but once is enough. Ian ordered an Australian New York strip and he seemed to enjoy it. I ordered grilled prawns with risotto. While the prawns were generally good, the risotto was not. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint the problem as the first bite seemed to promise good things. Then I realized that after eating some, my throat hurt. And there was a lingering aftertaste that was wholly unpleasant. Of course I said “Ian there’s something wrong with this, you taste it.” And we agreed there was something very wrong with the rice. Actually, it was tough to figure out if this was the way it was supposed to be, or if they’d really messed up. How best to describe the experience. You know how after you throw up your throat burns and you have that half-digested acidic taste that lingers? Yup, that about sums it up.
We decided to skip dessert.
Arriving home, the housekeeper tells us of her evening. It would seem that Nicholas had woken up and was angry we weren’t home. He was shouting through the house for us, crying, woke up his brother, and refused to be calmed or go back to bed. He sat in next to a cabinet by the front door, apparently insistent that he was going to stay awake and wait for us to return. Jonathon just wanted to sleep. He sat with the housekeeper for a bit then dozed off and she put him back to bed. But Nicholas would have none of it. When we walked in the door, he had moved to the couch and was conked out. For anyone wondering, this is extremely unusual for him. If he does wake up upset it’s almost always that he has to go potty but is confused from being half asleep. We neglected to tell the housekeeper this as he hasn’t woken up at night in a long time. And it’s not like I didn’t prepare him. Several times throughout the day I reminded him that we were going out in the evening but he would be asleep and the housekeeper would be here. He was a little sad, but OK with it. And to think I had been worried about Jonathon.
It didn’t go very well as a trial run though, did it?